Home & Design

Al Fresco Escape

Colao & Peter balances past and present in a Middleburg landscape

An 18th-century log cabin anchors a serene retreat in Middleburg, Virginia, where restrained outdoor features marry the rustic with the new.  

“This was a unique project,” says landscape architect J.R. Peter, whose assignment included reimagining a pool, walls, steps, walkways and the entrance drive as well as creating a walled garden and adding appropriate plantings throughout the property. 

Set on 11 acres, the historic cabin is joined to a white stucco ranch house updated by architect-owner Richard Gessner. A new portico on the rear façade provides a bird’s eye view of the expanse. Stone-walled terraces descend to a rebuilt pool where topiary guards an Asian-accented, white stucco pool house. “Its form is different from the main house, but the materials tie together,” Gessner explains. A glazed overhead door suggestive of a shoji screen opens to the pool. 

Completed in 2020, the project displays what Peter calls “rustic meets industrial” style. A board-formed concrete wall at one end of the pool and matching fire pit show the imprint of wood. Traditional ledgestone has been clean-cut by hand to give a modern appearance. Rustic pool pavers were laid in a linear grid. “We wanted to contrast textures,” Peter says, “and were tying all these things together with our choice of materials.”

New lighting enhances an existing saucer magnolia tree beside a neat row of red twig dogwood. Grasses flourish amid boxwood. On a newly cleared slope, Peter planted a bosque of gingko trees that will one day shade the old log cabin. 

Landscape Architecture & Contractor: J.R. Peter, PLA; Joseph Colao, Colao & Peter, Luxury Outdoor Living, Sterling, Virginia. Architecture: Richard Gessner Architect PLLC, Washington, DC. Pool House Contractor: KohlMark Group, Burke, Virginia.

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