For her Newport garden, interior designer Eileen Marcuvitz wanted a landscape that shared the oceanfront home’s classic sensibility. With crisp, clean lines and bright touches of the unexpected, the garden is an idyllic reflection of her signature style. She worked with landscape architect Kate Kennen of Winston Flowers Garden Design Division to create the stunning transition between indoors and out.
Photography by Chris Vaccaro
Landscape Design: Kate Kennen of Winston Flowers Garden Design Division
Boxwood as a sculptural basis
Kennen’s first step was to test the soil to determine plantings that would thrive. “We always test to find the right plant for the right place, to see what wants to grow there,” she says. “The conditions were perfect for boxwood.” Taking a cue from the sweeping arms of a wrought-iron lantern above the home’s entrance and the circular window in the front door, Kennen conceived a parterre garden with a whimsical feel. “I liked those details of the swoops and circles and turned them into a garden element,” Kennen says. “We took one, big boxwood in the center and surrounded it with interconnecting patterns to make the blank wall pop.”
Boxwood spheres and hedges rise among layers of hakone grass and lily turf for a bold, geometric garden that evokes the parterre look without the high maintenance. “By having an aggressive ground cover, you don’t have to use a lot of mulch, and the weeds won’t grow through,” says Kennen. “The plantings are adaptable to sun and shade—as you go from one part of the parterre to the other, some spots get more light, so this takes all of those conditions.”
The dramatic impact is heightened by the simple palette, which complements the home’s neutral indoor spaces. Shades of lime, chartreuse and deep green are punctuated by bursts of pale violet lily turf and festive purple alliums. “The bright chartreuse pops in the shade, but purple gives a seasonal feel,” says Kennen. White blooms and occasional hints of burgundy—“the wine color mimics the roof of the house,” Marcuvitz says—add further contrast. With an emphasis on green, striking shapes take center stage.
Thinking beyond the plantings
The garden partly derives its curves from the property’s hardscaping, designed by landscape architect Stephen Stimson when the home was first built. Restrictions in where the waterfront home could be sited, plus a steep decline of solid rock, posed initial design challenges. “We had to build a very tall, narrow house that wraps around the landscape,” says Marcuvitz. To bring the house “down to the landscape,” Stimson designed massive bluestone steps that follow the curve of the home. “The bluestone is carved roughly along the edges, so it has almost a sculptural quality to it,” says Marcuvitz.
Beyond the parterre, an archway leads to a square, formal garden, planted with all-white annuals that take advantage of the sunniest part of the landscape. “This garden is one of the major views from the house,” says Kennen. “At night, the white is very visible.” Here also sits a Greek goddess statue that was one of the home’s first treasures. “I purchased it at Winston’s years ago,” says Marcuvitz. “She aged quite a bit, a sort of wonderful rusted steel.”
Such fanciful touches tend to sneak into Marcuvitz’s spaces. “As a designer I always like to do things with a little bit of a wink,” she says. “If you look at the house, there’s one corner with a molded sun—you don’t see it unless it’s pointed out to you. I wanted the garden to have a very structured, formal look, but at the same time, I wanted it to be whimsical. It’s almost goofy with all the balls, but it’s beautiful at the same time.”