Arbor Days, Outside and In
I have been doing some brush clearing and tree trimming in preparation for a Fourth of July picnic and it has reminded me of the marvelous and still relevant 1950s book Gardens Are For People, by landscape architect Thomas Church, where he writes: “Charles Dudley Warner [essayist who collaborated with Mark Twain on The Gilded Age] said that until he saw the Annapolis at low tide he never realized how much it added to the looks of a river to have water in it. One might say the same thing of trees in the landscape.” The trick is to see how “the shape of the trunk, the curve of a branch, the texture of the foliage, the pattern of the shade, may influence your whole design.” So here are some notes on how trees should be part of any home.
First see how Monterey, California landscape architect Bernard Trainor used this
live oak to frame the house as well as the garden. The arching limbs shape and define the surrounding outdoor living space with a little help from a low curving wall. Sometimes the tree may be the focal point when you are looking from inside the house, as shown by another Trainor garden where the oak is so
magisterial he decided to minimize any visual competition with it by using gravel as the key backdrop (photos courtesy Bernard Trainor + Associates). San Francisco architect Anne Fougeron took a similar tack in this house on a very
constricted lot, where the glass gable fixes the tree in a grandly artful frame (photo courtesy Fougeron Architecture). Berkeley architect Richard Fernau, who has often been inspired by the nature-oriented architecture of early twentieth century Northern California architects Bernard Maybeck and Julia Morgan,
sited his own dwelling on a forested slope and meticulously wove it among the redwood and fir trunks so that it resembles a tree house. The sliding wall opening bedroom to porch adds to the playful effect (photo courtesy Fernau + Hartman Architects).
Of course it doesn’t take long for architects and designers who like trees to start thinking about getting a little closer to them, i.e. inviting them into the house as
guests — not just lumber. Particularly elegant examples include this one on Hawaii by Walker Warner Architects where the tree gracing the lanai is like a visiting Ent from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy — just don’t get him riled up about that sorcerer Saruman (photo courtesy Walker Warner Architects). Leger
Wanaselja Architects incorporated two venerable oaks into this extensive remodel of a ranch house — the trees, from the site, fell during the project’s design phase. Now they dynamically bracket the kitchen counter, which is also made of recycled timber (photo courtesy Lejer Wanaselja Architecture).
If your site is relatively barren then you might consider adding trees to provide shade and a sense of ceremony. But remember to think long term, which is hard for me but not for my mother, who planted a few “living Christmas trees” after several holiday seasons and they have flourished. But it turns out they are sequoia gigantia, so in a few hundred years she will have quite a decent national forest. Of course if you’re looking for more than a trunk or two, a log house
might be in your future and Houseplans.com can provide a design like Plan 451-6, shown above, and part of our Log Home Plans Collection. Or you can always spend the night at Glacier Park Lodge in Montana, designed by St. Paul Minnesota architect Samuel L. Bartlett and built in 1912, and experience what I would call the first great High Country Parthenon, with its lobby defined by forty 60 feet-tall Douglas fir columns that are 3-feet in diameter (photo courtesy Glacier Park Lodge). Love those Ionic capitals!
For more on trees and your home click here!