From the April/May 2013 Issue:

Grand Comfort

    Writer: Eric Herman | Photographer: Tim Proctor | Landscape Design: Contrast Design | Pool Design: Liquid Design | Architect: Bishop & Smith Architects | Builder: Tri-County Development Group | Photo Stylist: Michele Morris |

A Burlington County couple transform a former tree farm into the perfect spot for luxurious outdoor entertaining

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enlarge | The home’s approach is framed by beds of formal yet subtle plantings. A private drive extends from the motor court on the left, leading to a garage and side courtyard (not pictured) while guests park on a large expanse of interlocking pavers. Rather than place a fountain in the center, the homeowners chose an elegantly traditional “Versailles” pot filled with and surrounded by greenery.
In many ways, this exquisite Moorestown estate is a study in contradiction. According to the homeowners, they wanted a home that was “grandiose but also cozy and welcoming,” a dichotomy that would be expressed through architecture that includes a number of stylish details but adheres to no particular design motif.

The property is fitted throughout with lavish appointments—very much dressed to impress as a venue for a constant flow of parties and gatherings, but it’s also built for the intimacy of family life. At every turn, an earthy color palette and a host of personal touches soften the rich materials and the high-flown design intent.

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enlarge | Modular stone pads separated by grass visually soften the expanse of deck and offer a welcoming path from the side yard to the back. The lines of the upper lanai are articulated with a custom wrought iron rail and stone cladding first seen in splashes on the home’s front exterior. The massive chimney and fireplace provide dramatic focal points.
Christmas Trees & Butterflies
The three-acre property was originally part of a Christmas tree farm. It slopes gently from front to back, where it’s bordered by a small stream and wetlands, all surrounded by pine trees that were once part of the farm.

The verdant setting and its close proximity to town were major draws for the homeowners, who loved the idea of being close to nature with suburban convenience. In that spirit, they would eventually name the property “Mariposa,” Spanish for butterfly. “We love butterflies and it’s a beautiful word,” the wife says. “We fell in love with the property because of its beautiful, serene location and natural surroundings. We see all sorts of wildlife, including red foxes, deer, hawks and, of course, butterflies.”

From a design standpoint, “It was basically a blank canvas,” says architect Jack Smith of Bishop & Smith Architects in Laurel Springs. “The slope of the property presented an opportunity to create transitions that added interest and function.”

Those elements include upper and lower lanais extending from the home’s rear exterior. “The lower lanai is two feet below grade,” Smith says. “You step from the basement into this outdoor living space with an outdoor fireplace, dining area and dressing room and bathrooms accessible from outside.

“Because it’s slightly below grade,” he recalls, “we were able to include low retaining walls that define the space. That gave us an opportunity to create seating areas on the top of the walls, which are surfaced with beautiful stone. From the upper lanai, you have this wonderful view of the amazing pool area, cabana and the greenery of the landscape surrounding the property.”

Careful Orchestrations
Those exquisite results would be a long time in coming. According to Smith, the overall design process was an exercise in exploration and revision that moved forward in fits and starts over a period of years. “As the clients were waiting for the property to be properly subdivided,” he recalls, “we went through an extensive process with them selecting the various elements they wanted.

“There’s no particular style,” he says, “but rather an eclectic amalgam of ideas. Both inside and outside, we were working to integrate the clients’ ideas into a design that was balanced, functional and visually appealing.

“It was,” he says, “a primarily intuitive process.”

Indeed, the clients give tremendous credit to the project team, which also included builder Joe Quinn of Tri-County Development Group in Medford and interior designer Karen McLaughlin of Distinctive Image and Design in Cherry Hill. The landscape and swimming pool area are the work of landscape architect and aquatic designer Kevin Fleming of Contrast Design in Medford (his landscape design firm) and Liquid Design in Cherry Hill (his custom swimming pool company).

Because the entire property was being developed at the same time, Fleming was on board prior to construction. That early involvement gave him an opportunity to carefully integrate the exteriors with the overall house design. “We wanted the exteriors to harmonize with the architecture of the home,” Fleming says. “That meant we would be working primarily with geometric and rectilinear forms in the landscape.”

The design scheme begins when entering the property through layered plantings and rectilinear planting beds that create graduated transitions to the motor court at the front of the home. “Our goal was to create a set of formal transitions that present the home’s front exterior,” Fleming says. “The motor court provides ample room for parking, while at the same time welcoming guests to the dramatic arched entryway.”

Indeed, before even entering the home, there’s a dramatic sense of style and grandeur expressed in the landscape and the exterior architectural elements, an eclectic set of statements that includes the soaring gables of the geometric roofline, arched windows and doors, finely detailed stucco surfaces, lyrical wrought iron rail treatments and stone cladding.

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enlarge | “Everything is symmetrical,” says Kevin Fleming, who designed and installed the landscape and pool. “If you cut the scene down the middle, you’d have the same elements on each side.” That perfect balance is expressed through this layered view featuring a spa in the foreground, decking, rectilinear pool and ultimately the cabana on the water’s opposite side. The cabana combines a parabolic pergola in front and a solid roof in the back. The homeowners were seeking a place where they could easily transition from sunshine to partial shade under the pergola and then full shade under the solid roof. Stepping pads, in the same marble as the deck, provide access to the cabana from both sides. Square pillars emerge from the shallow water surrounding the cabana’s deck, creating reflections that link the architecture with the water’s reflective surface.
A Backyard Resort
The dramatic experience of the entrance serves as a clever foreshadowing of the backyard awaiting the homeowners’ many guests. As mentioned, the back exterior is anchored by upper and lower lanais that transition into a dynamic composition featuring a 56-by-15-foot swimming pool and a cabana centered over the pool on the opposite side.

The lanais, staircases and expansive pool deck are all finished in a subtle Egyptian marble in an overall light shade with subtle cream, yellow and deeper beige veining. “We wanted the color palette of the exteriors to blend with the materials used on the house,” Fleming says. “We used more than 8,000 square feet of the marble, all laid out in a pattern of squares and rectangles.”

The color scheme is further expressed in glass mosaic tile detailing used on the waterline in the swimming pool as well as the pool’s many benches and steps and most notably on the “thermal ledge,” essentially a wetted platform that surrounds the cabana on three sides. “That was an extremely tricky [part of the project] from design and construction standpoints,” Fleming says. “The idea was to design the structure so it appears to be floating on the water. The columns in the front of the structure emerge from the water on the ledge, which links the structure to the water and enhances the reflections.”

“The cabana provides a destination in the landscape that draws your view into the space,” says Smith, who worked with Fleming on the structure’s design. “It prompts you to venture deeper into the property, where you come closer to the surrounding greenery and then can turn around and enjoy the dramatic view of the back of the house.”

The pool area features planting beds, potted plants and a border of trees that defines the yard’s boundaries, all accentuated at night by a complex low-voltage landscape lighting system. It all conspires to satisfy the homeowner’s desire for elegance, grandeur and a sense of welcome to those who visit.

“One of the greatest compliments we’ve heard from our guests,” the wife explains, “is that they feel like they’re visiting a resort.

“Of course we’re very proud of the fact that the entire property makes a grand statement, but we also love the way people feel comfortable and welcome here. I guess you could say we’re trying to have it both ways, and I believe we accomplished it.”

Eric Herman is a writer/editor based in Capitola, Califor­nia. He has 28 years experience covering a range of design-related topics, including extensive work exploring the design and construction of highly custom aquatic environments.


Landscape design and installation: Contrast Design in Medford; pool and spa design and Installation: Liquid Design in Cherry Hill; architect, Bishop & Smith Architects in Laurel Springs; builder, Tri-County Development Group in Medford; interior design, Distinctive Image & Design in Cherry Hill; glass tile, Sicis in Ravenna, Italy; pool and spa equipment, Zodiac/Jandy Pool and Spa; pottery, Haddonstone in Bellmawr.

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