Changes in elevation can be a landscaping challenge, but in the right hands they can also be an excellent opportunity to make a small space seem large and equip a property with a tremendous amount of intrigue.
That was the case for homeowners Duane and Angela, whose property was transformed by Collin Dunnett and his team at Stonescaping Muskoka. They worked with the natural flow of the land to create a number of different gathering spaces, and enhance the property’s feeling of spaciousness.
Gravel pathways leading from the front of the house to the backyard take the couple and their guests to a variety of meeting and sitting areas, which are all set at different elevations. Granite steps connect the pathways and meeting areas throughout.
Straight ahead and three-steps down and you’ll find a firepit with room for at least six. Turn left and a slight downward sloping path takes you to a two-person lookout. Get back on the path and two more seating areas at different heights await.
The landscaping, pathways and gathering spots really bring the property alive. A walk through the property is a voyage of discovery, revealing new treasures at different elevations.
“Collin really took it to the end game by creating different levels,” says Duane. “We were really intrigued by the way you can change the whole look and feel of a property just by changing the elevation of particular places.”
The couple now has ample seating areas for themselves and for guests to enjoy, each of which has a different purpose and best time-of-use.
One of the first spots to be identified is a space Duane and Angela wanted to have a lookout.
“When Colin showed up on the first day, we mentioned needing a path and landing out to what is now our lookout area. We have this great little spot with two chairs,” says Duane.
Adds Angela: “In the winter we found ourselves always heading out there to get the nice late afternoon sun. So, the idea for the lookout evolved from that experience.”
Duane points to another area just outside of the Muskoka Room where the late day sun also shines warm and bright.
“As the landscaping was nearing completion, we started finding more spots for seating,” he says. “We added chairs near our Muskoka room because once the pathways and levels were completed, it left a lot of open space. It’s one of my favourite areas.”
In every project, Stonescaping Muskoka endeavours to blend the landscaping into the natural environment. And this property is no different. The gravel and the granite steps aren’t superimposed on the landscape: they work with the natural contours of the land.
One feature that exemplifies this process is the use of large granite boulders that were found on the property. Duane and Angela knew they wanted them used in groupings for the aesthetics, without having the placement seem forced or manipulated.
Taking the boulders from around the property, Collin positioned them around the firepit and in a couple of other areas, where they provide the function of walls without looking at all manmade.
“It adds such a nice element,” says Angela. “The tendency is to make flat, straight surfaces, but we didn’t want that. We wanted them to be standing up and in their natural state. I did not want anything that was too manufactured looking.”
The couple originally considered a very different landscaping plan, including linear pathways and an ultra-modern look, but in the end they opted for a more naturalistic approach.
“We didn’t want to lose that Muskoka element of having the free form pathways,” says Angela. “We did the pathways like this to give them a natural look. And most of all, we didn’t want to feel like we were in the city.”
The finished landscaping accomplishes that and much more: the manmade features combine with the natural surroundings to provide the perfect Muskoka escape.
“You don’t see it unless you’re up here,” says Duane of their elevated property. “It’s our own oasis, which is really wonderful.”
TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN