With River’s Edge Landscapes (riversedgelandscapes.com), it’s personal. In part that’s because the company Paul LaPointe founded 20 years ago doesn’t just design and build great landscapes but also maintains them. But it’s also because Paul and his staff listen to their clients’ dreams for their outdoor spaces and work to fulfill them, no matter how long that takes.
Designers, as artists, have a trained eye for what would be the most functional and aesthetically pleasing for a given property. But Paul says, “Understanding our clients’ objectives and taste must come first. We can’t automatically assume our vision is the right vision without fully understanding our clients, the functionality they seek with their landscape and their preferred style. So, I think the most important thing is listening to the client’s objectives and understanding the look that they desire.” Whether someone is looking for formal gardens or pollinators’ profusion, Paul’s team of designers have done it all.
In the case of Williams Gap Vineyard (williamsgapvineyard.com) – Paul’s third Virginia winery project – he collaborated with Jeff Foresha of Sounthpaw Collaborative to help create the perfect design. His primary mandate was to marry the tasting barn to the adjacent pavilion, and the estate’s home to the landscape. He explains, “I don't want somebody to say, ‘What a great landscape.’ I want them to say ‘What a beautiful home.’ It's a beautiful home because you were able to enhance it with the landscape and it's become one – not two separate things.”
The home at Williams Gap was built by Jack Sexton who spent the last 40 years caring for animals as a veterinarian at McLean Animal Hospital. As his website says, “Having always enjoyed a nice glass of wine, he decided in the early 2000’s to start a vineyard on a parcel of land he has owned since 1983.” The house, built just last year, was intended to look like a traditional home that’s been there awhile. The front stone edifice therefore evokes the style of some of his 18th Century neighbors’ homes in Round Hill, but on a larger scale.
It's intended to house not just Jack and his wife of 35 years, but a wing of the L-shaped structure will serve as lodging for wedding parties and eventually will frame a 50-foot pool where Jack can enjoy swimming laps. Paul’s first order of business was to marry architectural details of the home into the landscape including the old-world stone style into stone columns and terraced retaining walls. River’s Edge designed and laid all the full-range flagstones for the walkways and patios “trying to keep it as old-world as possible,” as Paul explains. Because of the way the walls and terraces were constructed, they’ll stand for generations without needing repair.
Part of the challenge in any project is to envision what the property will look like after a generation, Paul explains. “This landscape is young, but in just two or three years it will really have grown into the house.” If he’s learned anything after more than three decades in the business, it’s to always provide adequate room for growth.
For the tasting room and adjacent pavilion both traffic flow and safety are a consideration. Architecturally, the goal was to weave them together by creating a mutual center focal point that may become a fountain in subsequent iterations. For now, the central space is framed by white crepe myrtles and Hinoki cypress with a dwarf Greenleaf Japanese maple surrounded by stone as a centerpiece. Nepeta Catmint provides gorgeous lavender color in the Spring. If cut back after bloom cycles, it will bloom one or two times more during the year, and doesn’t become woody and leggy like lavender. It is planted with white Snowmound Spirea and Caryopteris, also a cornflower blue in color, which flowers later in the summer and fall to complement white crepe myrtle. Grass softens the landscape and provides space for guests to wander beyond the tasting barn.
While a blanket on the lawn and a nice glass of award-winning wine sound great to Paul, he may have to wait until harvest time to take a break. “People in our industry are extraordinary. They’re very hard working. It’s demanding work in the Spring and Summer because that’s when all the magic happens.” The payoff comes when he gets to view some of the most beautiful properties in the state years after an installation looking exactly as they were originally envisioned.
Jack, who credits interior designer Amy Walton for introducing him to Paul, says, “We have been very pleased with all aspects of the project.... Everyone that comes to our Farm comments on the quality of our wines and the beauty of the property. I could not have achieved the visual success of the property without the input of Paul at River’s Edge Landscapes and Amy Walton Design.”