A Naturally Beautiful Landscape on Martha’s Vineyard

May 29, 2024

A team of designers translates the synthesis of a place into a landscape.

Text by Tovah Martin    Photography by Allegra Anderson

Distill Martha’s Vineyard into two prevailing forces of nature, and they would be water and wind. In 2018, when asked to create a twelve-acre landscape around a client’s newly renovated home, James Doyle Design Associates delved deep into those signature facets of the island. Rather than reach outside the venue, the Doyle team brought the essential beauty of place to the fore, focusing on plants that ripple when caressed by the wind, and modern, elevated fountain rills that celebrate the sound of flowing water beside a pool that reflects the moody marbled skies above. From the arrival experience onward, this Vineyard house feels like a medley of every essential element we love about summer by the sea.

At the top of the agenda was a seamless merger between Victoria Hagan’s insightful interior design and the exterior site. “Inside and outside had to speak to each other thoughtfully,” says JDDA founding principal James Doyle, referencing the close collaboration—metaphorically and physically—between Hagan and his team, headed by landscape architect Heather Harris (currently at landscape architecture firm STIMSON).

That same unified perspective also informed the relationship between property and place. Overlooking a cove, the site brings the waltz between water and earth to the foreground with clustered courtyard plantings punctuated by gravel. Designing a landscape that would slip seamlessly into its scene was a challenge that Doyle embraced. “It seemed like a light hand was the best approach,” he says of the meadow-rich, ornamental-grass-infused plantings.

Geometry also comes into play. Not only do bluestone blocks and pathways—skillfully installed by landscape contractor R. P. Marzilli—ease the angles between buildings, but trees also give verticality to structures that are strongly linear. Connecting spaces are hemmed in textural plantings lush with grass plumes and island-stress survivors like liatris, echinacea, yarrow, Russian sage, eryngium, and geraniums. Along the regulated wetland edge, the designers removed and substituted invasives with native grasses and meadow plants to enhance biodiversity. A modest lawn leads to a grove of existing trees made more expressive by thoughtful sculpting.

In any landscape, pool fences are a challenge, and the dilemma is particularly difficult when the surrounding view is spectacular. JDDA found fence posts that echo the stonework on-site to support a nearly invisible fence. Throughout, stone surfaces were given purposeful finishes, from the slip-proof poolside deck to the flip-flop-friendly walkways. Similarly, every garden “room” brings the site’s structures into a more meaningful dialogue. Together, the entire site exudes a sense of place: Martha’s Vineyard comes home.

Project Team
Landscape design: James Doyle Design Associates
Landscape contractor: R.P. Marzilli
Interior design: Victoria Hagan
Renovation builder: The Lagassé Group

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