Landscape and architecture meet at Sudbury Design Group


Speakers include, from left: Michael Coutu of Sudbury Design Group, Eliza Tan of Eliza Tan Interiors, Michael Collins of D. Michael Collins Architects, and David Dankens of M.F. Reynolds Inc.

Nestled in the woods along Old Post Road in Sudbury, Massachusetts, and surrounded by glorious fall color, Sudbury Design Group‘s headquarters was the perfect setting for Design New England‘s fifth Design Salon of the fall series. Hors d’ouerves were served and guests mingled amidst the showrooms and drafting tables of the landscape company’s offices, and, since the night was warm, the crowd spilled onto the outdoor deck, where the autumn foliage and plantings created a quintessential New England backdrop. It was a lovely segue to the evening’s topic, “House and Garden: Where landscape and architecture meet.”


For the presentations, the crowd walked across the driveway to the Wayside Carriage House Inn where the more than 40 attendees could sit in one large room and listen, watch, and, we hope, learn.


A stretch of lush lawn leads up to a striking house designed by Michael Collins.

Michael Collins of D. Michael Collins Architects in Natick, Massachusetts, gave great insight as to how the architectural design of a home is informed by the site. He explained how the effects of the environment must be worked into the design, and that meticulous attention to detail is often what makes a home fit into its location. This was the case for a seaside home with many environmental limitations that Collins designed, as well as for a home with a farmhouse sensibility set on several acres of rolling hills and woods.

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In this case, formal architecture called for a formal landscape design by Sudbury Design Group.

Landscape architect Michael Coutu, president of Sudbury Design Group, described his role in optimizing how a house relates to its environment. He discussed how the style of the architecture influences the style of the landscape. A formal Federal house requires a certain formality in the landscape, for example, while a country house might call for a more relaxed design. The materials on each might differ as well, brick walks for the former and natural stone for the latter. He concurred with all the other speakers that the key to a successful outcome is collaboration among the design team, the trade professionals, and the clients. This communication, he says, maintains consistency in the design both inside and outside.


Eliza Tan took advantage of large windows and the beautiful landscape outside to create this lovely space.

Among those collaborators is the interior designer. As Eliza Tan of Eliza Tan Interiors in Acton, Massachusetts, explained it, she often takes cues from the exterior views when determining her designs. Window treatments, furniture placement, even architectural finishes will be affected by what is seen through windows and doors. A kitchen that looks out onto a beautiful private backyard, or a living room that faces ocean views may not require much in the way of window treatments, for example. In the best collaborative situations, each member of the design team evaluates the elements of the home from his or her own perspective and then works with the other team members to arrive at a cohesive end result.


M.F. Reynolds Inc. created this outdoor structure perfect for entertaining in warm weather, but built to survive hurricanes and blizzards.

Of course, an essential member of the team is the builder who will execute the plan that architect, landscape architect, interior designer, and client have laid out. An expert perspective on that part of the process came from David Dankens of M.F. Reynolds Inc. in Medford, Massachusetts, a 120-year-old company that specializes in construction and renovations. One project he shared was a pavilion that is used as an outdoor living and entertaining space in the warm weather. Set away from the main residence in an open meadow, the structure is exposed to the elements 12 months a year. Dankens and his team had to consider whatever Mother Nature might have in store when choosing materials and executing building techniques. The result was a beautiful structure that would survive hurricanes and blizzards, while graciously respecting its surrounding.
The sixth and final Design Salon in the fall series will be Tuesday October 30 at Venegas and Company, a kitchen showroom in the Boston Design Center. The topic is “Problems Solved: Fresh new ideas and products for great design.”

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