Landscape Pleasures Goes Wild

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When David Sidwell and Majo Prazenec built their Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home in North Haven six years ago, privacy was not an issue. The 8,500-square-foot house’s rear, constructed almost entirely of windows, overlooks Mashomack Preserve on Shelter Island—and not much else.

The couple wanted their home to coexist with the landscape, keeping with the themes of modernism and minimalism, as Hamptons estates should whenever possible on the East End, Mr. Sidwell said.

“If it fits the location, I think you have to respect Mother Nature. I think that’s what North Haven should be really about,” he said last week during a private tour of the property. “The thing I love the most is keeping something looking natural, but being tailored. It’s really hard. It’s actually easier, in a way, to bulldoze everything and start new.”

“It takes even more work than a formal garden,” Mr. Prazenec added. “When people complain about a formal garden, it’s like, that’s easy. That’s nothing. That is no work compared to this.”

The two men shared a smile. They would know.

Coming in at nearly 8 acres, the parcel’s edges are wild with meadows and native trees. The center is more tame, with a manicured lawn and a floral English border that appeals to Mr. Sidwell’s British roots. All was orchestrated by Southampton-based landscape architect Elizabeth Lear of Lear & Mahoney Landscape Associates.

“Landscapes tend to be very personal, but minimalism is a wave in landscape architecture and landscape design right now,” she reported last week during a telephone interview. “When you’re doing a modernist house, usually it’s on a gorgeous site—whether it’s a field or an ocean or, in this case, the [Shelter Island] sound—you’re going toward something that won’t detract from that feeling.”

The Sidwell and Prazenec garden is one of four that will be on view on Sunday, June 9, during the Parrish Art Museum’s annual “Landscape Pleasures” tour. The tour will also include Sandy and Stephen Perlbinder’s Sagaponack garden, which will be the subject of landscape architect Christopher LaGuardia’s talk the day before during a “Modernism, Minimalism, and Meadows” symposium at the Water Mill museum.

“There is really a big increase in modern homes and landscapes in the last six or seven years,” Mr. LaGuardia said last week during a telephone interview. “And it’s definitely a shift away from the safe, shingle-style architecture and manicured lawns that was going on for many years. People are wanting to express themselves a little more, a little more individually outside of the commodity-driven homes by the real estate market. That’s a good thing. It gives the town character.”

At another house on the tour, tucked behind a gated, permeable driveway is Susan Rosenberg Goldstein’s modern home, which is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold-certified, with landscape design by the Piazza Horticultural Group in Southampton. It features native and drought-tolerant plant material, a genetically dwarf “no-mow” bluegrass lawn, a 12,000-gallon rainwater capture system for irrigation use and a planted green roof supplemented by custom-designed Cor-Ten steel planters on every balcony.

Even the interior at Ms. Rosenberg Goldstein’s home is green, according to principal landscape designer Tony Piazza, down to the wool carpet glue, paint selection and furniture.

“There were two enormous, ancient cherry trees that were the pride and joy of her property,” he recalled last week during a telephone interview. “But to get the house in the building window, they both had to come down. She was really upset to lose them, so I said, ‘Why don’t we harvest the wood and do it in different ways in the house?’”

And that is exactly what they did. The wood was cured for 18 months and re-utilized in the countertops, stair treads and a 15-foot-long-by-6-inch-thick dining room table, he reported.

“Those two cherry trees, though officially dead, are going to live on for hundreds of years,” he said. “I wish you could see it. She really went 180-percent out to do the right thing in the construction of this house.”

Though not completely off the grid, Mr. Sidwell’s and Mr. Prazenec’s property is green, they said. They cut their own electricity intake with an installation of solar panels, hidden by a creative use of screening on their property, they explained.

While explaining the solar panels, suddenly distracted, Mr. Sidwell called out.

“Jakey!” exclaimed, as the couple’s 8-year-old cairn terrier tore off in the direction of the wild meadow.

“That’s Jake. He’s our guard dog,” Mr. Prazenec laughed as the black ball of fur trotted back to them, tongue lolling and tail wagging. “As you can see, he’s very scary.”

Whenever Mr. Sidwell and Mr. Prazenec pull up to their second home for a weekend getaway from Manhattan, Jake’s mood changes, they said. It’s as if he knows there will be no leashes and no rules. He is free to run and explore, or even take a refreshing dip in the sound if it so pleases, scoping out Shelter Island in the distance.

And no one will be watching.

The Parrish Art Museum will kick off “Landscape Pleasures: Modernism, Minimalism, and Meadows” with a symposium featuring talks by Thomas Woltz, Richard Hartlage and a joint presentation by Christopher LaGuardia and Viola Rouhani on Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the museum in Water Mill. The next day, a self-guided garden tour will be held on Sunday, June 9, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at four homes in Sagaponack and North Haven, and will also include the Watermill Center in Water Mill. Rain or shine. Tickets are $225, or $175 for members, for the symposium and tours. For more information, call 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.

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