The surrounding garden and landscape was another matter altogether. A design truism holds that when you’ve got good bones to start with, the rest should fall into place. That was certainly the case for the house, which helped ease the renovation. But such was not true in the garden. An abundance of asphalt lapped up against the vintage house, which sat isolated opposite a swimming pool that sprawled across the tarry wasteland where scrub encroached up the hillside. “It was hot, unwelcoming, and the fabulous views across the valley were completely blocked by evergreens planted years before,” says Ted, remembering the scene before the couple called on the talents of Napa’s premier landscape architect, Jack Chandler. That was in 1993, and—as with the farm—their aim for the home and its surrounding landscape was diversity. As Laddie describes it, they wanted to establish a sense of arrival but keep cars away from the house. The exposed position on a south-facing slope meant they needed shade, particularly over the kitchen area. The garden décor and planting had to reflect the age and character of the vintage house. Among all of this they wanted some place they could play!
”In Italy, we watched the way people would gather in the town square to play chess or bocce ball,” Laddie says, “and we wanted something similar in our garden, something that could be a focal point for our gatherings of family and friends.”
So the landscape design evolved with a mega-chessboard near the patio and swimming pool on the next level down in front of the house. The easygoing, indoor-outdoor integration of the house is most evident in the kitchen; its huge barn doors swing wide to allow an uninterrupted flow of traffic between the interior and exterior cooking and eating areas. “We can easily seat 22 people, which would ordinarily overwhelm the house, but the open plan makes it very comfortable to simply spill onto the patio,” says Laddie. “And with all the game space, it’s easy to keep children entertained.”
Below the pool and chessboard level there is a small lawn for outdoor activities such as kickball, catch or playing fetch with Lily, the family dog. Next to the small lawn is a pergola-covered terrace where Ted sets up the Ping-Pong table. Below this second level is a horseshoe pitch, which, Ted explains, was added for their sons, Christopher, now 24 and active in the Long Meadow business, and Timothy, who learned the game at Boy Scout camp. (Before his death in 1996, at the age of 13, Timothy helped his brother develop the Long Meadow organic vegetable gardens, and together they were the youngest registered members of the Napa Valley Farmer’s Market in St. Helena. Timothy’s contribution is memorialized in the numerous species of wildlife that find shelter in Long Meadow’s landscape).
Before the remodel, the kitchen was, as Laddie describes it, “a two-butts kitchen,” because only two people could fit in it at one time; adjacent was a tiny dining space that also held the refrigerator. The remodel combined both areas and provided a spacious room that is now the heart of the house. “When we entertain,” says Laddie, “I’ll do all the preparation. If the meal is being prepared in the indoor kitchen, I also do the cooking. For outdoor meals, Ted and Christopher do all the pizza cooking and grilling,”
With the family gathered round and friends and relatives ebbing and flowing like a welcome tide across the Long Meadow threshold, the value of Jack Chandler’s landscape plan is evident. “You want the garden spaces to have a relationship to each other, just like the kitchen to the dining room, and as long as this ‘program’ is well thought-out, no matter what happens later, no matter what the owners might do, it will be fine. Good bones look great in Armani or in raggedy jeans!” laughs Chandler.