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A Garden Romantic

The Connecticut garden of an award-winning designer and an old-fashioned romantic

Written by Ethne Clarke
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  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    Dinyar Wadia is an award-winning New Classicist architectural designer of fine homes, luxe interiors, and elegant landscapes, but chances are he won’t mind being identified as an old-fashioned romantic. A native of Mumbai (Bombay), India, Dinyar is less interested in expounding his philosophy of design than in describing the loving partnership he shares with his wife, Gool, and the good fortune that brought them to New Canaan, Connecticut. And to the house they named "Gitanjali" (translation: "Song Offering") after the 1913 Nobel Prize–winning poem by the Indian philosopher Rabindranath Tagore.

    Dinyar learned his craft in India, but as a young man he decided to travel; in the early 1970s he arrived in the United States where he worked with several leading architects, expanding his architectural tastes while absorbing traditional styles—from Anglo-Indian Colonial to Early American Colonial with stops in between at French Beaux Arts and Mid-Century Modern. With his broad base of experience, he can respond to a client’s dreams as well as the demands of the site, doing what’s best for both. "The ego," he says, "has no place in successful design."

    Photography: Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    Design: Wadia Associates, 134 Main Street, New Canaan, Connecticut 06840 (203/966-0048; wadiaassociates.com).

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    Gitanjali began life as the guesthouse for a significant country estate. The main house was demolished long ago, but Dinyar updated and elaborated this smaller structure, respecting its half-timbered style that was unmistakably inspired by the 19th-century Surrey school of English architecture. Around the house he created an informal woodland garden—establishing a setting entirely appropriate to the style of the house and its surrounding natural landscape.

    Explaining what drew him and his wife to the property, Dinyar the romantic offers, "It had been vacant for some time before we purchased it, and two previous sales had fallen through before then, so we felt it had our name on it. We are truly blessed to live in a place of such peaceful tranquility."

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    A rustic dovecote is a stop along the path through Gitanjali’s woodland.

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    Admiring the way English gardens are arranged in hedge-enclosed rooms, Dinyar modified the concept and created several destinations in his garden: the teahouse with its flow-through access and open fireplace; a gazebo located in a shady area to make a comfortable viewing spot; a conservatory for Gool’s orchids, tropicals, and plants raised for seasonal displays; and a serpentine path beneath the trees.

    The teahouse sits at the end of the formal path.

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    The walls of the teahouse melt away when the doors are open wide; the little structure has a wood-burning fireplace that makes it usable even on cold autumn days.

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    "The best part is the brook garden," Dinyar enthuses. Here, he turned an unsightly but necessary feature—a drainage ditch—into an elegant attribute by capturing the water and directing it into a landscaped culvert edged with river rock and boulders and bordered with moisture-loving plants. "I was told I should line the ditch with stones and then cover it over with grass to make a big lawn," he explains. "But just by luck I stumbled across a picture of a stream garden, and that was my inspiration."

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    The sturdy yellow-flowered black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, dances with the exotic variegated foliage of the canna lily, Canna indica.

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    The loggia is an all-weather gathering spot that, with shutters thrown open, gives a wide-angle view of the garden and of Arjun, a rough-coated collie.

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    The interior is warm and casual; paisley-patterned textiles and wicker furnishings blend easily with exposed brick walls and oak-beamed windows.

  • Jonathan Wellen and Farzan Saleem

    Designer at Home

    Many designers pride themselves on keeping their "eyes wide open," but few have developed Wadia’s 360-degree panorama. His design ethos combines his early experience of home—particularly his mother’s family home set in lush gardens outside Mumbai (Bombay)—with the profoundly American idea of home he came to respect as he established his career in the United States, starting his own firm some 30 years ago in the rural environs of New Canaan, Connecticut. As described in the book dedicated to his work (part of the New Classicist series issued by Images Publishing), Dinyar eschews the idea of "signature style," and devotes equal attention to the landscape of home, designing each project so that it is appropriate to its setting. "Our goal," he states, "is to create traditional architecture that is contemporary in the modern world, creating a sense of casual elegance."

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