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Beautifully Landscaped Getaway

Blooms and boxwoods dress a New York City family’s Litchfield Hills hideaway in serene beauty

Written and produced by Tovah Martin
  • Rob Cardillo

    Gardens were not part of Mark Drendel’s master plan. “Not in my wildest dreams,” he says. He didn’t foresee terraces softened by ‘The Fairy’ roses or banks of billowing hydrangeas hemmed by slender ribbons of clipped boxwood. Instead, Mark and partner Chad Conway (owners of Canine Styles in New York City) bought a 1920s Sears Roebuck kit house in Litchfield County, Connecticut, for weekend getaways from their Manhattan apartment and as a playground for their son, Nicholas. 

    Photography: Rob Cardillo

    Garden designer: David Bergman, DWB Botanical Design, 148 Old Field Rd., Southbury, CT 06488; 203/264-9010.  
    Interior designer: Mark Drendel

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    Making a Splash

    “We wanted a swimming pool for Nicholas to splash around in,” Mark recalls, but zoning regulations dictated its place—and that place was in plain view of the road. “Fine,” Mark thought as he reconfigured his vision into a square pool and doodled ideas for a privacy-producing hedged terrace.

    The dining area connects to the street-level pool, tucked away behind a white picket fence and strategically located plantings. 

    Garden and pool area—
    Antique finials and urns: Tracey Young, The Elemental Garden,
    Chaise lounges (Glenora Collection); dining chairs (Glenora Collection); dining table; umbrella: Jewels of Java,

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    Dining Terrace

    Mark added a dining niche in a serendipitous spur-of-the-moment decision as the stonework was being laid. Then another idea struck: Why not incorporate a mezzanine level into the hill above the pool, where a series of chaise chairs would make it easy to monitor the splashing? A landscape was unfolding, and Mark embraced it.

    Just a few steps down from the mezzanine lounge area—and handy to the guesthouse—is the family’s favorite lunch spot.

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    Shady Perch

    The garden’s mezzanine level offers lots of room for lounging in a spot with commanding views of the dining terrace and pool beyond. The garden includes plenty of Mark’s beloved boxwoods. 

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    Poolside Retreat

    Perched in the grass just steps from the pool, the bench offers front-row seats to aquatic activities.

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    Terraced Hillside

    Meanwhile, the family was getting to know the neighborhood, including a garden down the road designed for Geraldine Stutz by Russell Page. It piqued Mark’s hunger for boxwoods by the hundreds. He just needed the right landscape designer to take the evolving property under his wing. Thankfully, while Mark browsed for fillers and finials at The Elemental Garden in Woodbury, garden antiques dealer Tracey Young tipped him off to the perfect plantsman: David Bergman of DWB Botanical Design in Southbury.

    On the garden’s lowest level, clipped boxwoods form a serpentine edging in front of a rose bed. 

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    Globemaster Alium

    Bergman began work behind the house, installing a deep perennial border that pumps out pastel blossoms through the seasons, from the alliums and fritillarias of spring to the lilies of midsummer and the agastache of autumn. 

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    Step on Up

    Bergman then brightened the stone wall of the pool terrace with a border of peonies, salvia, Japanese iris, and alchemilla. By that time, Mark’s love affair with Russell Page style was going strong, and dollops of boxwood became a recurring theme.

    Terracing tamed the hilly lot, making it usable for outdoor living. A stone path leads up from the guest cottage and outdoor dining nook. 

  • Rob Cardillo

    Container Plantings 

    Further up the hill, hydrangeas were the ticket, as well as sturdy shrubs that could be clipped into cones. Between it all, Bergman filled in with voluptuous perennials to feed Mark’s need for color. “I like soft, romantic, enchanting hues,” Mark says. Bergman kept the palette primarily within the pink, purple, white, and pale yellow range to allow coming and going bloomers to segue seamlessly.

    The designer also wisely selected tidy perennials that would not require staking while still reflecting the mounding form of potted hydrangeas on the terraces.

    Pots of ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangeas soften the tiled floor of the poolside dining nook and bring in a beautiful splash of purple. The wood containers lend textural contrast to stone walls.

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    Colorful Hydrangea

    Lush plantings include Cityline ‘Rio’ hydrangeas.

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    Bright Bloom

    The garden erupts in blooms that change with the season, including Geranium ‘Rozanne.’

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    Sweet Rose

    David Austin roses dot the landscape, like this ‘Teasing Georgia.’

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    Among the garden's colorful selections is reseeding foxglove.

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    To the Dogs

    Garden accents speak to Mark and partner Chad Conway’s love of animals. They own the Canine Styles boutique in New York City.

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    Just Peachy

    The landscape’s floral elements include soft-hued Peach Drift roses. 

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    Fragrant Blooms

    Fragrant white David Austin ‘Iceberg’ roses add to the garden's floral variety.

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    Border Plantings

    Flower beds surrounding the guest cottage brim with bright colors and a variety of intriguing shapes, including spheres of giant ‘Globemaster’ allium. Plenty of green plants ground the palette.

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    Back Porch

    With the garden in place, only one major thorn remained: an ugly cinder-block garage. Out it went, in favor of a two-story guesthouse with a garage beneath. For privacy, the porch (a must-have for Southern transplant Mark) faces away from the main house and overlooks its own small parterre-style garden, filled with roses. 

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    Guest Quarters

    The guesthouse is new—built on the site of a former garage—but it has the rustic charm and character of an antique barn.   

  • Michael Partenio

    Guesthouse Bedroom 

    Inside, Mark, who handled the interior design, dressed a canopy bed with yard after luxurious yard of dramatic red-and-white toile. The same fabric covers chairs in the adjacent seating area, which also connects to the kitchen and bar, all part of one cozy, studio-style space. The guesthouse’s spacious bathroom looks out on the garden—which gave Mark the idea of letting a Dutch door frame the view outward. It all adds up to make for the perfect retreat, which Mark enjoys often. “This,” he says, “is the best place ever.”

    A luxuriously draped canopy bed brings big drama to the petite space. The red Pierre Frey toile repeats on comfy chairs. 

    Bed (designed by Mark Drendel): fabricated by TJ Caridi, Sophisticated Country,
    Lounge chairs: George Smith,
    Fabric on bed, bed drapery, and lounge chairs (“Alpage”/Cerise #F2336003); hand-embroidered pillows and throw on bed (“Tachkent”/Chocolat #F2804002): Pierre Frey,
    Bed-drapery interior: Brunschwig & Fils,
    Bed linens: E. Braun & Co.,
    Art behind bed: antique.
    Sconces behind bed: Klaffs,
    Bedside table (antique); blanket bench (antique); table between chairs: owner’s collection.
    Carpet: custom. 

  • Michael Partenio

    Guesthouse Kitchen

    A kitchenette with a fully stocked bar makes anyone enjoying the guesthouse feel right at home. Wood was whitewashed and then sanded to create eye-catching texture.

    Sink; faucet: Klaffs,
    Lights in sink area;
    light over island: Privet House,
    Bar stools: J. Seitz & Co.,
    Drapery and window shade fabric: Brunschwig & Fils,  

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    Mark Drendel enjoys garden chores—even pruning. They’re part of what makes his country home a true getaway.

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