Donna LaPietra: Some people cut broad swaths through life; others make their mark more quietly, taking each day and moment, each person and place, one at a time, as if they're connecting the dots to shape their lives in an inspiring and life-affirming order.
And as über-dot-connectors go, Donna LaPietra takes some beating. "It's been a constant theme throughout my life," she offers, describing what motivates her, "to believe in the poetry of the moment and to always trust my instinct and to go wherever it will take me." And for the past 20-some years, that has been Chicago, where she is renowned for her ability to bring people together and build community.
Donna and life-partner Bill Kurtis are well-known as top-rank documentary filmmakers; their company, Kurtis Productions, is based in Chicago, while Mettawa Manor, their country home, is just a stone's throw from Lake Forest, Illinois. The house, built in 1927, is a prime example of the Tudor revival style, popular at the time for the spacious executive family estates being established north of Chicago.
"We had a town house in the city, and I worked with an interior decorator who taught me two things: Home is an important source of personal well-being and," Donna laughs, "having a professional designer's help is really important!" At that point in her life, as she self-deprecatingly explains, she had little experience of great houses or great gardens, and the design elements that set such places apart. But coming to Mettawa Manor, she realized it deserved a garden that respected the architecture of the house; she also wanted a landscape that reflected the couple's interests. So she decided to bring in Craig Bergman, the noted Chicago plantsman and garden designer. His nursery and practice are notable for their English flavor; he routinely travels to England, searching out the plant and design trends that are buzzing there and returning with them to his Midwest base.