SOME OF US might debate placing any sort of decoration in our yard. Will our neighbors find even a discreet tin deer statue pretentious? Other homeowners, however, freely pursue extravagant landscape ambitions limited only by their imaginations. Santa Barbara designer Margie Grace recalled designing and installing over 10 types of gardens on a three-acre site in five months. “A couple of months later they called,” she said, noting that she and the clients are still friends. “They wanted to put in a model (ride-on) train that ran ‘round the whole thing—and the adventure continued.” Here, a collection of the most fantastical outdoor-design directives professionals have ever confronted.
“A young family in Texas requested a moat and drawbridge around their country estate. It sounded like a lot of fun, but unfortunately logistically we just couldn’t make it work [within their time frame].” —Michelle Nussbaumer, interior designer, Dallas
“For a wraparound terrace on Fifth Avenue, a well-known fashion designer requested a trampoline for her boyfriend, who insisted it was safe, with no netting or railings on the edge. It was 16 stories up. The boyfriend never had an accident, but he wore out his welcome. We removed the trampoline and added planters with peach and apple trees.” —Janice Parker, landscape architect, New York
“Our client requested that we accommodate his refurbished World War II Sherman tank that was to be stored in a show garage neatly tucked into the hillside of their 62-acre site. The request was revoked when it was determined that their Belgian-block driveway would be destroyed and have to be repaved every time they took the tank out for a spin.” —Margie Lavender, architect, Ike Kligerman Barkley, N.Y.
“A young family was looking for ways to incorporate a pool in their backyard, ideally without losing square footage for their children to play and space for them to entertain. They asked if there was technology like a hydraulic retractable floor that would cover the pool. With the right team, their goal was achieved, the first such pool in northeast America.”—Marguerite Rodgers, interior designer, Philadelphia
“A movie director’s property for his new Los Angeles home featured incredible, ancient pine trees, and his directive to us was ‘Do whatever it takes to preserve these trees.’ Problem was, the geologists wanted them removed to stabilize the cliff-side property. We had to create some really intense engineering, like tremendous caissons, to stabilize the home while protecting the trees. In the end, the window in one of the rooms basically frames these beautiful, old sacred trees.” —Chad Oppenheim, architect, Miami
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