Landscape Design that Feels like Home

It takes a lot to make a house a home. At Searstone, it’s not just the luxurious interior decor, and it’s not just the fine dining, and it’s not just the top notch services. When people look for a home, they want yard space, landscaping with lush flowers, and a welcoming outdoor area to spend time in.

You and your loved ones won’t have to sacrifice this outdoor space at Searstone. We understand how crucial nature is for those who join our community. Not only is it a bonding activity to spend time with friends and neighbors, it’s also good for health and wellness. In fact, studies have shown that nature helps people to be active physically, spiritually, and socially later in life. Having access to the outdoors allows older adults to uphold daily structure in retirement and provide opportunities for diverse activities outside the home, decreasing boredom and isolation.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Rose Tanksley, a Professional Landscape Architect with WithersRavenel, who is in the design phase of the landscape at Searstone, and got a behind the scenes look at the entire process.

We learned that a lot more goes into the design of the landscape than we originally thought. Landscape architects work with engineers and architects from the early stages of a project to help set a tone from the time a person drives their car onto a property to park, to the time where they enter a building on foot. Their perspective is often a bridge between the work of civil engineers and architects.

This collaborative work allows for the landscape to be enjoyed no matter where you are on campus, from the windows and balconies, to dining areas and other common spaces.

To understand a little more about the logistics of planning the landscape for the upcoming expansion at Searstone, check out some of our conversation with the team at WithersRavenel.

Q: What are some of the things you did to prepare as you took on this project?

A: We reviewed the development’s master plan, met with town planners, and had many conversations with the client, Searstone director and managers, architects and engineers. A great deal of time goes into understanding the constraints of the site as well as the vision of the client. The architects, engineers and the landscape architects connect on all the issues that need to be addressed.

What happens underground affects us above ground, and what happens indoors inevitably relates to the outdoors, so we try to maximize the enjoyment of that indoor space by creating beautiful views from the interior. This often has the effect of making an interior space feel that much bigger. There are a lot of moving parts that sound easy but it’s quite involved.

Q: What do you envision for the landscape at Searstone?

 A: In short, a lush, green campus that is inviting to come home to and enjoyable to walk through.

In this project we’re designing three very different common spaces that offer a variety of outdoor experiences. The largest greenspace will provide opportunities to be active. Walking on paved paths in a park-like setting, gardening, and a sport court like bocce ball are some activities that can happen here. This space is planned to be heavily populated with plants and trees for members of the community to enjoy but also so they can find some shade from the sun and heat.

Each common space will serve a different purpose. A smaller courtyard will allow small social gatherings and opportunities to watch an outdoor movie, or listen to a musician perform. A waterfall feature in another space is meant to provide something nice to look at while relaxing and enjoying the company of others. The landscape needed to be designed to reflect these purposes.

Q: What’s your craft for choosing what goes in the landscape?

A: Plants are just one component of a successful outdoor space. The key is finding out how you use them to enhance the activities that people do in those spaces. For instance, imagine a small outdoor dining patio meant

for tables and chairs at the edge of a formal lawn. A short green hedge between the patio and the lawn can

give the patio a sense of privacy from activities that may happen on the lawn. However, the absence of a hedge would encourage the freedom to move between the patio and the lawn. So, we first answer the question about how we want the space to be used.

When, finally, we reach the point of choosing plants, there are even more considerations. Most importantly, we select plants that are known to thrive in the conditions that are created by the site. Only once we know that a plant will do well, do we consider the fun part that most people associate with landscape design, like size, shape, color, texture.

Q: What are some challenges you’ve found throughout this process?

A:  We are designing a waterfall feature in one of the common areas to look like a natural feature that has always been

there. Mimicking a natural element like this is always challenging, to create in a few weeks what the Earth has created over time. In the end, there will be a great deal of craftsmanship that will happen during construction that will help that feature to shine.

In working with an expansion project, one big challenge is to incorporate the new design into the existing context. One challenge in particular was how to design an approach to The Highview building without overshadowing Winston Clubhouse.

Winston Clubhouse is considered the main hub of the community and it was important to the community that it remains as such. So, while the approach to The Highview is grand and inviting, Winston clubhouse is also placed on an axis. This helps to strengthen its presence along the approach to The Highview, which is flanked by regal trees that alert the visitor that they have arrived.

Q: What do you want the residents of the Searstone to get out of the landscape?

A: I want them to enjoy the view, but not be distracted by it. To me, that’s one sign of what it means to be in a well-planned space. It should provide a restful atmosphere, a background, to somebody’s day to day life that triggers a sense of restfulness and enjoyment, but allows you to focus on the task at hand.

This landscape design will soon be underway at Searstone, with more to come at The Highview expansion opening in 2024. Learn more about The Highview here or call us at 919-234-0339.