Habitat: Design Matters by Jennifer Martella


While most people may not think of hiring an architect or other design professionals, their input can be crucial to making your vision for your home or property a reality. Great design is a creative collaboration between architects, interior designers, landscape architects/designers and informed owners.

Design starts with defining “wants” and “needs”. You need three bedrooms and two baths; you want granite kitchen countertops.

An architect can guide you in making sure your “needs” are met and then add as many “wants” as your budget allows. When I met with prospective clients, I always asked each of them what their “sacred cow” was – the one thing they couldn’t live without and the design concept grew from there.

Landscape architects/designers think of landscape as “outdoor rooms” that extend the living space. They know how to specify plantings that will grow to maturity without crowding other landscape elements. Like architects, they specify outdoor lighting that enlivens your property. I have an uplight in one of my four-story high silver maples; when I turn the uplight on after dark, the tree canopy comes alive to the delight of my neighbors.

Interior designers interpret your lifestyle with furnishings, accessories, and finishes that add functionality and comfort, as well as complement the architecture. What they do helps make your house a home.

Some of the most famous houses in America personify the integration of house/interiors/landscape. Think of Washington’s Mount Vernon and Jefferson’s Monticello, or Vanderbilt’s Biltmore estate near Asheville,

NC. I have visited Biltmore many times and am still awed by its grandeur and the remarkable landscape genius of Frederick Law Olmstead.

This year is the 150th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright’s birth. Falling

Water, his weekend retreat for the Kauffman family of Pittsburgh, is a masterpiece. Who else could have convinced a family their house needed to be over not opposite the waterfall? Wright designed the house and interiors and was fortunate to have Mother Nature as his landscape designer!

Another well-known example is the Miller home in Columbus, Indiana. Columbus is now a destination for architecture buffs due to the visionand architectural philanthropy of one man, J. Irwin Miller. Over his lifetime and through the foundation he established, most of Columbus’ public buildings have been designed by some of America’s greatest architects beginning with the father and son team of Eliel and Eero Saarinen. Miller chose a “dream team’ of architect Eero Saarinen, interior designer Alexander Girard, and landscape designer Dan Kiley to create Miller’s residence that has become a mid- century-modern gem.

Most of us don’t have the budget of a Vanderbilt, but whatever size house we call home can utilize the integration of house/interiors/landscape in some way. Design does matter and over the coming months Habitat will identify and celebrate properties in Talbot County that reflect these aesthetics of home ownership.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from HUD neighborhood revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio to renovate an abandoned barn into a library for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee. Her passion for Italian food, wine and culture led her to Piazza Italian Market where she is the Director of Special Events, including weekly wine tastings and quarterly wine dinners.

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