Tour an Overseen Property Transformed into a Dreamy Westport Garden



Westport Garden FountainClearly, Barry Blau was going straight for a legacy landscape.He was a man who dreamed big, and he obviously wanted to wow Westport. But he was also daring, because he chose a venue that few other homeowners were exploring at the time. Back in 1964 when Barry and Eileen Blau bought the property, neighbors were surrounding their country estates in safe swathes of lawn with perhaps some foundation shrubs thrown in. Instead, this highly successful advertising executive and entrepreneur built a garden of impressive proportions. Over several decades, Blau forged axes lined by rows of sculpted crabapples that would make their statement in maturity, he put in parterres and found fountains to ship home when he traveled abroad. Given only two acres in the middle of suburbia, he made his own mini-Versailles. When you build something on such an ambitious level, decades of maturity and maintenance are necessary to make the statement glow. The only way his legacy would have legs was if it was stewarded into the future. Fortunately, his family is equally foresighted.

Emily Blau grew up feeling different from the other kids on the block. One of the Blaus’ four children, she was two years old in 1964 when her parents bought the midcentury modern home with barn accents built as a spec house by theatre stage set designer Ralph Alswang in a brave new style he called “carpenter modern.” Initially, she felt dwarfed by the towering oak trees that loomed over the house.

Westport Garden

But even as her father began work on his botanical opus, she couldn’t help but inherit the pride. Her formative years were spent wandering a labyrinth of pathways accented by sculpture and ornaments that she saw nowhere else in the near vicinity. Other classmates were serenaded by the drone of lawnmowers while she listened to the water music of fountains. “It was very dramatic,” she recalls, “not like anyone else’s home.” There were moments when she bristled about the garden chores. But more often, she loved the link with the outdoors created by the yawning windows framing views of her father’s ambitious formal garden.

The fact that his landscape was a brave divergence from the neighbors was fine with Barry Blau. “He loved beautiful spaces,” Emily Blau recalls of her father who passed away in 2017, “and being artistic was true to my parents’ core.”

As she grew up, the garden gained grandeur as her father added an Asian garden, installed a stream, and put in a pond. He built terraces, walls, groves while populating them with massive urns, cherubs and stone griffins. He purchased Rhododendron maximum, the rosebay rhododendron, by the dozen to create a sense of walls and continuity in the space.

When Emily Blau bought the property next door 20 years ago, she no longer felt any ambivalence to the garden of her youth. “It’s so peaceful,” she says, “you can forget yourself in its rooms.” But she also had the rare insight to stand back and realize that her parents’ garden required revamping. And her husband, architect Robert Cohen had the respect and design savvy to honor the layers that had developed while rethinking spaces that had grown shabby.

As a result, the Blau garden has all the intrinsic elements that made the garden grand, with a refreshing update to bring it into the next generation. With more understory blossoms, focal points honed and sharpened, sight lines made more succinct, and statuary repositioned, it shines with pride of place. It feels loved. It feels like family.

A version of this article appeared in the July/August issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Perfect Composition.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Christian Rae Studio
Christian Rae Studio, LLC is a multi-disciplinary design firm located in Southport, CT. Since 2010, we have delivered projects representing a broad range of type, scale, and budget considerations. Our combined technical and creative skills enable us to complete each design challenge from conception to final installation. The collaboration between architecture, interiors and lighting design is an approach that results in a holistic and integrated project that is thoughtfully tailored to each site and client.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Nautilus Architects
Christopher Arelt’s practice, Nautilus Architects, involves collaboration and interpretation, with each design evolving in its own way in response to the site, context and client. Chris’ work is seen as a continuation of but also a response to Modernism; or, more specifically, a return to regionalism and artistry, where clients’ projects are developed with the “head, hearts and hands” of all those involved. All of our buildings explore the use of natural light, reveal the inherent beauty of the materials being used, and bring the outdoors in.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Laura Kaehler Architects
Laura Kaehler Architects is an Award Winning Architectural Firm. Along with Laura Kaehler, AIA, we have a talented staff of 5 architects and designers who create new homes, renovations and additions and apartment renovations. Designing a smaller footprint while obtaining a "big look" with an open floor plan design, better craftsmanship and detailing and richer materials is what we call "Responsible Luxury" and is a key element of our design philosophy.

Laura Kaehler

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Builder Spotlight

Davenport Contracting
The team at Davenport Contracting has over 35 years of experience building and renovating homes. Our business model has always been based on building/renovating for a specific customer. A collaborative environment includes the client, architect, interior designer and Davenport crew. Davenport maneuvers effortlessly between custom homes, smaller renovations and property management. The team’s project management skills transfer seamlessly and the goal is to deliver your vision!


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Designer Spotlight

Fiona Leonard Interiors
Fiona Leonard Interiors, LLC is a full service design firm that specializes in making a client’s home unique and custom tailored to the owners taste and lifestyle. Projects are personally supervised from initial consultation to installation. Strong relationships with carefully selected creative artisans, highly skilled craftsmen and subcontractors ensures that your project will be in good hands. With over 20 years experience working alongside well established design professionals in Connecticut and Manhattan, Fiona Leonard Interiors, LLC was established.Fiona designs interiors with a casual elegance and timeless approach. Inherent in all her work is Fiona’s passion to combine clean lines and an artistic use of color that is comfortable for the client and reflects their personal lifestyle.

Fiona Leonard Interiors

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Daniel Conlon Architects
Wind and weather, the ebb and flow of the tide, changing color and light define the rhythm of coastal living. This recent home embraces the idea with light-filled spaces , expansive views , cozy niches, and outdoor living environments. Landscape terraces and stonework ground the building to the site, while respecting all current building codes. Daniel Conlon Architects, based in Wilton CT, has designed numerous waterfront homes throughout the Northeast.

Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module