Since 1984, Robin Key and her husband David have used their farmhouse property in Southern Vermont as a testing ground for ideas on design, plant material and construction. With woodlands, meadows and a lively brook running through their 80 acres, the landscape has yielded numerous opportunities to apply lessons learned – from the biggest gestures to the smallest details – to the firm’s other projects.
The ongoing project has included the relocation of the town road, the restoration of an early 19th-century farmhouse, the addition of a screened-in-porch and woodshed, and the siting, design and construction of a large multi-purpose post-and-beam barn in 1993 and a smaller equipment shed in 2007. The property has a productive vegetable garden, an apple orchard, extensive perennial and woodland flower borders that showcase native plantings, and several blueberry patches. Overgrown meadows have been opened up, native habitat and woodland understory have been preserved for wildlife, a new pond has been constructed in an upper meadow, and a spring-water-fed spillway has been created near the house.
Anchoring many of the buildings and landscape features are dry-stone walls built by Dan Snow, an environmental artist from nearby Dummerston, Vermont. Currently, several woodland trails are being carved out of the wooded hillside, a managed Vermont tree farm, to connect the farmhouse to the new pond and the Green Mountain National Forest.
Dry Stone Waller: