Memories of Italy inspire the tailored redesign of a private terrace in Montreal.
For 23 years, Dominic Monaco avoided his garden, but who could blame him? “It was a mini forest on a tilted slope,” he says, describing the tangle of overgrown cedars that grew on the incline just behind his home in Westmount, Que. When he did brave his side yard, he had to walk down steep stairs that led to a small, dark terrace with crumbling stone walls. In 2016, Dominic, who runs an auto parts company, finally decided to tackle the mess. “I thought maybe I would fix the wall and do the rest in phases,” he says. That short-term solution was tossed aside, however, after he met with landscape architects Sophie Robitaille and Teressa Peill. Impressed by their ideas, he recruited the duo for a full-scale reimagining of his outdoor space. “His house is modern, minimal and square, so my initial instinct was to respond to that architectural style,” says Sophie, whose first proposal detailed a rectilinear garden design. “Then Dominic said, ‘I’m Italian. I need my dream garden to hearken back to my roots.’” He also wanted the garden to be done in the warm, sunny hues of Tuscany to match his memories of dining alfresco among cypress and citrus trees. The garden took five months to build, with Alfonso Campisi as project manager, landscape architecture by RobitailleCurtis and landscape contracting by L’Artisan. To set the mood, Sophie and Teressa’s plan involved replacing the old concrete stairs with a curved design that gently leads to a terrace below. “The stairs offer a pleasurable experience,” says Sophie, encouraging you to meander, stop and stare at the cityscape beyond or admire the lush trees. Hemlock and river birch, hay-scented ferns, white Brunnera and a Japanese maple now grow along the stairs, bringing texture and vibrancy. In total, the landscape architects planted 52 trees on the property (including at the front of the house), along with shrubs and perennials. “Unlike a wild English garden, the planting wasstructural,” says Sophie. “Its layers create a sense of depth and privacy.” When you finally arrive at the bottom of the stairs, two distinct zones take shape on the terrace. A dining table, which perfectly fits the space, sits under the dappled light of a dramatic pergola built of Western cedar. Next to it, an outdoor sofa and deep, comfy armchairs invite lounging with digestifs. A low wall built of pale yellow Ducharme stone and topped in Adair limestone coping defines the perimeter and, instead of paving stones, Sophie chose a finely textured ground covering of granite and resin, which has a soft feel underfoot. Since the garden’s redo, Dominic heads to the terrace as often as possible. “Every morning after exercising, I walk the entire garden circumference in peace and quiet, taking it all in with an espresso,” he says. “It’s a perfect way to start the day.''