Architectural Accompaniment

Designing their garden to complement the Old World style of their home, these Webster Groves homeowners make a new garden look old.

By Lucyann Boston
Photography by Kim Dillon


When Jen and Cap Grossman designed and built their new home in an established neighborhood in Webster Groves, they knew the look they wanted.  “The architecture has a French Country/Old World feel to it, but there’s a little bit of Tuscan feeling too,” Jen explains.

As they began planning their interiors, they also considered the home’s exterior surroundings and the two-acre lot that needed a total overhaul if the house and grounds were to complement each other. Very early in the project, they turned to Kim Kelce and Nancy Pedley, who for 22 years as the firm of Kelce & Pedley, have specialized in fine residential garden design. 

“We were incredibly lucky to be involved with the project, which is just around the corner from where I live,” says Nancy. “We went through a lot of designs and schemes, and we consulted with a landscape architect because there were severe grade changes in the yard.  We needed to deal with that in the best way possible.” Another issue involved drainage and water that during construction flowed into neighboring yards.

Solving those problems involved some very unglamorous grading work and the installation of an underground water storage tank now camouflaged by lovely white pines.  Kelce & Pedley turned to Meyer Landscaping and Charles Stevenson for the earth moving and the truly heavy lifting on the project.  Those efforts transformed necessary retaining walls into a series of beautiful terraces framed by stacked walls of creamy EW Gold limestone quarried in Ste. Genevieve, MO.  Meyer Landscaping also amended and prepared the soil to provide the best possible medium for the trees and shrubs that were to come. All parties also worked to protect mature trees on the property during construction.

As for prettying up the hardscape with plants, Jen had some guidelines for Nancy and Kim.  She wanted the Old World look of the house to be reflected in the plants themselves, and “I wanted the garden to be as low maintenance as possible because we do a lot of traveling,” she emphasizes. “I wanted lavender somewhere in the landscaping and muted colors; not a lot of brights.”

Making a new garden look old and at the same time be low maintenance was a challenge the team of Kelce & Pedley accepted. They drew on their experience gained in personally viewing true Old World gardens in France and Italy. They also drew on their contacts to procure mature plants that did not require several years to grow into their role, even working with a plant broker to obtain the best available specimens.

One of their biggest finds was a group of mature "green giant" arborvitae to screen the swimming pool on the east side of the house and provide privacy year around. They also made use of large numbers of boxwoods and hollies for rich green color 12 months a year. In keeping with country gardens in France and Italy, which make liberal use of gravel pathways, garden walks were constructed using decomposed granite, produced by Kafka Granite of Stratford, WI, a substance that packs well for a firm surface but still allows water to penetrate. Along with the evergreen shrubs, Kelce & Pedley added shrub roses and numerous hydrangeas to the terraces leading down to the pool. “The whole idea was to create an elegant but casual setting,” Nancy explains. “We also wanted to make sure the shrubs on the terraces didn’t get too big.  We chose  ‘little lime’ hydrangeas rather than the larger ‘limelight’ and smaller (flower) carpet roses rather than larger varieties."

All areas off the back of the house encompass lovely views of the two-acre property, accented with mature trees and grass. A shady center island planted with dogwoods, azaleas, hydrangeas, hosta and edged in sunny spots with peonies, draws the eye through the grounds.

Whenever possible, the designers used old wood in place of new. Recycled timbers from a barn in Virginia top a wisteria-covered pergola off the kitchen.  Also noteworthy in the pergola is a vintage-finished concrete table from Exceptional Outdoor Furnishings with a copper trough down the middle that can hold flowers or iced champagne. It is the Grossmans' dining spot of choice for a small dinner party.

In addition to the small dining area off the kitchen, recycled wood from a tobacco barn in Kentucky frames a large entertainment space off the dining room and living room.  A  glass-topped dining table, comfortable outdoor couches and chairs and a huge stone fireplace provide plenty of space for guests.  Flower-filled stone containers and a trough-like provincial fountain accent a large courtyard immediately adjacent to the covered area. “I wanted most of the flowers in pots that can be watered several times a week,” Jen notes. A hallmark of all the outdoor entertaining spaces is the amazing number of candle-filled chandeliers and lanterns that after dark come alive with softly flickering light.

“We’re still working out the best places to entertain when we have groups over,” Jen says. “The adults seem to favor the upper terrace while our ninth grade son’s friends head for the pool.”     

Kelce and Pedley Design
Meyer Landscaping, 314-291-4700