Design Alchemy

Using his surroundings as his laboratory, landscape architect Richard Anderson creates an oasis of calm amid the bustle of Buckhead

Approaching Rick Anderson’s home on Moores Mill, you’re immediately struck by the well-manicured courtyard, where perfectly symmetrical plantings create a sense of calm. But this landscape architect did more than surround his house with superb horticultural specimens. Instead, he and fiancée Viki Lauter carefully considered the home’s architecture and its landscape design as a whole, each ending up the better for it.

The house was designed by its original owner, Ed Wells, a partner at Toombs, Amisano & Wells, a firm known for—among other things—its work on the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank, Lenox Square as well as FDR’s “Little White House” in Warm Springs.

“I fell in love with the house because of the way it fits the land,” Anderson says. “Everywhere you step out of this house you’re on earth, you’re on grade. And as a landscape architect, I find that to be really special.”

But even before the house was officially his, destiny stepped in. “During the time that I was negotiating, [residential designer] Yong Pak and I got together for dinner,” he recalls. “I had the flyer sitting out, and he asked me what it was. I told him I was buying that house, and he asked what I was going to do with it. I knew I wanted a master wing and a two-car garage, but I really hadn’t had time to think about it. So Yong said, ‘Let me show you what I’d do.’ He drew a quick little sketch, showing how he’d use two single-car garages to form the front courtyard. I liked it, but didn’t give it much more thought.

“Later, at the closing, the sellers handed me 12 sheets of original tracings that the architect had done. About a week later, I looked at them and noticed on the site plan that he’d already envisioned these garages. The only difference was that he had envisioned one as a garage and one­ as a studio. I guess, back in the late ’40s, having a two-car garage was a little obscene.”

When the time was right, Anderson officially brought Yong Pak’s firm on board for the renovation of the house. And, like they’d done on so many projects before, the pros collaborated on each design decision. But the owner admits that the landscape—his specialty—was more of a challenge.

“This entire landscape has been an evolution,” he explains. “One of the most difficult clients I’ve ever had is myself because there are so many options! You only have this limited space, and you can’t do everything. So you’ve really got to be restrained. I think all landscapes are a series of outdoor rooms, so it’s all about definition of space—not really about the plant materials themselves. They are tools you can use to form space; trees can form a roof or canopy and hedges can create walls. Once you’ve got the space created, all you have to do is decorate it.”

But there’s nothing random about the placement of Anderson’s outdoor rooms. “Everything on this property is pretty much set up on axes, though they’re not necessarily evident. When you come down the stairs into the garden, looking across the millstone and through openings in the hedges, your view is terminated by the studio. In the house, there’s a fireplace that looks along the axis that terminates at the fountain. And the master bedroom wing has an axis that is terminated by a curved hedge.”

And there are other subtle touches. The lower terrace, for instance, has increased in size. Anderson cleverly used excavation material from the construction of the master bedroom wing to expand the space. But just as important is the shape. “We did it in a nice little arc so your eyes travels, giving you more of a panoramic view,” he says.

When all is said and done, this garden beautifully complements the house, and the house returns the favor. Like Anderson and Yong Pak, the two exemplify teamwork at its best.


LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT, Richard Anderson, (404) 892-1788;, ARCHITECT, Yong Pak and Francis Kirkpatrick, Pak Heydt & Associates, (404) 231-3195;, BUILDER (HOUSE), Dan Person, (404) 512-6666, BUILDER (STUDIO), Micky Watkins, (770) 605-7140, Specialty building materials (oak beams and Yorkstone pavers), Wyatt Childs Inc., (770) 358-0501