Outdoor room
A very private space in Shorewood

By Cari Taylor-Carlson


Both Bill and Carmen Haberman agree, “We walk into the yard and the city is gone. Now,” says Carmen, “we have another room where we eat and relax all summer.”

I submitted you,” announced Peter Kudlata of Flagstone Landscape Design in a telephone call to Shorewood homeowner Carmen Haberman. With that statement, Kudlata started a process that would end with a gold award in the residential design category in the 2000 Landscape Awards Contest presented by the Wisconsin Landscape Federation. And both Bill and Carmen Haberman agree, “We walk into the yard and the city is gone.

“Kudlata started with just a tiny patio and lots of grass,” according to Carmen. Both Habermans wanted their yard to give them privacy; Bill has always dreamed of living in the country. “One of us would like to live in the country and one in the city so this yard is our compromise.” Yes, it is hard to have privacy in the city without a fence. “Furthermore” Carmen said, “who wants to look at a driveway and a garage?”

“She was a wonderful customer to work for,” said Kudlata. “We talked about the potential and the Habermans understood the landscape was to be secondary to the building.” They wanted to keep it understated and formal in the front and in the back they wanted to create an outdoor room, a very private space.

The yard has more than fulfilled their expectations but Carmen laughed and said, “I wasn’t so sure the day I came home from work and saw how much they were digging. It was so deep I thought they got mixed up and instead of a patio, they were putting in a pool.”

The Habermans were familiar with Kudlata’s work; they’d used his services at their former Whitefish Bay residence. According to Carmen, “Peter was always a good problem solver and over time we built a high level of trust in his competence.” When they moved to Shorewood they called Kudlata and put the project into his hands.

Haberman’s aesthetic taste is specific; she has worked at the Milwaukee Art Museum for 20 years. Both she and her husband wanted to be a part of the design process.

The Haberman home is eclectic, artful, filled with antiques, oriental rugs and contemporary art. The landscape in the backyard is an extension of both the interior and the exterior of the home. As the plan for the yard evolved, the Habermans discussed Kudlata’s recommendations and together tinkered with the plan.

“Peter knew me well enough to know what I would enjoy and what I would respond to,” Carmen said, “and I trusted he’d do something of quality and stand behind it. He tapped into my aesthetics.”

Kudlata’s work, in his words, is “client oriented.” It takes him four to five weeks to do the design work, then he hands a draft over to a draftsman who “takes my design map and makes me look good.” He’ll usually go through two or three revisions often based on the clients monetary or aesthetic choices or both. Unlike many landscape architects, Kudlata works out his design with paper and pencil. “I have to feel it before I can draw it.”

The front yard design is a traditional line of trimmed yews, underplanted with ivy and anchored by two magnolias. A herringbone brick entrance walk leads to the white pillared front entrance. This formal statement, appropriately wedded to the home, adds to the surprise when one steps through the gate from the driveway into the informality of the rest of Kudlata’s design. Kudlata’s plantings follow the curves and arches in the lines of the brick patio. At the Habermans’ request, he kept the large conifers on the west side of the yard but added cedars to balance them on the east. “When I work the house directs me and since this was a symmetrical house, I had choices,” said Kudlata, “but I had to keep the front entrance more formal while I made the back more natural.”

It was important to the Habermans to screen out the driveway with a fence and to “wrap the yard so they couldn’t see the other homes.”

The additions of a cedar fence and an arbor to keep the garage and the driveway out of sight were an important part of the plan. Kudlata softened the fence with several levels of plantings, added an herb garden close to the kitchen and placed a limestone slab between two sections of a brick patio to alert guests to the need to step one step up or down.

“I created a private space for the family to look out at from inside,”

Kudlata continued. “They’ll see blooms and a layered landscape with trees, shrubs, and perennials.” He continued, “I don’t like to see a lot of bark. I prefer to see it lush and green when I combine intimate and large spaces.”

Carmen has since experimented with both annuals and perennials and she “hauls the hose around a lot in the summer. “Now,” she said, “we have another room where we eat and relax all summer.”