Nothing A White Picket Fence Couldn’t Cure


When landscape architect, Kate Field of Newport, Rhode Island was presented the dilemma of converting a small paved backyard into a city oasis, she rose to the challenge and more.

Victorian cottage in Newport RI

The Perfect American Victorian Home


Newport, ‘the city by the sea’ has been through several transformations over the years. A thriving seaport, this town has been home to whalers, fisherman, trading routes, yachting and the Navy.  It has been enjoying a resurgence as a resort city boasting beautiful beaches and some of the best sailing on the East Coast.  With the onset of telecommuting, it has also become a full time residential town.

This turn of the century Victorian cottage, one of many that had been renovated into two family homes to fill the demand of Navy personal and summer renters in 1960’s and 70’s, was purchased with the new owners reverting it back into a single family house.  The inside and out were in desperate need renovation.

Kate Field of Katherine Field and Associates, was tasked with renovating the gardens;  from demolition down to purchasing the garden furnishings.   The house had been returned to it’s quaint Victorian self and all the shrubs had been torn out when Kate arrived on the scene.  It gave her an empty canvas where she was able to  ‘dress’ this lady up with a row of hydrangea’s in front of the porch, pops of floral color, green shrubs and the quintessential white picket fence.


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Three ‘Rooms’

Hidden behind this all American exterior was a 60′ long but narrow plot. Street parking is limited in Newport and the backyard had been made into a parking lot. Kate’s mission was to carve out living space and to create a hidden city oasis.

She took into account the family’s needs, their wish list and city restrictions. In order to keep the much coveted off-the-street parking and garage, she used half of the property for the garden, and to prevent the ‘bowling lane’ effect, she divided it into three garden ‘rooms.’


Garden in Newport RI

The long narrow plot was divided into three garden rooms


1 – The first of the three outdoor living rooms is the space attached to the house, a mahogany deck extending from the kitchen steps to the property line.

2 -The second room is centered in the middle of the garden. A slate terrace garden room furnished with chaise lounges and seating areas perfect for a cocktail party or an afternoon at home with the family.

3- The home’s third outside room is a gated, formal garden that goes to the end of the lot.


“When the architectural details and the garden style agree, a sense of peace occurs,” Field says. The structures and ornaments in the gardens support the Victorian theme. The balusters of the porch, for example, are repeated in the backyard on the balcony off the second-floor sitting room.


Kate Field gave the back garden separation from the close neighbors as well as level to give a feeling of depth

Kate Field gave the back garden separation from the close neighbors as well as level to give a feeling of depth


“Wherever you go in the gardens,” Field says, “comfortable seating, cheerful flowers, gentle colors, fragrance, views, and a sense of peace are waiting. It’s surprising there could be so much pleasure in a reclaimed parking lot.”


Photography courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Photographer: Jeff McNamara