THE LODGES ON VASHON is a hospitable gathering spot on an island that’s near but somehow feels far away. According to Jena Thornton — who, along with her husband, Scott Shapiro, owns the stylish getaway — comfort, sustainability and connecting guests with the local community were guiding principles when it came to developing the 4.5-acre site.
In 2015, 16 prefab (prefabricated or, in this case, pretty fabulous) units were custom-made off-site, brought to the island and craned into an empty field tucked behind an existing paved parking lot. Then it was up to landscape designer Jil Stenn (Stenndesign.com) to create a sense of place. The results are strikingly beautiful.
Water conservation was a determining factor when it came to every aspect of the project to ensure The Lodges remains within its very limited water budget allocated by the local Vashon water district. Stenn and Thornton credit challenging budget and resource restrictions with fostering collaboration and creative solutions, both indoors and out. It’s working. “We’re remarkably below our limit,” Thornton says.
The Lodges landscape is water-wise and easy to care for. “We were after a warm, welcoming Vashon-y vibe,” Stenn says. “A finer-grain landscape that felt lush yet blended in with the existing woodland along the western edge of the site.”
Plant placement throughout the property is thoughtful and strategic. Stenn defined the perimeter of the property with a mixed hedgerow punctuated with stands of blue-green Vanderwolf’s Pyramid pine (Pinus flexilis ‘Vanderwolf’s Pyramid’) and placed a “bold brush stroke” of ‘Warrenred’ maples (Acer ‘Warrenred’ Pacific Sunset) at the property’s entrance, where brilliant seasonal color captures the attention of passing motorists on Vashon Highway. As the trees mature, they will form a leafy canopy over the parking lot and provide cooling.
Within the property, a mix of Pacific Northwest native plants combines with a variety of durable (read: deer-resistant), drought-tolerant and hardy trees, shrubs and perennials. An earthy color palette, consisting of rusty orange, gold, green and deep wine, looks great against the chic charcoal units and natural wood decking. Seasonality extends well beyond flowers, with colorful foliage, fine textures, and interesting bark and berries.
The landscape reflects an artful and knowledgeable way with plants. Fragrant plants situated at entries and along the paved pathways that wend throughout the companionable space add sensual impact to visitors’ comings and goings, while sweetly scented thorny elaeagnus (Elaeagnus pungens) wafts through privacy fencing surrounding open-air showers in units facing the meadow.
Elsewhere, dwarf purple barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Crimson Pygmy’) deters deer from browsing the slender, arching and mostly thorn-free stems of red leaf rose (Rosa glauca). With pristine foliage and numerous small pink blooms in early summer, followed by abundant scarlet hips that persist after the leaves turn red and drop in fall, it’s a performance that’s well worth protecting.
The Lodges and its landscape are now 6 years old, and both are thriving. Thornton credits word-of-mouth and social media with keeping rooms booked. Stenn attributes the flourishing plants to excellent soil preparation and a good landscape contractor (who has since moved on to goat farming). Keen aesthetics and respect for natural systems beautifully combine to create a destination where, as the property’s website declares, “modern style meets Mother Nature.”