A sampling of the pairs’ collaborative work, photo courtesy of the Moyers.
By Genevieve Kotz
Susan Moyer, a landscape designer, and her architect husband, Douglas Moyer, don’t always work together on projects, but when they do, it’s beneficial for both them and the client.
“It’s really great because we communicate so easily,” Mrs. Moyer, who works from her Sag Harbor home, explained. Her husband keeps his office in a separate building on their property, making the two easily accessible for clients.
But the factor that makes them a great team is their ability to put the needs of a client before their own personal style, she said.
“I may have my own personal preferences aesthetically, but I work for a client,” Mrs. Moyer explained, “I’m able to switch in and out and give my client what they want as opposed to having such a strict style that only certain people would come to me.”
“I like all of the different possibilities just like there are different people out there,” Mr. Moyer explained, noting that while he finds traditional houses that look more historic more interesting, he also has enjoyed working on more modern houses with a little bit of a twist to them. The two most recently worked on a 1710 farmhouse renovation together.
Mr. Moyer mainly does residential architecture, but he has also had experience working on institutional projects, like the recently completed Parrish Art Museum, where he served as project manager, and commercial ones, like his current project, Harbor Market, which will replace Espresso’s in Sag Harbor Village.
“There’s a lot of work that I’m able to do because Douglas is an architect,” Mrs. Moyer explained, “He’s able to help me and that’s really important to my success.”
Mrs. Moyer, who grew up between Washington, D.C., and Hawaii, fell in love with gardening when she moved to the East End. She also soon fell in love with Douglas, and the couple has been married for 23 years. Together, they have raised their two boys, Max, 21 and Wyeth, 15, in Sag Harbor and don’t plan on leaving any time soon.
“The light out here is extraordinary,” she said. “It’s in its own little world because of salt water and the light and the air.”
As a designer, Ms. Moyer creates gardens that not only cater to her clients’ needs but that work with the natural environment, noting that she prefers landscapes with as little lawn as possible, due to the fact that lawns are not natural to the landscape and require a lot of chemicals and water. She also uses native plants, which are better suited to survival, even during a drought or a flood.
“The point is not to fight nature,” she explained. “Work with it, don’t fight it.”
The biggest challenge with landscaping is ensuring that the garden is lush and beautiful in the beginning, while still planning space for everything to grow.
“The thing that’s unique about a garden that separates it from a house is that they’re living things. They grow, they change.” She explained. “You don’t plant it and walk away.”
Rather, Ms. Moyer creates gardens that she describes as outdoor rooms to live in. As beautiful as her gardens are, they also have to be as functional as possible. She finds it best if her clients have lived in the home for at least a season, so that they know how they move within the space and so that she doesn’t design something that fights against the natural flow.
“My whole philosophy about gardening is that it has to work for the family or the person who’s living in it,” she explained.
When she starts the design process, she has the client give her a list of what they are looking for and what they need, their favorite flowers and colors, for instance, as well as the number of children they have, and any other information she may need. After she sets the parameters, it becomes pretty clear how the garden will work out. She then contracts out the installation work and says makes sure to work with only the best companies to ensure the best quality. A favorite, she said, is Summerhill Landscapes. At the end, she works with the clients to add the final touches, whether it’s a sculpture, a bench or special lighting.
“I like to make sure every garden has something a little bit different and special in it,” she said.
Ms. Moyer has been designing landscapes for 20 years now—something, she said, she still can’t believe she gets to do for a living.
“It’s just the most fun, amazing thing to create a garden,” Ms. Moyer said. “Watching it transform into something, it’s like magic.”
For more information on Douglas Moyer’s architecture, visit www.douglasmoyerarchitect.com. For more information on Susan Moyer’s landscape design, visit www.susanmoyerlandscape.com.