Residential Landscape Architecture in Knoxville, TN. A Look at One of Stephen W. Hackney's Designs.


2008 marked a strong downturn for the architectural community. In the ensuing years many firms experienced drastic hiring freezes and were forced to let much of their talented work force go. It seems though that business in the residential sector, for some landscape architects, only improved. What was once a small portion of firms’ income became the stability which helped firms survive the now receding recession. For some, residential work became the firms’ identity.

Stephen W. Hackney Landscape Architecture (SWH) is a perfect example of a firm which has capitalized on the residential market. After working with Ross/Fowler PC of Knoxville for nine years as a project manager and 1 year as project manager for Land Plus Associates, Ltd. out of Atlanta, Stephen Hackney decided to open his own firm in Knoxville, TN.

Since January of 2011 SWH has been custom tailoring residential designs for the greater Knoxville area. With numerous designs under their belt, SWH is strategically placed to help define and shape the residential identity of Knoxville. To date SWH has designed properties for business executives, government officials, and involved homeowners. The number of referrals and size of jobs is ever increasing.

The most active locals for SWH, by far, are the Kingston Pike and Sequoyah Hills neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are packed with numerous historic homes and with home owners which have a demand for only the finest in quality design. One of SWH’s current projects is undergoing the second phase of construction.

The Kingston Pike residence design is based around the early English design of the 1921 Barber McMurray home. The homeowner was looking for a design which sought to create unique spaces for entertainment and relaxation while taking advantage of the mature tree screening on site. SWH seeks to approach each site with a sense of beauty that is timeless and site appropriate. With the Kingston Pike residence, SWH was able to marry the traditional and organic with a modern sensibility. This mixture is sometimes uncommon since some architects believe that styles should not mix. SWH  enjoys working with clients to bring these styles together and has done so quite well here.

It was important that a strong foundation be developed which accommodated the homeowners program. The site topography presented unique design challenges. With a relatively flat area around the house the topography changes on the back portion to slope more than 30% down to the abutting creek. This topographical change was seen as an opportunity in which a pea gravel path could wind down the hill. The back portion of the property directed itself to a curvilinear feel.

Some of the more unique and interesting locations on site are the motor court and front courtyard. Each of these spaces is defined into a unique room where scale and comfort are dominant. The motor court boasts a strong traditional style which is on axis with the front courtyard. The motor court is detailed with a pea gravel base, hostas, boxwoods accenting the corners, camellia espaliers, mondo grass, and granite cobblestone curbs. A Lutyens style bench and various whimsical statues are found throughout the courtyard as well. The real beauties in the motor court are the Annabelle Hydrangeas and the Limelight Hydrangeas which dress the low freestanding wall and its rolldown edges and angled caps.

The front courtyard is designed for the comfort of the family. It has also seen its fair share of hosting since its completion. The courtyard has a bluestone random ashlar walkway, low metal fence, and teak site furnishings. The courtyard however is dressed more lavishly and softened with plantings. Tree form Burford Hollies, bright blue Endless Summer Hydrangeas, vibrant Annabelle Hydrangeas, Pink Knock Out Roses, Mondo Grass, lush Boxwoods, and a Pear espalier all enclose this space with privacy and comfort. The home owner’s also proudly display their purchased art pieces here and throughout the site.

Entry into the site is unique in that the public parking is separated from the private parking. The drive enters the front of the site and moves to the back of the house to the circular turnaround, while the public motor court branches off the drive to the front of the home. In back, SWH began addressing the topography on site in a major way by moving down from the back terrace patio to the lower lawn where the path is located. Moving through the topography the path intersects and terminates with two seating patios which create bucolic vistas overlooking the creek and lawn. The curvilinear form bed lines shape the edge of the lawn and envelope the steps leading down to a chapel which is also found on site.

The site hosts a variety of materials and plant species. The most common materials are: granite cobble stone pavers, brick, blue stone, iron fencing, limestone finials, and pea gravel. The more common plant species on site are: Green Sheen Pachysandra, Autumn Ferns, American Boxwood, Limelight Hydrangea, Sum and Substance Hostas, Mondo Grass, Hay Scented Fern, Claudia Wannamaker Magnolia. Nellie R. Stevens Holly, Wintergreen Boxwood, Anise, Winter Jasmine, Pink Knock Out Roses, Hidcote Lavender, and Rosemary.

SWH has created a fantastic traditional design which creates numerous opportunities for the residents to entertain and leisure. For more information about Stephen W. Hackney Landscape Architecture and the works which they have designed, please visit, and his associated social media outlets.