It’s the dream job any landscape designer wants: a big budget, an open-minded client, and plenty of space to work in.
Jim Lesti, now retired from Landscape Studio, went out on a high note with his work on Delphi Gardens, a beautiful private residence and event venue in the north Atlanta hills.
Dr. Demestihas loves entertaining his grandchildren as well as hosting events and fundraisers. He called on Lesti to design a greenhouse, orchards, bocce ball court, party space, water features and a personalized garden for each grandchild.
“I had worked with him years ago on a pool project when I was with a different firm, and he called me out of the blue to work on this,” says Lesti. “I was so honored he remembered me.”
After working for six years on Delphi Gardens, Lesti’s work is nearly 100 percent complete.
“It’s been a long process but I’ve enjoyed going there every day,” says Lesti. “Dr. Demestihas is demanding, but he’s the most pleasurable person—he lets me do my thing. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in my career.”
A trained landscape architect, Lesti has gravitated toward design-build projects.
“There’s more instant gratification,” he says. “You have more control of the process, and I love the back-and-forth with the client.”
The property features various elevations. At the top is a beautiful chapel with stone brought in from Greece, where Dr. Demestihas’ family is from. From the top floor, guests can take in beautiful views of the property and Kennesaw Mountain.
The lowest point is “The Bowl,” a sunken garden dedicated to his family with meandering trails, stone staircases and waterfalls.
“We designed a garden for each of his eight grandchildren plus two extra for any in the future,” Lesti says. “He loves Japanese maples so we planted a different type in each grandchild’s garden. He also selected different iron sculptures for each child. Everything looks personal yet cohesive.”
The team, with help from notable carpenter Lawrence Smith, built a greenhouse on the foundation of the property’s old barn, maintaining the building’s original L-shape design. On the side of the greenhouse is a dramatic stone waterfall. Fanning out behind the building is an orchard with olive, pear, peach and apple trees.
The nearby bocce ball court was made with slate chips, and Smith also built other natural cedar arbors around the property including structures to hold the equipment.
In the main entertainment area, the circular bar features a granite top, gray rubal stone and an arbor roof with a steel beam. The bluestone patio accommodates a crowd.
Each year, Dr. Demestihas hosts a Halloween party to raise money for Georgia’s Make-A-Wish Foundation. They had to cancel this year because of COVID-19.
Lush & Natural
Plantings throughout the area are lush and blend in with the property’s native trees and shrubs.
“We wanted the area to look natural with textures and color changes, so we used simple massing of blacked-eye Susans, swaths of Hydrangeas, and Encore Azaleas which bloom three times a year.”
Landscape Studio also incorporated some Rhododendrons, which he says are finicky in Atlanta, as well as hemlocks and Mount Laurel, at the client’s request.
Lesti says Landscape Studio deployed about four crews of four to five workers, saying it was the most labor intensive project of his career. Landscape Studio also maintains the property, along with a full-time horticulturist employed by Dr. Demestihas.
Landscape Studio is now owned by Adam Ardoin. Throughout the the project, the company partnered with Alliance Stone, Stovall wholesale nursery and Coastal Pond Supply. The blacksmith was Mark Hunter from Form and Fusion.
Dr. Demestihas has set up a trust, so the property will remain in the family for generations.