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The Timeless Charm of Ivy-Covered Country Estates

These idyllic homes accoutered in greenery evoke tradition, longevity, and romance

Ivy, brilliant and evergreen, is a symbol of timelessness, of fidelity and the profound human connections of friendship and marital love. Romantic, picturesque and hardy, ivy on a home evokes tradition and a sense of permanence. Framing an archway or covering a wall, winding vines anchor a building to the ground on which it stands. The time-honored pairing of ivy tendrils with sturdy brick or stone which, as Milton wrote, “direct the clasping ivy where to climb” has long suggested wisdom and steadfastness combined with tenderness and love. As the following homes demonstrate, ivy effectively lends an air of elegance and historic significance to the structures it adorns.

Rathbarry in Glenageary, Co. Dublin, Ireland

Framed by wisteria and climbing roses within a glorious garden setting, this 1930s residence in Glenageary, County Dublin, embodies “the House Beautiful” ethos of the Arts and Crafts movement.

Rathbarry sits on an acre of landscaped gardens in Glenageary, a South Dublin suburb close to the coastal villages of Glasthule and Dun Laoghaire. This fine Arts and Crafts-style residence was designed in the 1930s by Michael Scott, Ireland’s preeminent 20th-century architect. The five-bedroom house is set well back from the road. At the entrance, electric double gates lead through a wide gravel driveway and into a parking forecourt bounded by a verdant, tree-lined lawn. An arched brick entrance flanked by two pillars opens to a light-filled reception hall with an oak herringbone floor and wooden staircase. Farther along is a large drawing room with a herringbone parquet floor, mahogany fireplace, and two bay windows to frame the garden views. The formal dining room has a wide bay window overlooking the front garden. The kitchen, located off a side hall, overlooks the rear gardens. The present owners have carefully maintained the property over the last 40 years, restoring many of the original details; however, the garden is their masterpiece. Wisteria and climbing roses adorn the rear façade, providing a burst of color in late spring and early summer. Gravel paths meander through mature specimen plants, juniper, and myrtle trees, and a towering oak and Atlantic Blue Cedar. Another unique feature is the original air raid shelter. A rockery, box hedging, and flowering beds of blue geraniums, purple polygala, and orange geums are further delights.

Manor House in Le Bugue, Aquitaine, France

Greenery abounds at this idyllic country estate in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France. The manor house is an exemplar of Périgord architecture, featuring a pigeonnier tower and stone walls covered in ivy.

This traditional Périgordian manor house is set on a plateau surrounded by more than 60 acres of private parkland near the market town of Le Bugue in the Dordogne department of southwestern France. Built in the 12th century, the magnificent four-bedroom main house was restored for the 21st century yet retains its unique medieval character. Within the ivy-covered stone walls are light-infused living spaces with monumental stone fireplaces, flagstone floors, and beamed cathedral ceilings. Complementing the four bedrooms in the main residence are an array of original farm buildings: two charming cottages, a pigeonnier tower, and two barns set around a courtyard. The grounds, lovingly landscaped over the past 30 years, are a blend of resplendent formal gardens, vegetable and herb gardens, and an orchard. Completing the ensemble is a pavilion with an ornamental pond and fountains, a tennis court and practice wall, and two heated saltwater swimming pools—one serving the manor house and another within a walled enclosure planted with olive trees.

16th-Century Villa in Valdambra, Tuscany, Italy

Ivy provides a finishing touch to the exposed stone walls of this 16th-century villa in Tuscany’s Chianti hills.

The small hamlet of Bucine in Tuscany’s Valdambra Valley is the picture-postcard setting for this ivy-covered stone villa. The property was built in the 1500s and renovated in 2014. Many of the original architectural details remain intact, from the exposed stone walls to the parquet and terracotta floors to the beamed ceilings. The 7,510-square-foot structure is configured as five separate apartments with eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms. Several ancillary structures include a barn, reimagined as a luxurious pool house with a Turkish hammam, full bathroom, and entertainment complex with media lounge and children’s playhouse. The housekeeper’s residence offers an additional bedroom and bathroom, living room, and kitchenette. The dwellings open to nearly five acres of beautiful parkland with a loggia, alfresco terraces, and a resort-inspired outdoor pool terrace overlooking the Valdambra. The property is in the heart of Chianti wine country, midway between Arezzo and Siena.

Lake Michigan Mansion in Glencoe, Illinois

This French provincial-style residence in the village of Glencoe, Illinois, is situated on a wooded ravine on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Designed by landscape architect Rocco Fiore, the 1.25-acre grounds are a haven of tranquility, featuring mature gardens, multiple terraces for outdoor entertaining, and a swimming pool bounded by living walls of greenery. Inside, a two-story foyer with a sweeping staircase opens into a great room with 20-foot ceiling, floor-to-ceiling windows, a stone fireplace, and wet bar. The eat-in chef’s kitchen has a fireplace and opens to an enclosed porch. Farther along is a dining room with butler’s pantry and a family room with access to the outdoor pool. A wood-paneled library with custom built-ins and a fireplace and primary suite, with high ceilings, a sitting area, his-and-her walk-in closets, and a luxurious spa-like bathroom are further highlights of the main floor. Upstairs are four large bedrooms (two en suite and one with two with a shared bathroom). The lower level houses a guest suite with a private entrance and remodeled kitchenette, as well as a generously sized rec. room with pool table, fitness area, and craft room. The floor leads out to a vast deck with a hot tub. The heated underground garage is ideal for the car collector with four parking bays and offers an additional 2,000 square feet of living space, including a sports lounge.

Traditional Villa in Porto, Portugal

This home’s ivy-covered exterior blends into its parklike setting in the village of Ermesinde, just outside the city of Porto.

This charming villa, surrounded by lovely landscaped gardens, disguises its modern lines with a veil of ivy. Designed for the seamless integration of indoor-outdoor living, its warm, light-filled interiors, executed in a warm palette of creams and tans, are accented with exquisite woodwork. Inside spaces unfold across multiple levels and flow out to expansive terraces and parklike grounds. The main-floor reception rooms are adorned with wood floors and beamed ceilings with wrought-iron chandeliers. A wooden staircase rises to the second floor. There are five bedrooms and four bathrooms, many with garden views, and all of it just 15 minutes from the historic heart of Porto.