Archive for Design Basics

From Wasted Space to Outdoor Oasis: Grant Park Custom Landscape Design Part 2

Using Feng Shui to Create A Cozy Custom Landscape Design

The New Angle Creates Welcoming Energy and Better Space

When I saw the drawing Alana and the clients selected I was pretty excited.  So I’m going to make a big fuss about the direction Alana took this design.   It’s the angle of the steps and the patio which frees up useful space.  And the angled entry steps from the porch?  It brought about a warm and cozy energy, as if it was saying, ”Come on out and enjoy the new garden and sitting area!”.  It’s a real life example of Feng Shui principles.  And Alana always hits the ball out of the park for our clients but I have to say this one was extra special.  Oh and the angled patio fixes the bowling alley narrow feel of the old side yard.

Grant Park Portland neighborhood required creative thinking in designing this custom landscape.

The angled patio will fix the narrow side yard’s tunnel effect. Pictured left to right Donna Burdick, D and J Landscape Contractors, Hilary Hutler and Alana Chau designers with Landscape Design in a Day April 2023

This simple change gave Alana a thread to follow to finish the design.  It created enough room for a narrow dining table measuring 6’ x 3’, (a bigger table would not work) while still allowing space to walk around the patio. We credit our client for this useful and interesting space and design because she was willing to get rid of the driveway.  Lots of people would have been afraid to let us even consider taking out the driveway.  We could not have given them a good design without ditching the driveway.

Creating Privacy for the House

Not only did we enhance the view from inside the house, we transformed it.  Gone were the hacked rhododendron and the view of the neighbor’s car and driveway.  Instead, we softened the view and framed the new lush garden with three evergreen Magnolia trees. And even from indoors, seeing the angled walkway and patio paver pattern below adds an attractive elegance.

Unique pavers were included in the patio for this Grant Park custom landscape design.

Castone Olympic pavers have a sand finish which is quite elegant.

A Custom Approach is Necessary for All Our Clients

At Landscape Design in a Day we are proud of our custom design solutions.  We understand that generic designs or cookie cutter web service design services just don’t work.  The most important part of the design can be discovered working at your kitchen table. It’s invigorating to work directly with our clients and produces a better fitting design.

We are willing to go the extra mile because it works and we are accustomed to drawing up multiple layout versions and allowing the creative juices to flow freely. This dedication ensures that we find the best use of space, one that is not only attractive but also highly functional. It’s this kind of personalized approach that sets Landscape Design in a Day apart from the rest.

Client Review

Alana was great!  She asked good questions and listened very carefully. My preferences and my husband’s differed and yet Alana was able to create a design solution for our side yard that pleased both of us.  The backyard was a difficult space; it’s small and mostly filled with a trampoline that we wanted to keep. 

After listening to our thoughts and feelings about this dilemma Alana recommended leaving the trampoline in place.  She specified playground grade cedar chip mulch to go under and around the trampoline that is the perfect solution to the muddy sparse grass. No mowing and it looks attractive and finished. Last of all, the flagstone path to the back yard completed the transformation.  I am very happy with the design and my husband and I have exactly what we wanted.

 Tiffiney from Grant Park Neighborhood in N.E. Portland

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Let’s transform your tricky city property to make the best use of limited space and craft a landscape design for your desires.  Contact us.

Our next blog about this landscape will include information about the selected plants and the installation process.  We referred installer Donna Burdick D and J Landscape Contractors to our clients.  The installation is a collaborative affair with clients, designer and installer working together.

5 Benefits of Having an Outdoor Living Room: Why Your Family Needs One Now

Sellwood nieghborhood Portland outdoor living shaded area landscape design.

Outdoor living in Sellwood neighborhood of Portland Oregon provides shady summer outdoor living

Quality Outdoor Living for Residential Portlanders

As a landscape designer, I have seen firsthand the value that a back yard outdoor living room can bring to a family. These spaces can provide a place for relaxation, entertainment, and quality time spent together.  But wait there is more…..

Concordia neighborhood Portland landscape privacy solution.

Privacy solution for outdoor living in Concordia neighborhood of NE Portland features modern pavers and these special steel screens.

In Portland Oregon we know the opportunity to enjoy outdoor living is here late spring through mid to late fall.

The sky spigot tends to shut off just after early June’s Rose Festival and summer in Portland can be heavenly.

Having comfortable outdoor living is part of a quality lifestyle for most Portlanders.

Outdoor Living Gets Us Outside

First and foremost, an outdoor living back yard gives my clients a place to enjoy the beauty of nature. It gets us out into fresh air and sunlight.  This can feel especially wonderful during the warmer months when the outdoors becomes a haven for relaxation and rejuvenation.  Or it could if you have one…

Kenton neighborhood Portland outdoor landscaping screened front yard.

This attractive modern style front yard also has a comfortable outdoor living space screened away from the sidewalk in Kenton neighborhood of N Portland.

Gathering Place for Friends and Family

An outdoor living room can also serve as a gathering place for friends and family. With comfortable seating, access to outdoor cooking and a heat source like fire pits, outdoor fireplaces or outdoor electric space heaters placed under overhead cover, its easy to host events and create lasting memories with loved ones.  Aside: (outdoor electric space heaters placed inside covered areas don’t pollute or add to global warming here in Portland where we have abundant and cheap electricity.)

Gain a Needed Outdoor Office Space

Another benefit is having more functional room for working from home.  My snowbird clients in NE Portland’s Alameda neighborhood only have one office inside their Portland home.  The new outdoor patio also serves as an office for my client’s partner who is writing a book.  He needs a quiet shady place to work on his laptop and a covered patio with comfortable furniture is perfect for him.  She is a lawyer and uses the indoor office.

Rose City Park neighborhood Portland with outdoor living for bookworm client.

Outdoor living for Rose City Park back yard has large natural shaped flagstone patio and a covered lounge area affectionally called the book nook. Before plants

Personal Relaxation and Meditation Place

In addition to providing an extra office and a place for gathering with friends and family, an outdoor living room can also be a great place for a person to seek quiet contemplation. It can serve as a peaceful retreat where you can enjoy a book, meditate, practice Chi Gong or Yoga or simply sit and listen to the sounds of nature.

One of my NE Portland clients has a covered area in her outdoor living room that she calls the book nook.  While she can also use it for dining with a friend it is used primarily for her to read.  The neighbor’s walnut tree drops walnuts and so the roof of the book nook protects her from the walnuts and the bird droppings as the walnut tree is a wonderful haven for birds.

Get the Kids Outside

One of the greatest benefits of an outdoor living room is the opportunity it provides for children to play and explore in a safe and natural environment.  A back yard that has a covered place for sitting and socializing can also be used to do family arts and crafts in the winter and spring months.  Being sure the back yard has unstructured space to allow for kids and pets to run, jump, and play in the fresh air is a requirement.

Cully neighborhood Portland residential landscape design client.

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ (Cone Flower) with Delosperma cooperi. Perfect combo for a SW facing drought tolerant planting in Cully neighborhood of N Portland.

Design Your Back Yard to Fit Your Family and Your Property – No Do-Overs

While an outdoor living room can be a great investment for any family, it is important to carefully consider the design and layout of the space. It is important to take into account the size of the yard, the layout of the house, neighboring properties, and the unique needs and wants of the family. A good landscape designer can create a functional and cohesive design that will surprise you with it’s clever use of your back yard spaces.  Once installed this design will not require do overs because it works so well the first time.

Overall, an outdoor living room can bring a wealth of benefits to a family. It’s all about providing a place for relaxation, entertainment, and quality time spent together. By carefully considering the design and layout of the space, you can create a functional and cohesive outdoor living room that meets the needs of your family and becomes a beloved gathering place for years to come.

 

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We love to create relaxing outdoor living rooms for your city property.  We know what it takes to make privacy and spaces you and your family will love to be in.  We know you want your landscape design to provide low water needs, habitat for birds, and happy places for the 4 legged members of the family too.  It’s all part of well designed outdoor living back yard in Portland, Oregon.   Contact Us

Portland Landcape Designer Shares Her Favorite Paths & Patios

Best Hardscape Landscaping Materials for Portland Backyards

Crushed rock landscaping material for paths & friendly chickens!

NE Portland backyard path with crushed rock and pet chickens.

Here are some of my favorite backyard paths and patios from landscape designs here in Portland!

Paths are a key element in any landscape design.  How we walk and move in a landscape is what shapes the design.  Selecting the best materials for these surfaces for function and style, makes the design come alive.

Crushed Rock is a Versatile Surface

Crushed rock fits modern and naturalistic landscape styles and is significantly more affordable than poured concrete or pavers.

It lends a soft and natural look to a NW Natural backyard landscape.  However crushed rock when crisply defined by steel edging is perfect for a modern or minimalist landscape too.

Water permeable crushed rock surfaces for your paths will allow water to find its way down into the earth instead of running off into the street and sewer.

Crushed rock is also the perfect material for a natural style garden.

Crushed rock in Woodlawn Neighborhood fits the naturalistic style of the garden.

Compacted crushed rock surfaces do not allow rainwater to filter through to the earth.  With professional grading the winter rain water can be directed away from the house and/or into a catch basin or other mechanical means of collecting water.  A licensed landscape contractor is qualified to create systems to manage winter rain water.

 

Colors of Crushed Rock

Irvington Neighborhood of NE Portland hardscape landscaping decomposed granite pathway matches the rock step.

Stone step color matches the decomposed granite crushed rock in the pathway.

Decomposed granite – the names of the colors change with each stone yard which is sure confusing but here in these photos you are looking at a soft gold tan or a cream rose color.  My clients like the look and I agree it adds visual elegance to the landscape design.  I prefer the cream rose color over the gold typically.

I’m also perfectly happy with the dark gray of locally sourced basalt.  Gray looks so good with the greens, limes and golds of plant foliage and it’s more affordable than the decomposed granite.

Crushed rock was picked to compliment this backyard patio.

Irvington neighborhood backyard patio and path materials blend beautifully.

The Cons of using Decomposed Granite

After a few years you will need to top up your patio surface because it has gotten thin, and  the color you installed may not be available.  Rock is different colors from different areas or even within the same mountain.

Granite is not local and is trucked from the east coast.  This uses a lot of fossil fuels.  We have a locally sourced attractive basalt rock here in Oregon which is gray and harder than the decomposed granite.  It won’t need to be topped up as often and doesn’t cost such a high price on the environment.

Granite is significantly more expensive then local basalt.

Using crushed rock for a drought tolerant garden top dressing.

Crushed rock acts as a top dressing for this drought tolerant garden in N Portland.

Top Dress Planting Beds with Crushed Rock for Drought Tolerant Plantings

Crushed rock can also be used as an attractive mulch for drought tolerant plantings.  This garden in N Portland shows crushed rock all around these heat and drought tolerant plantings.  Using the crushed rock as mulch on these slightly bermed planting beds helps protect the plants from our heavy winter rain.  The rain rolls off the crown of the plants roots in the winter and adds needed oxygen to the soil.  Here are narrow evergreen Italian Cypress’ Tiny Towers’ with 2 different varieties of California lilac, fountain grass and sedums for this hot south facing bermed garden.

Crushed Rock Can be the Stair Riser

Crushed rock landscaping material is great for a modern backyard path & steps.

Modern Landscape Style Entry in Kenton Neighborhood of N Portland.

Sadly, pea gravel is sometimes used for a path, patio or even as the top dressing for a planting bed but never in my designs.  It is not crushed or angled, it is round and does not stay put.  It will go all over your yard, out into the street and can actually roll under your feet as you walk and cause falls. Pea gravel makes an unsafe surface for a stair tread.  It has a softer visual look and people fall for its’ quiet beauty and then later deeply regret using it.

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Are you considering a new landscape with paths, sitting areas, patios or firepits?  Contact us, we know how to shape your backyard paths and patio to make everything flow with the best use of space.  Let’s pick the materials that will best fit your preferred landscape style.

Hardscape landscape design in Portland Oregon, uses drought-resistant low maintenance crushed stone with in the front yard.

Drought tolerant Portland landscape design example. This front yard shown in winter is gravel, stone and plants.

Covered Outdoor Living for Baby Boomers in NE Portland Backyards

Covered outdoor living landscape design

Covered outdoor area in Rose City Park backyard protects from  sun, rain and walnuts.

Landscaping Outdoor Living in Portland’s Urban NE Neighborhoods

Backyard Outdoor Living in Portland’s Urban NE Neighborhoods often requires a covered area.  While backyard outdoor living conjures up visions of  intimate gatherings with close friends and family sometimes only a covered area will offer any privacy from a 3 story apartment building next door.  A small urban home may not have enough entertaining space indoors and some clients use a covered outdoor space for an extra office or a place for messy arts and crafts projects.  Finding ways to create overhead cover is an important tool for my designs since I often work  in urban neighborhoods.

Rain proof outdoor living’s best benefit in my opinion is leaving the cushions in place for easy use 9 months of the year.  When the rain is pelting us from the south in the winter few people will enjoy being outside and the rain will come in under the cover typically and soak the cushions anyway.  But a gentle rain in the late spring or early fall can easily be thwarted.  If I can use my furniture without having to go fetch the cushions, or peel off a plastic cover….. if it is just waiting for me to use…guess what ?  I use the sitting area so much more.

Here are 5 Portland backyard landscape designs that use overhead cover for outdoor living.

Rose City Park Backyard

My client Anna wanted a cool shady sitting area to read in her landscape.  We called it the book nook.  Her cover has a traditional tile roof with enough angle to keep dry in a light rain but the most important aspect of the cover for Anna is to protect her from walnuts dropping from her neighbors gorgeous huge walnut tree.  She loves the tree for it’s shade, and  for attracting wildlife.  Her covered outdoor area is designed for 2 people and is mostly for Anna’s use.

Design tip: A translucent cover would have gotten stained and looked filthy in one season because of the debris from the walnut tree.  Translucent covers under some trees are doable here in Portland but one needs to go into it knowing there will be regular maintenance needed to keep the cover attractive and not a visual detriment, (and not under a walnut tree).

Covered outdoor living landscape design includes motorized louvers

Covered outdoor dining in Creston neighborhood has motorized louvers to let the sun in or keep the rain out.

Creston Neighborhood Family Covered Dining Deck

My clients in the Creston neighborhood wanted the option of sun or shade plus rain protection so their furniture would stay dry. Their pergola by Cardinal Aluminum is steel posts and supports but the motorized louvers in the pergola are aluminum.  The louvers give them the choice of sun or shade.  I have several clients who have gone with Cardinal and been quite happy with the results. Given the cost of wood this no wood option is now seen as more affordable than in the past.

 

Covered outdoor living landscape design includes transparent roof.

“We all love the new space and have basically been living out there every time the weather is even a bit decent.” Clients in Richmond neighborhood

Richmond Backyard Year Round Outdoor Living

These clients  in Richmond neighborhood wanted it all.  After working with Landscape Design in a Day they have a heated covered patio with a translucent cover.  They wanted a comfy sofa under the cover and have a table up on the deck near the house.  Our client Emma says this.  “The summary is that we all LOVE the new space and have basically been living out there every time the weather is even a bit decent. We’ve been using the whole backyard too — before the redo the back part of the yard was kind of dead zone (except for the veggie beds) but now we find ourselves out there almost every afternoon, not just puttering in the veggies but sitting out on the little patio or kicking a ball around with our toddler.”

They have overhead heat (electric) for primary use and in the colder months they also use their tower heater which can be moved about.  They can leave their furniture outside year round.  The cover structure is steel posts with a wood structure for the translucent overhead cover.  This photo was taken in late spring so they still have their second heater out in the patio.    Most of the heat is electric so it has less of a carbon footprint than a natural gas firepit or propane or wood burning.  Design by Alana Chau, Landscape Design in a Day

Design Tip: Angle the cover to protect from south or SW sun to create a cooler summer retreat and help protect your cover for possible winter snow load.

 

Large covered outdoor living landscape for dining.

Outdoor living for these Mt. Tabor clients includes two barbeques and covered dining.

Large covered outdoor living patio designMount Tabor Backyard Transformed into Year Round Outdoor Living

My clients in Mount Tabor also wanted the entire backyard turned into outdoor living space.  Their wood pergola structure has a translucent cover.  They especially love the drama added by lighting the top of the cover.  The light is very soft and diffused coming through the semi opaque cover.  They have room for cooking, counter and storage space.  The posts for the cover are set into the property 5’.

Design Tip:  We used the corner of the property to gain the most useful square footage and space.

 

Heated covered outdoor living landscape design.

Here’s where I get my massage and body work done. This lovely covered area provides heat and protection from rain.

Outdoor Office in SW Portland

This is my massage practitioners heated outdoor treatment room in her SW Portland back yard.  This was her response to keeping her clients and herself safe when Covid came into our lives. As her patient I love hearing the birds, including the buzz of hummingbirds and the squirrel scolding while getting my treatment.  No music required.  I have  been treated out here even in November and December.  The powerful electric heat in the top of the arbor is directed down by the shape of the cover.  The shape also keeps the rain out except when it is too windy.  I’m very comfortable and I love listening to the birds while I’m getting a massage.  This structure is wood with a translucent cover.

Deluxe umbrella for covered outdoor living landscape design.

Concordia neighborhood backyard outdoor living gets a deluxe umbrella to create shade for dining.

Concordia Backyard  Patio gets Cover with an Offset Umbrella

My clients Ryan and Sam live in a very urban area of NE Portland with a pub next door that has outdoor dining.  This landscape design in particular was a very collaborative process, even more so than usual.  We had a new back porch in the design but the expense (wood is so expensive these days) blew our budget.   We kept the old porch and steps and together created this outdoor room that is such a perfect fit.  It distracts from the next door pub garden, creates privacy, integrates the other two important areas of the backyard beautifully and is highly useable.  A collaborative relationship with clients and installer always opens the door for new and even better fitting ideas.

Design Tip:  Using an off set or cantilevered umbrella creates a physically and visually spacious dining area.  An umbrella with post in the center of the table often makes a dining area feel small and blocks potentially good views, in this case the steel privacy panels (which add so much pizzazz to the space) would have been greatly diminished.

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Looking for an outdoor landscape design that can create solutions for your city property with all its challenges? Contact us.  We have the experience to know what is doable and the creativity to find the best design for you and your wish list.

Creating Privacy with Plants for Small N.E. Portland City Landscapes

Privacy landscape design for NE Portland city home makes front yard dining work beautifully

The lush beauty of clumping bamboo creates privacy for a front yard dining patio in SE Portland.

Privacy Designs for Small City Landscapes

I like to use clumping bamboo for my small city properties to achieve privacy and to screen out unattractive views.  Here are 3 small city landscapes that make good use of clumping bamboo.

Private Entry Garden in Busy Hawthorne Neighborhood

These clients created a private entry garden on a very busy street. They used a clumping bamboo with a strongly arching, almost weeping structure called Fargesia sp.’ Rufa’.  The need for a feeling of an oasis around the home in their friendly neighborhood outweighed the need for security. The front gate discourages uninvited visitors. Neighbors cannot see into the front yard and the clients cannot see the sidewalk or the cars.

From inside the home they look out their windows to see curtains of green and it is very restful.  The back yard is so small that they tend to do most of their outdoor dining and entertaining in the front yard where the privacy is perfect for intimate gatherings.

NE Portland Home gets Kitchen Window Privacy

backyard privacy landscape design in NE Portland with clumping bambooEveryone spends lots of time at the kitchen sink.  My NE Portland clients had their kitchen window lined up perfectly with the neighbor’s kitchen window.  The lots in this neighborhood are small, 5,00 square feet and less.  This tiny city back yard needed privacy and needed it fast.

We wanted our privacy screen to be at most 10’ tall with a very upright growth habit to preserve space.  In a yard this small we needed every useable inch!  We used the clumping bamboo named Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’ again and if we had used a weeping form like the ‘Rufa’ that would have been a mistake for obvious reasons. The client and her brother are very talented and installed everything including the new concrete patio.

Privacy for Irvington Back Yard with Clumping Bamboo

These clients in Irvington neighborhood wanted privacy and also wanted to screen out the house and roof of the large house next door.  The home office also had a large window looking out onto the 10’ wide side yard and into a view dominated by the neighbors overly large roof.

Clumping Bamboo in tall wood planters creates privacy landscape fast for NE Portland home.I want solutions that work, not solutions that make work.

They specified screening that was going to be 15’ tall and evergreen.  They also wanted low maintenance.  It was on the north side and even if we wanted arborvitae, I was concerned we would not have enough light for them to thrive and maintaining them at 15’ was going to take a long time and then require professional pruning as well.  There were lots of plants people typically use for this situation and they are all going to be high maintenance and potentially trespass onto their neighbors air space and light.

Backyard landscape gets a privacy boost with planters and clumping bamboo in N.E. Portland

Fargesia ‘Campbell’ clumping bamboo in Irvington neighborhood creates privacy.

This was a perfect place for clumping bamboo.  To get the plants at the 15’ mark we had custom planters that were 30” above the grade built.  This would give our plants a boost so they won’t have to wait as long for the screening.

Caveats:  The plants will make some leaf debris year-round but especially in the spring. The plants will require regular irrigation forever.  They are not drought tolerant.  And even with a few minuses, let me tell you, this is a lot less work than other options for a 15′ screen.

Clumping bamboo, in particular Campbell’s Variety, is an excellent choice for small city back yard and privacy solutions. For an even taller clumping variety consider Fargesia robusta ‘Green Screen’.  It is more likely to top out above 15’ tall.  Clumping bamboo do not need to be contained in a planter.  In this case, the planter is there to boost height and to have other plants in it to complement the clumping bamboo.

For more information about clumping bamboo see Bamboo Garden web site.

Looking for attractive and thoughtful solutions for privacy in your small city property?  We love tricky city backyards! Contact us.