Archive for difficult small gardens

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.

From Wasted Space to Outdoor Oasis: Grant Park Custom Landscape Design Part 1

Grant Park Portland custom landscape design for small city property.

Our design process results in a paver patio surrounded by plantings in Grant Park neighborhood tiny side yard.

A Landscape Designer’s Perspective on Transforming Tricky City Properties in NE Portland

I knew from the first phone call that transforming this tricky city property was going to be challenging.  The client was not even sure any designer could carve out what she wanted from her small city yard.  As I looked at photos I asked a crucial question.  Is the driveway expendable?  Happily the answer was yes.  Portlanders in the NE Portland Grant Park neighborhood walk to stores, use public transit and may only have 1 car.  They didn’t use the small garage for a car; it was for bikes and storage.  They didn’t want a lawn in their property at all. They wanted a fantastic private dining area and flower garden surrounding it so they could be outside in it spring summer and fall.  Our collaborative and creative design process was just right for our new clients.

This Grant Park Portland neighborhood is in need of a new custom landscape!

Before landscape design process grass and weeds hide the old driveway.

Discover the Right Design

Final custom landscape design for Grant Park neighborhood home.

Final Design Drawing Illustrates Angled Patio and Porch Steps that make this Grant Park Neighborhood Landscape Design sing.

So…I’m thinking this tricky city property is not going to be an easy task, but I knew Alana Chau of Landscape Design in a Day would discover a great fit design. At first glance there were very few options that came to mind. However, the way we create designs is to get to know our client, do our research and the best design will rise up and reveal itself.  We all love that moment.

Where do we start? Property Movement

As landscape designers, we always consider how people move around and use their home and yard. This understanding is crucial in creating a professional design that truly functions and fits our clients. We need to get a good feel for the floor plan of the house and in the case of this tricky city property, let’s start with the doors.

A small backyard in need of a custom landscape design experience in Grant Park Portland.

The back yard was not going to work for an elegant and lush garden patio. The trampoline is still beloved and used by the kids so the back door and back yard were a no go.

Which Exterior Door will lead to the new garden?

The back door of the house opens onto a small deck, which steps down to small sparsely grassy area.

The kids have claimed this spot for their trampoline. This door is too far away from the side yard.  The front door is the primary door for coming home, but too far from the kitchen. The side door was the obvious solution, it was even close to the kitchen but the steps cut straight to the garage. Alana, having done her research and multiple sketches realized the best solution, in some ways the only solution was to re-move the garage-oriented steps completely.  By altering the porch and setting the replacement stairs at an angle new opportunities were possible.

 

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

Part 2 will discuss more design details for this tricky Grant Park property. Look for our upcoming blog about this landscape that 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. (Thank you to Donna for the after photo.)

 

 

Tricky Outdoor Living Landscape Design for Portland Backyard: Part 1 of 2

Making The Best Use of Small Portland Backyard for Outdoor Living

Challenging Portland landscape design for outdoor living.

Room for a little lawn for the pups, an office and entertaining area will be a challenge in Portland corner lot.

My client Stacy needed privacy and a complete re design of the back yard of her 1940’s home.  She has an especially tricky corner lot.  They often have a much smaller back yard especially when the house faces one street and the driveway and garage are around the corner.

Where will the new office go?

There are some difficult and very important ways I needed to help Stacy make this new home work for her.  It wasn’t just having a nice back yard that was at stake.  She needed to add a 12’ x 10’ office to her back yard for her new job as the house was not big enough to accommodate working from home.

Small Portland lot needed a lot of landscape design for outdoor living spaces.

Not enough room for entertaining with friends in this tricky city corner lot-NE Portland

Not Enough Outdoor Living Space

Her past outdoor lifestyle had lots of outdoor entertaining with 10 to 15 friends over. It would be pretty sad to tell half the friends they were not invited to her next July party.  Her dream back yard needed to have a dining table for 6 and a large sectional sofa.

Protect the large Shade Tree from construction

The back yard had significant privacy issues on two sides, a magnificent (over the top amazing) 25’ tall mature Japanese maple and the strangest drainage system for her garage roof I have ever seen in my life.

Landscape design concept drawing for outdoor living spaces of Portland corner lot.

Concept drawing #3 of 7 – My client and I are looking for the best possible layout of the landscape to accomplish our goals. Sometimes 3 concept drawings isn’t enough. This one was better at accomplishing our goals, but not the winner.

She needed a designer to create multiple landscape layouts to find a design that would make the best use of her space and give her as much of her hearts desires as possible.  The word possible is important.  And there were many many different or slightly different layout designs created to find the best one for this tough city back yard.

Beloved Wood Table

I had created several drawings prior to our first on site appointment so I already suspected the bad news but ever the optimist I worked on site with Stacy for 2 hours before making the first cut in her wish list.

The challenge I hit right away was how to keep Stacy’s large beloved wood table she and friends had built.  It was a beautiful piece of handcrafted furniture and the table she had special dinners with friends for many years. It was very important to her.

We worked together at her kitchen table which is a typical way I like to work with my clients. Stacy will tell you the first thing she learned was that she didn’t have enough room to keep her beloved outdoor table that she and friends had built.  It was simply too big.

Challenging Portland landscape design for outdoor living included large table and sitting area on client's wish list.Seeing me work and re work the concept drawings right before her eyes helped her let go and open up to the next steps and that was a good thing.  In short letting go of her lovely table was important because it could not be done without giving up either the office or the sectional sofa lounging area. As Sherlock would say, “When you have eliminated all which is impossible then whatever remains, however improbable must be the truth.”  Sherlock Holmes aka Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Typically I do not design an entire back yard around a piece of furniture- it doesn’t serve my clients best interests but this loved table was well worth the time we took. Our design works well with a typical sized table but not an oversized one.

Locating the New Office

The next big challenge would be placing the new office.  Stacy had picked a spot for the office and in the end we placed the office in that corner of the back yard.  We had the size and shape of the new office but we also needed the location of  all doors and windows before we can start.  Another big issue to carefully consider was how the studio foundation would affect the health of the magnificent huge shade providing Japanese maple.

My next blog will share how we worked with placing the office.

Client Testimonial

“Carol did a fantastic job designing our very difficult back yard space and worked in just about all our asks.  She was easy to work with, and I greatly enjoyed the format and how she got to know my preferences for this or that.  I’ll be asking her to do a plan for my front yard once the back is done!”

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Tricky corner lot?  Not enough room for all your outdoor living needs and wants?  Contact us.  We love the challenge and the satisfaction that comes with finding solutions for outdoor living in small or tricky city backyards.  With my experienced designers eye we will find possibilities even with what seems like impossible scenarios.   I’ll tell you what you can have and also what doesn’t work after carefully applying my years of experience and creativity to your situation.

 

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.

Tricky Residential Corner Landscape Overhaul in Northeast Portland

Grant Park Neighborhood Home Gets Curb Appeal Design for Front Yard

New entry hardscape landscaping has spacious acid wash concrete steps and landing.

Outdoor Living Needed in Grant Park Residential Landscape Design

These Grant Park homeowners just finished updating the stucco exterior of their home and were eager to finally tackle the landscape. The entry was not working at all; it wasn’t clear how to get to front door and the fence was in the wrong spot for curb appeal. They wanted to add beauty and function.

Portland oregon residential landscape design needed

New Front Steps

The old entry had a short concrete wall and an old boxwood hedge. We ripped all of this out and opened up the entire area to maximum curb appeal. The stairs and landing are poured concrete, acid washed. We did not want to change anything about the old Portland charm (or function!) of the Tudor-style portico, so that section of concrete was just updated with paint. Yes, it will have to be re-painted every once in a while. However, it’s almost impossible to match old concrete with new, so a complementary color can be a great solution.  A small sit spot makes the front entry feel welcoming.

Curb appeal gets a landscape update in Grant Park neighborhood

Colorful Planting Plan

The entry plants have already made a splash in their first year in the ground. Last fall, the neighbors were commenting on how the yellow grass, Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’, glows in the low autumn light. It is always a joy when our gardens suit our clients and enhance the community at the same time.

Grant Park Neighborhood Front Yard gets Colorful plantings

Purple Hellebore blooms from February to May. The yellow grass, Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’, and Coral Bells, Heuchera ‘Grande Black’, bring color year round and are incredibly easy maintenance.

The entry is part shade and sloping so plant selection is important. (When is plant selection unimportant?) Two Vine Maples, Acer circinatum, flank the new steps, seen in the first picture of this blog. The Sarcococca ground cover brings a lovely fragrance in the winter. Hostas pop up for spring and bloom in summer. Into the fall, the small white blooms of Japanese Anemone ‘Honorine Jobert’ light up the entry.

Corner Lot Conundrum

I love working with corner lots because they almost always require out-of-the-box solutions. This one had a useless extra path and the grass was being used as a cut through for neighborhood kids on the way to school.

Grant Park neighborhood in need of residential landscape design

We removed the walkway, pushed the fence away from the front door and put in a Lavender Hedge so that the homeowners could reclaim this side yard space. The clients say that this solution has worked like a charm and no one cuts the corner anymore. With a new lawn installed, the side yard lawn can be a play space for the kids.

Grant Park neighborhood corner lot updates landscape for more usable space

Planting plan for corner lot in Grant Park neighborhood includes a Lavender hedge. It provides evergreen beauty and summer fragrance while gently discouraging people from cutting through the yard.

Dog Friendly Back Yard

With the layout of this property, the back yard is small, comprising about a quarter of the total outdoor space. We need all the usable space we can get for the family of four and two big dogs. Therefore, the back is mostly hardscape with plants squeezed in wherever we could get them. The casual crushed rock patio is a comfy lounge area.

Grant Park neighborhood outdoor living landscape update

A relaxed collection of different seating- a hammock, a couch and even a raised dog bed make this patio comfortable for the whole family.

The planting plan can take dog traffic – including sword fern, Japanese Forest Grass and the happiest Penstemon I’ve ever seen. The dogs can go to the bathroom on the crushed rock, but these city dog owners are very diligent about frequent walks.

Dog friendly design elements for Grant Park neighborhood landscape design

Check out the raised dog bed in the back, lucky pups. Plants include sword fern, Japanese Forest Grass and a single trunk Japanese Maple. Oh, and a fish planter spitting out strawberry plants. Too cute.

The dining table and concrete pad were existing, we just enhanced it with a simple sun sail and some planters to soften the garage wall. A low cost update.

landscape hardscaping is poured concrete, modern pavers and crushed rock work great for this outdoor living area in NE Portland.

Sun sail is a great low cost way to bring shade and a bit of color to this Grant Park Neighborhood back yard.

Clients Bring the Fun

It’s exciting as a designer for the ideas in my head to become a real-life landscape that a family gets to enjoy.  It’s even more joyful when the clients use their outdoor space so much that they add their own flair, like the cloud wall from a past project or the chairs made from whiskey barrels. This family took it up a notch by creating murals that they fixed to the inside of the fence. Although I had nothing to do with this creative work, I couldn’t help but take a picture with the client to celebrate the completion of their landscape.

Portland Oregon residential landscape designer with Grant Park diy mural

Alana Chau sits with her client in front of the family’s DIY fun mural art.

Contact us today to create a collaborative design that solves all those tricky problems with a corner city lot.  We love tricky lots but if your lot isn’t difficult, we are happy to bring our full design abilities to serve your needs.  Tricky is not required.