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Archive for mid century modern style

North Portland Landscape Design Tips for Modern Ranch Front Yards

Curb Appeal Tips for North Portland Mid Century Modern Ranch Front Yards

Here are three landscapes where we focused on the treatment of the front porch and steps, downspouts, railing, columns and brick planters of mid century ranch homes in Portland.

Let’s make your homes best feature the dominant visual experience.  To me curb appeal is not just for selling your home, it’s what you see every time you return home.  These are some simple ways to increase your home’s curb appeal right at the front door.  (Other LDIAD blogs will share information and examples about front walks as part of curb appeal or plantings, but not this one).

Modern ranch curb appeal starts at the front door.

I especially loved this design process with a creative spirited client in North Portland.

Modern Landscape Style Curb Appeal

After       Mid century modern entry in Kenton now has excellent curb appeal. The dark porch floor makes the brick façade on the house look amazing. The downspout and vertical railing simply disappear instead of distracting.

Kenton neighborhood ranch style curb appeal in North Portland after Landscape Design in a Day

The brick looks rich with the new simple color scheme.  A white downspout and the white original vertical railing was painted black to make them all but invisible.  The only white left is the windows and trim around the door.  Even the porch is stained a dark shade but the face of the steps is a warm shade.  That was my clients idea which I think is genius.  The original brick now looks right at home.  Simplicity and contrast are so helpful.

Pots placed at the base of the downspout and vertical rail interrupt the power of a vertical line.  Everything on this house is about a horizontal line, typical to mid century style.

Here are lessons from this design:

Portland Ranch Style Home wants a change

Before    Vertical railing and downspout match the trim of this mid century modern ranch house in Kenton neighborhood

Tip:  Treat the downspouts as background not trim. Match the body color of the house where possible.

Tip:  Use contrast to bring out the exterior details we want people to see and mute details we don’t want to see.

Brick Accents

If you have brick façade on the house, evaluate its worth to you.  Some of the brick was just cheap where other brick is unusual and well worth working with.  All the builders copied other builders and many put the planters on the ranch houses for visual interest without much thought. It was a thing.  This is especially prevalent in homes built in the early years of ranch style homes.  Ranch houses were mass produced and remain the most predominate style of house in the united states particularly 1945 to 1970.

Options:  Find a color for the body of the house that enhances the brick. It’s easier to paint the house. If the brick is ugly, remove it and replace with a different material that is interesting and adds good looks to your home.  Change it to siding. The siding could even be a group of attractive vertical cedar panels.  Even painting the brick (a last resort) might be worth doing if it’s really unattractive and you don’t want to replace it.  Put rocks in the top of the planter or grow succulents or if in the shade, other incredibly tough plants like our native sword fern.

Mid Century Brick Planters

So what about those mid century homes with brick planters?

Modern design update for Portland ranch home.

Mid-century modern ranch brick planter with river rock instead of plants.  A custom iron screen adds interest.  This was a great solution for this brick centric front entry in N.E. Portland.

I often say these planters are where plants go to die. Let me confess to a deep frustration because my clients rarely ever have plants that thrive in them.  I tried adding new drainage, changing out all the soil with potting soil, (a big job btw) and still never got the plants to look healthy and front yard attractive.  Adding polymers to the soil to increase moisture holding capacity was somewhat successful but only lasted a few years. I question the environmental stewardship of polymers in soil.

Deep Overhang Creates Dry Shade

Mid century modern ranch always has a deep overhang so these planters occupants must be hand watered even in the winter….who is going to do that?  I have successfully grown sword fern in them and clients who want to putter grow annuals in them but with difficulty. The soil is as dry as a stone and usually filled with leftover soil from from when the foundation was dug. They were meant for seasonal annuals at best. We want them to look good year round since they are front and center and they never do.  Aaargh.

Tip:  Don’t be afraid to change some of the original features if they don’t work.

Strong red brick tends to read as colonial instead of modern. There is a style of home called Colonial Ranch and you will see lots of strong red brick accents. Original brick planters or ugly brick façade are not the holy grail of a mid century modern ranch.  Be willing to consider alternatives unless the brick is attractive rather than garish.

Planting Success in Brick Planters?

Please send me a photo if you -happy homeowner- have managed to grow plants in them year round that add to the beauty of your front yard.  I’ll be happy to acknowledge your skills. If you keep the planters, take out the soil, add drain rock at the bottom. Replace the soil  or greatly amend it. Add a drip system to water the plants unless you have concerns about getting water in your basement.  My strong suggestion…..get rid of those plant killing planters or fill them with attractive stone like my clients in NE Portland did.

Tip: Exterior details of your house are more visually powerful than plants for enhanced curb appeal.

Sleek Modern Entry and Planters for Portland Ranch Style House

Ranch Style in Portland gets curb appeal Before Photo

Before: original brick planters disappoint the new home owners who want a sleek modern style for their front landscape and entry.

 

 

Modern update of landscape planter.

Phormium and Hens and Chicks fill this replacement modern concrete planter for the entry of a mid century ranch home in Portland.

 

Modern Landscape Style for Portland Home includes Front Porch and Planters

Curb appeal success after modern entry design is installed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Portland home also had its old brick planters removed and new smart modern concrete planters were installed with drip irrigation.  The new concrete landing of the front porch was greatly enlarged and steps opened on both sides. What a difference it made.

Overlook Neighborhood Home wants a curb appeal landscape design

Columns wrapped in cedar distract from the lines of this home in North Portland

Front Porch Columns needed help to achieve curb appeal for this 1990’s Overlook Neighborhood Bungalow Want to be.

While a mid century ranch typically does not have columns, changing this exterior detail fits right in with simple changes you can make to improve your homes curb appeal.  This client in North Portland’s Overlook neighborhood is a gardener and wanted a new look for her front yard landscape to achieve better curb appeal. She also wanted help with what to do with the columns on the house.  Her thinking had been to match the cedar siding on the second story by wrapping the columns for the porch in cedar.  She didn’t like the effect and wanted help with what to do.

Overlook Neighborhood Home in North Portland with updated columns for curb appeal

Treating the columns to match the body color of the house creates an attractive and elegant effect to this homes entry.

My suggestion, which she implemented right away, was to paint the columns the same color as the body of the house. This treatment put the columns back in their subordinate place as a supporting exterior detail. Then we had fun re-designing the plantings in the front yard…..designing around the obvious keeper plants and removing what didn’t work.  She had a Viburnum tinus that had grown into such an attractive large tree I almost didn’t recognize it.  Typically this common plant is a shrub.

Tip: Columns are a supporting exterior detail not a primary and need to be simple.

The change in the columns made a bigger immediate contribution to curb appeal, where our re-designed planting plan took a few years to make an impact.

My next blog will show dramatic examples of how changing the location, shape or materials of front walkways gives a house loads of curb appeal and increases the welcoming energy of your home.

Alana Chau and I love plants and creating planting plans. We know that making your home feel welcoming and looking great from the curb requires vision that includes your home and its exterior circumstances and details….not just plants.

Contact us for a collaborative and satisfying design process that integrates your home and landscape.

 

Lawn Do Over for Portland Landscapes

Drought Tolerant, Synthetic & No Lawns Landscaping

Landscape Design in a Day's newly installed drought tolerant RTF grass.

Landscape Design in a Day’s newly installed RTF grass with dry stream bed.

This is the year for rethinking the lawn. As a Portland landscape designer many of my new clients want to make big changes in their landscapes.  I am recommending clients replace their old lawns with new and improved grass varieties.

My Lake Oswego clients, George and Marcia, contacted me completely discouraged about their front yard. I met them in the fall after our particularly hot and horrid summer of 2015. They had spent their entire summer watering and watering their lawn.  It wasn’t dead on the October day that I came to their home but as you can see it was quite unattractive.

Uplands Neighborhood of Lake Oswego before drought tolerant lawn.

Damaged Lake Oswego lawn

They decided it was time to hire a designer and start over with their landscape. It is a typical Lake Oswego landscape with heavy clay soil, fir trees nearby with thirsty roots, and drainage problems.

Before we even started the landscape design process, I was able to share information about a new lawn grass that uses less water and is more durable than the grass (perennial rye grass blends) we have been using for the last 30 years.  Working closely with Kevin Schindler of Autumn Leaf Landscaping Inc. we replaced their old lawn with Rhizomatous Tall Fescue (RTF) grass and designed a naturalistic dry stream bed that also solves the drainage problems.  Solving the drainage problems also enhances the health of the grass.  Even RTF grass doesn’t do well in a boggy winter soil.  George and Marcia are very pleased with the appearance and performance of the new grass.  They love their new dry stream bed and how it has pulled together the entire front yard, giving it a dramatic focal point.

They are no longer slaves to watering with drought tolerant lawn.

Installation day at George and Marcia’s Lake Oswego home.

This year several of my clients have taken out their old grass and installed RTF.   From a distance it looks like any lawn, in fact it looks more uniform because it grows so thickly that it tends to crowd out weed grasses much better than our perennial rye grass does.  My Lake Oswego clients especially appreciate the fact that RTF tolerates more sun and heat and if they did decide to let it go dormant, it will come back beautifully.  RTF can even handle a south facing lawn with reflected heat from a sidewalk.  This is the most difficult place to successfully grow grass so Portland landscape professionals are embracing this new product.

It is available as a roll out turf product (sod) and as seed.  Kuenzi Turf & Nursery

After front lawn of drought tolerant landscaping in Rose City Park.

Rose City Park Neighborhood

No grass lawn for drought tolerant landscaping.

West Portland Park  Neighborhood

Other clients want no lawn designs, thinking it will be lower maintenance.  No lawn will mean lower water usage but replacing a lawn with paths and plants does not promise low maintenance. Even the fairly new minimalist style using 90% round river rock and 10% plants isn’t as low maintenance as you think. Someone has to blow dust and debris out of the river rock frequently to prevent weeds from building up.  Many clients simply don’t want to mow any lawn and are fine with the first two years of extensive weeding that is needed to get a no lawn front yard established.  For a lot of people, however, weeding is the least favorite gardening chore.

Synthetic Lawn Installed in front yard for drought tolerant landscaping.

Newly installed synthetic lawn in Parkrose Heights neighborhood

Other clients are installing synthetic lawn.  Before you sneer at the idea of fake grass (which I did when I first heard about it), check out these photos of my Southeast Portland clients Bob and Norma Bleid.  They gave themselves a retirement gift, front and back synthetic lawn.  No water, no chemicals, no fertilizer; it is the ultimate low maintenance landscape lawn.

Early fall is a particularly good time to install a new lawn or landscape.  With a good irrigation system landscapes can be installed any time of the year.  As a Portland landscape designer I am not fond of July or August installations, I know my clients will be “nervous nellys”  seeing their plants’ leaves droop, scorch and burn in the summer sun.  The fall rains typically do a beautiful job of providing the moisture needed to get plants (including grass) well established.  This eliminates the stress and worry of summer planting.

If you are interested in having your landscaping updated, redesigned or help with a plan – contact us for more information.