Archive for No Lawn

Transforming Outdoor Living Space Dreams Into Reality: Part One


A NE Portland Backyard Makeover Design

NE Portland clients landscape dreams included a studio, lots of entertaining spaces and lush plantings.

NE Portland clients landscape dreams included a studio, lots of entertaining spaces and lush plantings.

Studio garden for entertaining in spring NE Portland in its first year. In the background a new Italian oak tree was planted for shade and privacy.  Quercus frainetto – Forest Green Oak

Transforming Dreams into Reality: A Backyard Makeover Story

My clients had a long wish list for their charming NE Portland home. For 18 years they have thought about what changes would make their backyard into a dream outdoor living space.

With plans to stay for at least another 30, they love their neighborhood and home, they decided it was time to transform their underutilized backyard into a personal paradise.

NE Portland backyard with tall grass and plantings before the outdoor living space design.

The long grass of their NE Portland backyard before the custom design for their dream outdoor living space.

The Big Wish List

They discovered Landscape Design In A Day through a web search and came to me with a comprehensive wish list. They envisioned a backyard that catered to their lifestyle and passions, with the following features:

  • A large patio or deck for entertaining.
  • A secondary seating area in the garden for relaxed conversations.
  • A hot tub and sauna (though these were cut I asked for the full wish list)
  • A studio for creative pursuits.
  • Curved pathways and room for their dog to run.
  • Shady spots for their dog to lounge.
  • Bird-friendly features to attract local wildlife.
  • Outdoor cooking amenities, like a grill and possibly an outdoor pizza oven.
  • Privacy and good views, blocking out undesirable sights.
  • Sun for edibles and herbs, alongside shade for comfort.
  • Lush planting areas with color
  • Low water usage and a better watering system with a timer, without investing in a full irrigation system.

Designing Their Dream Yard

NE Portland backyard with large flagstone patio; gravel base installed and in foreground a water feature with a drilled rock. Photo by Donna Burdick.

Backyard in NE Portland with large flagstone patio, paths and studio, gravel base installed and in foreground a water feature with a drilled rock takes its first test run. Photo by Donna Burdick  of D and J Landscape Contractors

We worked together to prioritize their wish list and right away with my first sketch we all agreed the hot tub and sauna would not fit.  There was enough room to have the studio, the entertaining area and a lush garden.  We kept the large laurel hedge (initially) because it provided so much privacy.   The need for more lush garden planting areas won out over the laurel. They also had many lush plantings that they were fond of.  Some would be re-used beautifully.  With such a small yard a lot of our time and focus went to the layout of the garden rooms.  I wanted a gracious landscape that would feel inviting and not cramped.

It took us several drawings with different locations for the studio to see that the studio at an angle was the right choice. To me it made more usable space and at first to my clients it seemed to take away square footage of the yard.  True enough there would be more square footage if the studio fit squarely into the back corner of the yard.  I was happy when I finally did the right drawing so they too could see how the angle was beneficial.

Primary and Secondary Seating Areas: We created a spacious primary patio perfect for entertaining and a secondary seating area for more intimate gatherings.

Continue reading about this dream outdoor living space in our upcoming Part Two blog that will include more details about the landscape design and plantings.

Contact me today and lets talk about starting your own landscape dream.



Custom Landscape Design for Your Portland ADU: Part 2

Many Types of Portland ADUs Requires An Experienced Landscape Designer

Finding a design/build contractor with an emphasis on design is necessary to learn what the potential of your property will yield. There may be multiple ways to site the structure. Exploring options with both your contractor and your landscape designer is the path to a great design that fits you and your property. I have worked with multiple clients with different needs and obstacles for their ADU custom landscape design. Here are a few examples.

North Portland ADU Requires Privacy

Privacy fence designed for ADU landscape in north Portland, Oregon

An interesting screen design creates privacy between the original home and the new ADU designed by artisan Doyle Gamble.

One of the challenges of this ADU was having a need for separate privacy with the new ADU build and the owner’s home. In order to separate the ADU’s outdoor living space from the home, a modern privacy fence was constructed. This left the original entry to the home untouched and gave wonderful light to the ADU.  After completion, the house still looks like a single family home, which is what the clients wanted.

North Portland

Portland Oregon Rose City neighborhood ADU has a sitting porch which faces the street and custom landscaping.

This ADU is designed for ADA compliance. and is fully wheelchair accessible.

This ADU was built in the deep backyard of a Portland home which faced the street behind the property. The ADU required wheelchair access and compliance with the American Disabilities Act. And the clients wanted a relaxing and attractive landscape that many people would enjoy, as the ADU was built to be a rental.

Beaumont Wiltshire ADU

This custom landscape incorporated new paths and living spaces around a Portland ADU.

This studio/ADU and landscape were designed together for a perfect fit by Landscape Design in a Day and installed by D and J Landscape Contracting.

An outdoor living area was wanted by clients in Beaumont Wiltshire neighborhood that included an ADU. The landscape design included walking paths and an echo chamber water feature with a drilled boulder for the water feature. Clients used a customized manufactured shed as a studio and guest room, which was quite lovely.  While not an official ADU since it has no plumbing, this family uses the studio every day.

Hillside ADU Willamette Heights

NW Portland hillside custom landscape design includes ADU musicians studio with Timber tech decking, a folding door system and cedar tongue and groove siding for the ADU's exterior.

Timber tech decking has 3 board widths in a repeating pattern adding interest to the decking. The folding door system allows the entire studio to be open to the deck.

Creating a garden design for a hillside ADU in Willamette Heights neighborhood, included taming the hillside by use of decking.  The doors on the ADU accordion open and the studio becomes a stage for the musicians inside. The deck of this musical ADU and a curved block wall provide seating.  My clients selected the modern style of the studio and I selected the location where it would go and how the decking would fit with the hillside garden design.  The clients, landscape designer and the builder worked closely together to bring the practice studio to life.  The clients found the folding door system which adds so much more functional use and integration between the deck and the studio.   I was able to influence this project from beginning to end.

If you are considering an ADU or studio for your property, don’t wait to include me as your custom landscape designer in the process.

Adding Curb Appeal With No Lawn Landscaping to Portland 1960s Home: Part Two

Pacific Northwest Native Garden Design Updates Portland Home Curb Appeal

We continue to transform the front yard of the windowless ranch house in the Reed neighborhood of SE Portland. The homeowners wanted curb appeal with pacific northwest plantings to give a welcoming feel to their new home. We chose lighter foliage plants to brighten up the dark front of the home and removed the lawn for lower maintenance.

Adding pacific northwest garden plants to this Portland ranch home.

NW Natural landscape style with a new curved pathway works well for 1960’s ranch house.

Plant Selection for Brightness

Since the front of the house was dark, we focused on using gold and light green foliage to add brightness to the space. We also included a large planting of variegated Carex morrow ‘Ice Dance’, an ornamental grass that added a lot of light to the front yard berm. While we initially chose gold needled yews for the courtyard to add brightness, we encountered some setbacks and had to replace them with a dark green variety. Despite this, the replacement plants are still beautiful and will mature nicely with proper care. To cater to Jeff and Lyn’s preferences, we selected late spring to early fall bloomers and included evergreens to maintain neighborhood decorum. We also separated lower water and maintenance plants from higher water needs plants to ensure all plants received proper care.

Muskogee crape myrtle added to pacific northwest garden design update.

Lagerstroemia Indica ‘Muskogee’ crape myrtle adds so much color with attractive form, bark, flowers and fall color.

Lyn initially asked me for a Dogwood tree for our focal point plant but with my guidance ultimately chose a Crepe Myrtle variety called Muskogee. This small tree was multi-stemmed and will showcase beautiful cinnamon colored bark, summer flowers, and stunning fall color.  It will handle our hotter Portland summers better than the Dogwood.

Maintenance of Plantings Versus Lawn

Dwarf Yeddo Hawthorne shrub included in pacific northwest garden design for Portland 1960s ranch home.

Rhapheolopsis (dwarf yeddo hawthorne shrub) takes heat and looks great year round.  Late spring flowers and good looking evergreen foliage add to its appeal.

Though our aim was for a lower maintenance landscape, some pruning and maintenance will still be necessary. Weeding, especially in the first two years, will be critical. However, Jeff and Lyn are happy to trade mowing for a landscape that requires less watering and no chemicals or harsh fertilizers associated with a lawn. Our landscape design created a welcoming entry for their home, enhancing the curb appeal of their front yard and the overall appearance of the house.  No remodel required.

Client Testimonial

“We’re very pleased with how things turned out and appreciate all the work that you’ve done.

Thanks again for everything.”

Jeff and Lyn

Reed Neighborhood in SE Portland

Contact Us

I loved the challenge of updating this 1960s ranch home curb appeal with pacific northwest garden plantings. We enjoy taking our 30 years of experience and applying it to your existing landscape no matter the level of difficulty.  We can look at your landscape and see what is possible.  Difficult sites are fun but not required.  Contact me today, and let’s create a front yard you love to come home to.

Adding Curb Appeal With No Lawn Landscaping to Portland 1960s Home: Part One

Portland 1960s Ranch House Transformed With No Lawn Landscape

Portland no lawn landscaping helps this 1960s home curb appeal!

This Reed Neighborhood house has a welcoming landscape and entry after working with Landscape Design in a Day

Updating Curb Appeal for Windowless 1960s Ranch Home

As a landscape designer, I recently had the opportunity to transform the front of a windowless ranch house in the Reed neighborhood of SE Portland. The homeowners, Jeff and Lyn fell in love with the house for its great floor plan and proximity to their grandkids.  They did not love the front of the house.   The front entry courtyard was dark, windowless, and in need of updating. The old front walkway, likely installed in the 50s or 60s, was too narrow, and was damaged.

Portland 1960s home in need of a landscaping update to enhance curb appeal.

The front entry courtyard was dark, windowless and in need of updating. The old front walkway, likely installed in the 50s or 60s was too narrow and was damaged.

They needed solutions to make their front yard more welcoming and aesthetically pleasing. They needed a complete re-haul with creative solutions for a tough situation.

I have used a landscape design process to fix a house before but I was looking forward to this design in particular since the difference in the before and after would be so dramatic and  satisfying.

Using my Landscape Design in a Day kit they supplied me with the information I needed to create a customized solution.  Happily they were open to removing everything; the front steps, old concrete walk and the lawn.  Armed with their preferences, I worked with them to design a landscape that would greatly enhance the curb appeal of their home, create a warm and inviting entry, add functional walkways and good flow to the front door of their home.

A new porch helped with curb appeal of this Portland 1960s ranch home.

New porch and planters soften tunnel effect of narrow courtyard entry.

Creating a Welcoming Entry

The front entry of the house was dark and windowless, which made it feel unfriendly. To address this issue, we implemented four key solutions. First, we designed and built a real porch (not a deck) and incorporated different shapes and sizes of planters and steps to break up the tunnel effect and add interest to the entry.

Additionally, we designed a large well-planted berm, which served as an attractive focal point and helped diminish the tunnel effect of the entry. We added a multi-stemmed, vase-shaped tree to the berm to integrate the house with the land.  Lastly, we created a curved path from the street to a center landing point, which complemented the Northwest natural landscape style that Jeff and Lyn desired.  Landscape installer was D and J Landscape Contractors, Donna Burdick.

Look for our upcoming Part Two article!

Contact Us

Transforming the front of the windowless ranch house in SE Portland was a rewarding project. I loved the challenge of transforming this difficult front yard and entry without the need for a remodel.  We enjoy taking our 30 years of experience and applying it to your existing landscape no matter the level of difficulty.  We can look at your landscape and see what is possible.  Difficult sites are fun but not required.  Contact me today, and let’s create a front yard you love to come home to.



Designing a Charming Outdoor Living Space in Overlook Neighborhood for 20 Guests: Part Two

Pollinator-Friendly Garden Creates Oasis in North Portland Small City Backyard

Overlook neighborhood oasis garden includes pollinator friendly plantings.

Brachyglottis (Daisy Bush) in N.E. Portland in winter. Photo from Hilary’s front yard.

A continuation of Landscape Design in a Day’s Overlook Neighborhood design of a welcoming party garden space that comfortably seats up to 20 guests.  Part One discussed the outdoor living space design that incorporated the soft curving lines our clients wanted. Now we will discuss the low-maintenance, pollinator-friendly garden plantings wanted by our clients. Our mission was to create a back yard that didn’t scream “seating area for 20,” but rather felt inviting and lush for every day enjoyment too.

Lush and Lively Pollinator Plantings

Pollinator friendly garden flower called Aztec Pearl incorporated into Overlook neighborhood design.

Fragrant flowers grace this April flowering Mexican orange shrub The variety is called ‘Aztec Pearl’ and can be used as a shrub or small tree.

Our landscape design focuses on the integration of beautifully shaped, curved planting beds surrounding the large patio. To add color, texture, and attract pollinators, I selected a range of drought-adapted plants. These include the curvaceous burgundy bark of Howard McMinn Manzanita, the lightly fragrant blooms of Choisya ‘Aztec Pearl,’ and the striking silvery leaves of Brachyglottis (Daisy Bush). Additionally, tall sedums, colorful heather groundcover, salvia, cistus, agapanthus, and Pacific Iris contribute to the exuberant plantings.

Client Testimonial

The collaboration was excellent. The Landscape Design in Day questionnaire and packet helped us probe our desires and constraints as well as to further familiarize ourselves with our space.

Hilary was wonderful to work with! She helped brainstorm how to address our concerns and meet our goals of having a low-maintenance entertaining area that feels whimsical. The finished product is incredible!

Our space is totally transformed from an unpleasant, bumpy, muddy terrain to an inviting space with dedicated garden beds separated from walking areas & leisure areas.

We have plenty of lighting for entertaining (which includes the light from the built-in bench on the patio and icicle lights on the trees and arbor).

We really benefited from her experience and insights – like knowing how much lighting would be just the right amount, how to create flow between the distinct parts of the yard (including adding a staircase on the deck and removing a gate), and how to enhance areas of the yard that we previously considered “dead space”. This was an excellent experience that was well worth the investment!

Brian and Annie

Overlook Neighborhood.

Pollinator friendly garden plants for Overlook Neighborhood landscape design.

This ‘Howard McMinn’ Arctostaphylos is a much photographed manzanita with burgundy bark and handsome year round foliage at the XERA Garden Store in SE Portland.

The Right Landscape Design

With the right landscape design, even a small city property can be transformed into a functional and inviting outdoor oasis and a pollinator-friendly garden. The Overlook Neighborhood back yard design now offers Annie and Brian a party garden capable of comfortably seating 20 guests, all while incorporating lush plantings.  We will share after photos from their installed design later this year.

Contact Us

If you’re looking to unlock the potential of your own outdoor space, reach out to Landscape Design in a Day. We can help turn your unused city back yard into a beautiful and practical extension of your lifestyle. Contact us today to bring your vision to life!