Archive for outdoor enertaining patio

What I am working on Now: Deck patio & NW Natural Style Landscape in NE Portland

Hardscape Landscaping & Updated Deck in Roseway Neighborhood

NE Portland hardscape landscape design for client with small deck.

This existing deck in the Roseway neighborhood of NE Portland is only 8′ wide and 26′ long.

My clients Michael and Bruce purchased a home in NE Portland Roseway neighborhood. Their new home and neighborhood is perfect for them and this will be a long term home. Here’s the wish list:

Think Like a Designer

When I design a landscape,  first I think about all the ways a person will walk from the house and through the yard.  I find out what activities my clients want to do in their back yard and note those on my drawing.  Next I create concept drawings that show the hardscape and layout in different configurations.  Let’s start with the deck.

Poorly designed deck in the Roseway neighborhood of NE Portland.

The dining table is crammed into a corner and the chairs are in the access to stairs area.

The Deck Design Must Have Room for Walking and Activities

A lot of decks are flawed from the beginning because no one thought about how much of the space would be monopolized by how you need to walk through it. Often people settle on the shape and size of the deck  going for a simple rectangle without thinking about the different activities that will take place on the deck and if there is enough room for those activities.  It’s also important to remember that the deck is often the gateway to the back yard.

The existing deck was only 8’ deep, 26’ long.  It had too many interruptions of that space to be useful.  First the stairs leading to the yard (which were placed in the middle of the long deck) ate up too much of what could have been a nice outdoor dining table area for 4 outside the kitchen.  The stairs encroached on the potential area for a dining table for 4.    Another space stealer was the door to the basement also placed right in the middle of the back wall of the house and so right across from the deck steps and so the middle section of the deck was also not useful.

2/3rds of This Deck Was Used for Walking

The last 1/3rd of the deck was useful sitting space, about an 8’ x 8’ area out of this entire 26′ long deck.  My clients knew it didn’t work, (it is my job to know why it didn’t work).  They just knew they wanted something better.  Also, currently all activity on the deck was on stage for the neighbors and so along with  creating functional deck space. I will address privacy and screening solutions as well.

Hardscape landscape drawing for updated deck.

Concept drawing creates a bigger dining area by moving the steps, enlarging the deck to match the new angle. This gives us two larger useful outdoor rooms on the deck.

Deck Concept Drawings

We created a few layout drawings with the clients that showed different ways to use the space.  Here’s an example of one of the concept layouts I created.  While we didn’t go with this one it paved the way for the final concept we loved.

We added more dining space with an easy to access patio at the base of the deck.  It integrates the two outdoor living areas and now with 2 seating areas we can use the middle section of the deck for grilling.  My clients love their green egg BBQ by the way.

Outdoor Living oriented Landscape Design Drawing for Roseway neighborhood back yard in Portland Oregon

The winner concept drawing is incorporated into the overall landscape design.

Using various concept drawings I drew for them at their dining table, we worked through them together pro and con style to arrive at the favorite configuration.

Planning for a Cool and Shady Outdoor Living Area

In this next blog we will show how we worked with their existing shade tree and how we created a more lush and verdant landscape garden for this NE Portland Home.

Updating deck for better use in Roseway neighborhood.

The existing shade tree was nick named ‘Queenie’ and it’s location on the SW corner was perfect to cool down the deck and back yard of this Roseway neighborhood home.

Client Comments

One of the things my clients told me they loved and were both surprised and excited by was my moving the stairs.  They couldn’t believe how much more functional space was added.  By moving the stairs we were able to add the new lower patio surrounded by lush plantings that could also be seen from inside the house year round.

They also appreciated my bringing in an arborist to determine whether their large shade tree could stay  and how they should take care of it.  This was something that would not have occurred to them.  They worked with Issac from Honl Tree Care.

I needed to know if I was going to be adding another shade tree or whether their existing tree had staying power.  If Queenie needed to go, replacing her with a small tree means no decent shade for 15 or 20 years.  Queenie is a very large Norway Maple and soo she does not have a good reputation or pedigree.  Norway maple trees are on the city’s nuisance list.

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Before hardscape landscaping for Roseway neighborhood Portland.

 

We love working with our clients to create practical spaces to enjoy outdoor living.  Contact us if you would like to have sitting and dining areas that are big enough to use and have good flow, have privacy and ultimately a back yard you will love to be in.

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.

 

Contact Us

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

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.

Contact us

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.

Outdoor Living Garden Retreat

Outdoor Living Back Yard for Baby Boomer

Edibles, chickens,  colorful flowers and the works for my new garden please.

outdoor living includes hardscape stone path and seatingVictoria had recently purchased a corner property in the city and was ready to transform her back yard into her outdoor living dream garden.

Our fun collaboration to create her dream garden started with our first phone call.

We had near instant rapport and we had to stop ourselves from designing it right then and get our design ducks in a row.  We decided a landscape design in a day process would work well and we got going.

Her focus was on the back yard. She had plenty of ideas about what she wanted and let me tell you now there would be no room for lawn.

An Outdoor Living Back Yard Was the Theme

Two sitting areas; a dining area and a lounging area for outdoor entertaining

Screen out neighbors odd garage
Keep the shed and it’s concrete path, the big corner tree and one section of fence

Make room for plants – her list included lots of edibles including blueberry plants.
Colorful flowers, climbing roses and flowering vines
Unique plant material with a nostalgic bent

Perennials

Pollinator plantings

Dog friendly back yard

She and friends would DIY the plantings to save money and for  the sheer joy of planting her own garden.

Hire professionals for everything else

Privacy and Grading were the Biggest Issues

Here are a few of my observations from my site visit.  The back yard was the larger potion of the city lot; that was good because we would need every inch of space to realize our wish list.  With no lawn we would utilize paths and add lots of planting areas.  Victoria wanted a garden to live outdoors in not just a yard.

Multiple Grades Made the Design Challenging

Colorful Perennials for Outdoor Living back yardThe grade sloped toward the house,  toward the side property line and then up to the back fence.  The area next to the existing shed didn’t match any of the grades.  Solving the different sloping areas was a practical need but the solutions would end up adding spice to the design.

The neighbors extra tall garage was very unattractive and the typical screening solutions (a tall tree or hedge) would make too much shade for the colorful plants and edibles Victoria craved.

Back Porch as Sitting area

Could we have  one of our two sitting areas by modifying the tiny existing back porch?  As is, it was too small for even a bistro table. Putting a sit spot there would have helped maximize the space for the garden Victoria envisioned.  After consideration we let it go because of the location of the electric car charging unit and a window well, meant we could not alter the back porch.  But better ideas were coming soon…….

Create Beauty to Hide a Bad View

patio for outdoor living in Portland city lansdcape

The pergola (with string lights) waiting on additional funding for completion.

Creating privacy, blocking the view of the back ally neighbors garage (a 12’ plus tall engine lift attached to the garage) and creating an attractive view along the back property was solved with one solution. A long pergola of Victoria’s favorite climbing roses (Joesph’s Coat) would solve the summer view. The best solution to a bad view is creating something amazing to see and enjoy. The posts were installed but the top boards for the pergola would have to wait until funds arrived.

Break the Rules About Year Round Plant Color

Given Victoria’s hearts desire for billowing colorful flowers and edibles, we decided most of the plantings would kowtow to spring, summer and fall. There is no rule that every design must look fabulous in the winter. It depends on what the views are out the windows and what activities occur near the windows. To design for the winter view as if it would be equally important would have been a poor match for this client.  Full season interest is not a standard for all landscape design.

 Dealing with Multiple (awkward!!) Grade Changes

The client wanted the shed to stay as is so that was the grade I could not change. I selected the grade we needed to be able to open the existing shed doors for my starting point . I ask myself, ‘What cannot be changed?” to figure out where to start.  Then I worked my way up to the back gate and back up to the house.  The patio became the new low point of the yard instead of the next to the house foundation. We accomplished this with a new low curved stone wall which retained the highest grade on the back side of the patio.  This also made the patio feel like it’s own room.  The wall continued toward and supported the new walkway up to the back gate on the alleyway. The LLC (Licensed Landscape Contractor), Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors made the necessary adjustments to my conceptual plan, created the final grades and determined and installed any needed drainage.  Adding her expertise to the process is so important.  I wish all my clients hired someone as experienced as Donna Burdick.

Collaborate With Landscape Professionals

Blueberries and colorful edibles in city outdoor living landscape design.A professional installation meant my conceptual design was approved and improved by an LLC who is licensed to determine and install drainage.

The existing large tree got the attention of a certified arborist who lifted selected branches to allow walking underneath the tree and more light for edibles.  Now we could add a path to wind from the edibles area to the tree area. The path made easy access for plant maintenance and integrated the 3 primary planting areas of the design. Paths are so helpful.

It’s important to clue the arborist in to our design intentions with the tree. They needed to leave some of the lower branches to block the view of a busy intersection. Giving them that information is critical because they could prune the tree to some professional standard and remove our privacy in a way that cannot be put back.

Hardscape Landscaping Materials

Decomposed granite instead of standard crushed rock for the patio gives us an attractive cream colored surface for the patio. We used Camas basalt for the rock walls. Victoria especially loved her rock wall.

Flagstone for the paths is variegated lavender blue stone.  I prefer large 14″ by same and 2″ thick stone.

Outdoor Living Accomplished with Fire Pit

The firepit is gas……..yes this was the dream garden for my client and there is nothing like stepping out to the garden and with just a flicking of a switch – instant warmth and the feeling of primitive flames.  A gas firepit makes outdoor living easy to accomplish.

Portland Planting Plan Selections

Colorful planting includes chilli peppers nasturtium , and black eyed susan adorn colorful pots included in her outdoor living garden design.

My client loves colorful plants and pottery.

My client had a bearded iris collection she loved and these were integrated into the planting plant.

Some of my tough dog friendly plants were NW native plants like huckleberry and sword fern. A very sturdy ground cover was planted under the big tree and repeated throughout the edibles garden. This hardy geranium groundcover, Geranium x cantabrigiense is a work horse of a plant and so pretty with its spring flowers. Bonus; the cedar smell from the leaves tends to keep dogs out of the groundcover and onto the path.

Blueberry plants, a small evergreen variegated shrub with intensely peach colored new leaves in spring, (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’) and flowing over on the walls of the patio, summer flowering heather (Calluna vulgaris) trailing sedum and wallflower.  Uprights like lavender, cone flower, (Echinacea) and tall black eyed susan (Rudbeckia), with billowing hummingbird mint (Agastache), round out the flower power keeping the garden colorful from spring into fall.

Client Comments

“Carol is amazing! Her process is very collaborative and I feel that the final product reflects my vision guided and shaped with her expertise. So excited to see it develop and grow! Highly recommend – especially if you are interested in gardening and want something truly personal.” ~Victoria

Chickens enjoying their yard in outdoor living garden designLife can be full of surprises. While installing the rest of the design (DIY with friends) she found a wonderful friend and partner. They added chickens and then started keeping bees and outgrew the garden. After congratulating them on their marriage recently I went to their new property called Hummingbird Hill to design the layout of the new landscape on  5 acres.  She says, ” This is my second project with Design in a Day – and likely not the last.  I love being included in the design process as it is evolving. I really appreciate how knowledgeable and practical Carol is with a design that is both beautiful and functional. ” – Victoria

I loved helping Victoria.  If you are looking for a professional to  dream up your outdoor living landscape design,  please contact us.

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

North Portland Residential Landscape Design for Shade

Chris and Jennifer of North Portland contacted me for help with their large shady back yard.

Problems

They were overwhelmed with the high maintenance of lawn under huge trees. They wanted a back yard for entertaining a large family (with lots of adult kids and future grand kids).  They wanted to DIY and had a strict budget, so spending 20 grand on a concrete patio was not realistic.Cedar chip patio makes affordable landscaping for North Portland home. Views over the fence included other neglected yards and they had a large (evil) tree of heaven that had to go. Many plants had died or looked leggy and sun starved.

The back yard was longer than deep and made creating a design on their own more difficult.

Solutions

My best contributions were getting the shapes of the new rooms to work with their long but shallow yard. Introducing them to the concept of using cedar chips as their primary surface for entertaining and paths was a perfect fit also. It looks great with their NW Natural style landscape, it’s affordable and it’s very easy to care for. If you get the right kind of chips you can even use a leaf blower on them and they don’t blow away.

We tucked different outdoor rooms into the perimeter of the landscape and kept the existing small concrete patio as a spacious entry to the house and the BBQ center. No more trying to fit a dining table on it as they had done before the design.

Crushed rock firepit patio makes for affordable landscaping in this N. Portland backyard.Selecting low water plants

Sword fern works well for the woodsy nature of this North Portland garden design.

Sword fern works well for the woodsy nature of this North Portland garden design.

The plant selection was also critical.  Shade plants had to survive on the water the big trees would let them have so our palette needed to be all low water plants. We used a lot of sword ferns and kept native plants wherever possible.

On the south end we used one of my favorite little evergreen trees, Boxleaf Azara – Azara Microphylla. They planted them up on a berm which made them taller and helped do a faster job of screening out the neighbors garage wall.  Planting Azaras up on a berm prevents root rot since these plants do not tolerate poor drainage.

DIY installed

Their DIY install of the landscape turned out fantastic. They loved their back yard. When change came along, and they had to put their house on the market, the yard was another major asset and selling point. These photos, which they took, are from their marketing page.

I especially love the hammock room. The fire pit patio is clearly the largest entertaining area and is used for lounging with or without a fire. Their fire pit patio is a crushed rock surface, not cedar chips.

low maintenance evergreen screens tall wall in Raliegh Hills garden design

Azara Microphylla has fine evergreen leaves that add texture to this wall in SW Portland.

The chips continue around to the side yard gate and match the rest of the now low maintenance landscape.

“Carol understood us and got our style for a NW Natural landscape design for our North Portland yard.  We were very happy that she surpassed our expectations for low maintenance, no lawn, great textured plantings, backyard design.  She understood that we wanted to do some of the work ourselves and helped us make a beautiful-yard-on-a-budget a reality.”