Archive for small back yard

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

Small City Living Space Designed as a Lush Outdoor Oasis in North Portland

Before picture of yard prior to transformation into outdoor living space designed for 20 guests.

BEFORE: This Overlook neighborhood back yard lawn was hard to walk on because it was so uneven and it was also a mud pit for months at a time.

Welcome to the world of landscape design, where we transform unattractive and unusable spaces into vibrant outdoor living spaces. In this blog post, we’ll explore how Landscape Design in a Day turned a lackluster back yard in the Overlook Neighborhood into a welcoming party garden that comfortably seats up to 20 guests. Get ready to be inspired by our innovative design solutions for integrating additional seating areas and lush plantings into a small city property.

Lush outdoor living space designed as oasis in Overlook Neighborhood. Sedums.

Sea foam green foliage and large compound flower heads on tall sedum at a NE Portland clients garden.

A No Lawn Back Yard was Top of their Wish List

Brian and Annie from Overlook neighborhood contacted us with some typical small city property problems in their North Portland back yard.  As we talked on the phone I learned their back yard was very uneven, hard to walk on and muddy.  Their small dog Peanut wasn’t big on grass and neither were they.  A no lawn back yard was top of their list.  They wanted drought tolerant plantings and so I knew Hilary Hutler would be the perfect designer for them.  She specializes in drought tolerant plantings and she lives close by so having an on going relationship with their designer over the years would be easy.  Let’s tag along with Hilary as she works some design magic for our clients.

Outdoor living space in Overlook neighborhood designed with California Lilac.

Bumble bee busy feeding on California Lilac, which is a low water pollinator friendly plant. with beautiful blue flowers.

Creating Usable Outdoor Living Space

When I first met Annie and Brian, we quickly realized they needed more outdoor entertaining space than the average city client. With regular gatherings of up to 20 friends, accommodating their large number of guests was a top priority. Additionally, they wanted a design that featured soft curving lines and low-maintenance, pollinator-friendly plants. 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.

Making an Entrance

To begin the transformation, we utilized the 10-foot wide south-facing side yard, turning it into the entrance of the party garden living space. Guests are greeted by a tall gate and a whimsical flagstone path surrounded by enchanting plantings. This path leads them towards a dramatic Moon Gate, clearly indicating the entrance to the back yard party garden. Annie and Brian will also enjoy the scenic view of the Moon Gate and garden from inside their home.

Outdoor Living Landscape Design Drawing of Overlook Neighborhood Portland Backyard by Landscape Design in a DayExpanding the Gathering Spaces

The centerpiece of the design is a generous 16-foot round patio, strategically designed to maximize seating. To further optimize the use of space, we added a slim seat wall around one-third of the patio, providing built-in seating. The seat wall not only offers more seating options but also adds a touch of elegance to the overall design. With this clever addition, the patio can comfortably accommodate even larger groups.

Room to Move

To facilitate smooth movement around the property, I created a wide, curving crushed rock path that leads from the house and connects to the back patio. This path not only serves as a practical route but also becomes an additional gathering space. Its contrasting materials and attractive shape beautifully complement the large patio, creating a harmonious flow throughout the yard.

Seamless Connectivity

To enhance accessibility during large gatherings, I suggested adding an extra set of stairs off the back patio. This simple addition ensures that guests can easily come and go without feeling trapped. By making these seamless connectivity improvements, we’ve optimized the functionality of the space for maximum usability.

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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!

Custom Irvington Neighborhood Landscape Sees New Life With New Owners

Good-Bye To A Favorite Irvington Neighborhood Landscape Design

Custom Irvington neighborhood landscape design.

Hydrangeas and Crape Myrtle flower in this mature front yard garden design in Irvington neighborhood of Portland Oregon. Photo by installer Donna Burdick (D and J Landscape Contractors).

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I swung by to pick up my yard sign and realized I was a few days too late. My clients were gone, and in their place were new faces and the signs of a move-in process. As I surveyed the scene, disappointed that I wouldn’t get a final glimpse of the backyard I had designed, a man practically materialized before me. Dressed in moving attire and exuding enthusiasm, he introduced himself as one of the new homeowners. He was delighted to meet the designer of their landscape and even started texting his wife, trying to coordinate a meeting with me. This guy was a multitasking wizard, let me tell you. He wanted my advice about a few things and gestured for me to join him.

With a spare 15 minutes on my hands and a personal policy of embracing odd opportunities, I decided to go with him. He brought me through the side gate,  now gesturing at the impressive wood planters housing the privacy bamboo plants. “How can I possibly get rid of all this bamboo and the soil?” he asked, a perplexed look on his face. The planters were massive, nearly 4 feet wide and 9 feet long. There was a dump truck load of soil to remove, plus the plants.

Landscape Treasure or Trash – Everyone sees it differently.

Custom bamboo planter box for privacy landscape design at Irvington Neighborhood home

Clumping Bamboo providing privacy for home office. Photo by Annie Wotek, my landscape gardener associate.

I felt a little shock travel up to my brain.  It dawned on me that this was a case of one persons treasure being another’s trash. I had poured my heart into creating that clumping bamboo privacy screen and those attractive and very expensive custom planters, and yet here we were, planning to turn them back into lumber. Change is inevitable, and necessary especially in the world of landscape designers.

Repurpose the Planter Wood

Getting rid of the planter wasn’t the issue, as his friend would carefully dismantle them and repurpose the wood for a stunning studio. The problem was the mountain of soil and the abundance of bamboo that needed a new home. That’s when I remembered Bamboo Gardens Nursery, a place where I had purchased the specialty bamboo in the first place.

Part of me was kinda sad about their impending demise and the other part of me gave him the proper contact info, confident that the Bamboo Garden Nursery would be interested in buying  the specialty clumping bamboo plants that were so large.  I was guessing that they would probably take a lot of the soil too. Recycling, in a way.

Changes for Old Landscape Design

But enough about bamboo removal. Let’s talk about the changes in store for my old landscape design. The new homeowners had a pressing need for more parking space, so the gate we had moved forward 8 feet years ago would now be moved back. The planters, unfortunately, had to go to make room for the parking area. It was a necessary sacrifice in a city where off-street parking is highly valued.

Cedar gate has high quality hardware and still looks great in our Irvington neighborhood landscape design.

Existing Gate was moved forward to enlarge the area outside the kitchen door into a courtyard and now just a few years later this area will be used for parking and the same gate will now move back.

Fire Pit Patio to Hot Tub

Custom landscape design in Irvington neighborhood around circular patio.

Perfect fire pit space for outdoor entertaining in Irvington neighborhood back yard soon to be a hot tub area.

My tour continued.  Moving into the backyard I learned the impressive and uber modern styled gas fire pit patio, which had been the heart of the backyard, would be transformed. Instead of cozy times with friends by the fire, the new homeowners had plans for a hot tub. They loved the hot tub at their old house and used it regularly.  Finding the perfect spot already laid out in their new backyard was happy news.  The fire pit would be removed, leaving behind memories and capped-off natural gas line. Tall plantings would probably be added to create privacy around the hot tub, giving it a secluded and intimate feel.

Thankfully, they decided to keep Annie, the dedicated gardener who had been the bridge between my design and its upkeep. She will continue to ensure the design’s integrity where it fits the new homeowners, advocating for plants health care and taking care of the little details I had embedded into the garden.

The Mature Rhododendron Tree

Mature rhododendron tree at Irvington neighborhood custom landscape design.

Irvington neighborhood front porch is protected from the south sun by a mature rhododendron tree. I made sure my clients knew the tree is an asset and was well worth professional pruning.

As for the fate of the mature rhody tree and the bonsai-like manzanita in the front yard, it was out of my hands now. Would they appreciate the  shapely beauty of the rhody tree trunk, gnarly in its old age and spectacular even when it wasn’t flowering  with hundreds of purple May blooms.  Would they opt for more sunlight and remove it? Would they understand the purpose of the still young manzanita and resist the urge to water it? These were just some of the questions that no longer belonged to me.

Farewell Thoughts

And with that, I bid farewell to this special garden, filled with memories and personal touches, and welcome the new inhabitants.  Sometimes the new homeowner hires me but it is rare.  I think the new homeowners want a fresh set of eyes or simply feel up to the task especially since it is currently so attractive and well cared for.  They don’t feel the need now.  Instead I will work with my old clients, the previous inhabitants and create a landscape design for their new property.  I just talked with them about their new home and tricky rather narrow backyard.  We will put our heads together and make a magical, just-right backyard at their new house.

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Irvington neighborhood custom landscape design includes fire pit center piece.

Natural gas feeds this fire pit and creates a centerpiece and warmth for my clients patio in their past Irvington neighborhood in Portland Oregon.

If you’re looking for a residential landscape designer who can bring your outdoor dreams to life, look no further. Contact me today to start the journey towards a beautiful and unique outdoor space that reflects your personal style. Let’s create something extraordinary and memorable together.

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.)

 

 

Update on Back Yard Design for Irvington Neighborhood Baby Boomers – Part 1

Irvington Neighborhood Backyard with crushed rock patio, gas firepit, small dog friendly lawn and a covered dining area

Comfortable Outdoor Entertaining and a bit of lawn for their dog Sonny were important priorities in the back yard design for Irvington Neighborhood baby boomers.

Irvington Back Yard Transformed into Baby Boomers’ Outdoor Paradise

Three years ago we transformed a clunky Irvington back yard into a baby boomers outdoor paradise.  I can’t wait to share with you how it has matured and transformed. Lets walk through the success of this  back yard design in the Irvington neighborhood of N.E. Portland. I’ll share tips and philosophy about working with small city properties and give you a peek into the process of creating a successful design. Let’s dive in!

Privacy for the Home Office and Comfortable Outdoor Entertaining were the Top Priorities

My baby boomer clients David and Anne had some specific priorities for their back yard design: comfortable seating for entertaining, a fire pit, grassy area for Sonny the dog, and reasonably low-maintenance plantings that would provide year-round color. Additionally, they wanted a peaceful and private view from their large home office windows.  And a special place for blueberries and fun summer color plants .  They also wanted me to evaluate whether to keep the covered area which was a very big decision.

Clunky Boring Back Yard Needs Integration Flow and Spark

clunky back yard with poor flow for walking and too much lawn in Irvington neighborhood Portland Oregon

Before: covered area has poor flow to the side yard. New homeowners don’t use it and want to remove it.

The first photo shows the mature landscape design 3 years after the installation. I love a good before and after. It’s incredible to see the difference a good design and time can make!

Importance of Spatial Planning:

Before Pic shows awkward problem area to address in NE Portland back yard transformation (during construction process)

Window well location adds to access and flow problems in NE Portland back yard.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in small city back yard landscapes is skimping on the space needed to walk and move around a sitting area. It’s understandable to think that smaller back yards should get smaller than typical patios, lawn areas and planting beds but this is not helpful.  There is a size required for functional sitting areas that includes pulling back the chair to sit and space to move around the furniture easily.  This kind of thinking will ensure the back yard gets used because it feels gracious and welcoming.

Shape and Layout of Useable Spaces Must Fit Together

The shape and layout of the different spaces also play crucial roles in the overall design, and careful consideration is necessary to create an integrated and harmonious feel.

Make Sitting Areas Big Enough

Irvington Neighborhood Backyard with crushed rock patio, gas firepit, small dog friendly lawn and a covered dining area

Carefully placed flagstone connects covered patio and protects grass from lots of foot traffic. Installer: D and J Landscape Contractors

I give us top marks for the spacious but cozy natural gas patio and the simple hardscapes materials we used.  It’s a 16 foot circle, providing plenty of room for everyone to sit comfortably. To make it even more versatile, we added a custom wood fire pit cover that can be used as a table for drinks on hot days when a fire pit’s warmth is not desired.  A crushed rock surface is very affordable when compared to pavers or flagstone but knowing which kind of crushed rock is important for success and a topic of its own.  Adding an attractive paver edge gives our patio elegance without costing a lot.  We repeated this same paver (Belgard Urbana Victorian) in other areas which helps to tie everything together.  This new patio is a very popular and often used outdoor room and was also used for summer book club meetings.

Fixing the Covered Area – Make it Feel Good to Use

When we first started the design process, our clients didn’t like using the covered deck area and were considering removing the columns and the roof and only keeping the shed portion. They instinctively knew something was wrong with this area, didn’t like sitting there but did not know why or how to address it.  Mind you there were certain fixed elements, such as the support posts, a deep window well, and the corner of the house that we couldn’t modify and all right on top of each other. Adding complexity, the covered area was the gateway to the kitchen door, to the front yard and the access door to the shed.  The previous homeowners had decked the area under the cover which meant we had to step up to use this area and step down to leave it.  There was no room to walk around it due to the deep window well.

crushed rock patio with elegant paver edging is the focal point of Irvington neighborhood back yard landscape design

Our crushed rock patio (with gas fire pit) has elegant paver edging and Adirondack chairs made from recycled plastic.

I wanted to make it feel good to walk into and sit and also comfortable to walk through and around the table and chairs to other daily use areas.  Because that is how we fix it, we make it feel good.

Tips to Make an Outdoor Sitting Area Feel Good to Use

  1. remove the step up and make the covered area level with the rest of the landscape.
  2. repeat hardscape materials in different areas of the back yard
  3. integrate the new seating area by adding a few matching flagstone to reach the back porch into the lawn.
  4. install a flagstone and repeated the fire pit paver trim in our new covered seating area.
  5. covered the window well with a small removable wood cover which effectively masked the large hole visually and made it safer for occasional walking.

One Level Landscape Makes the Most Powerful Change

All of these adjustments worked seamlessly, creating a relaxed and comfortable all weather environment for our clients.  I think creating a one level landscape was the most powerful change.  Combined, these changes made a significant difference in how it felt to use the covered sitting area.  Now my clients use this area regularly and enjoy the cool shade on hot days.  Its also the perfect spot to use for an outdoor office since you can keep your electronics dry.  Catching up on e mails over a nice cuppa of joe in a beautiful back yard oasis is very enjoyable for my clients.

Privacy Solution for the Home Office and Materials List  (See part 2)

As a landscape designer, seeing our success and the transformation of a property after a few years brings me a deep satisfaction and joy. This back yard landscape design has lived up to its potential and provided our clients with a serene and enjoyable space.

Client Testimonial

pictured Carol Lindsay founder of Landscape Design in a Day sitting on cedar planter. Paver is Victoriana by Belgard, Planter designed by Victor and Carol, Bamboo is Fargesia robusta and new fence by Cascade

Carol Lindsay, Landscape Designer, and clumping bamboo after 1 year.

“We loved working with Carol. She created a beautiful design and final product. She is a great collaborator and listener. We now spend time every day enjoying the beautiful spaces.”  David and Anne

I was just contacted to design a landscape for their new home.  In addition to their testimonial on my web page, knowing they wouldn’t dream of tackling this next landscape without ‘my magic’ says more than words.

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If you’re looking to transform your back yard, feel free to reach out to us with our contact form or a phone call. We’d be delighted to bring our expertise to create a landscape design that you’ll love and enjoy for years to come.