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Baby Boomers Downsize to NE Portland & Landscape Beautifully

Landscape in Irvington Neighborhood for Downsizing Boomer Clients

NE Portland baby boomer downsized home landscaping.

My clients had just moved into a bungalow on a small lot in NE Portland.  They are baby boomers and were downsizing from a larger home and property.  This house was charming itself with a gracious front porch and had wonderful bones.  While we created a design for the entire property, this blog is about the back yard transformation.

The back yard had an existing covered dining area. It looked like a portico with the roof attached to their shed to me and was quite attractive but so badly placed. It was blocking access to the back yard. The clients wanted my direction for whether to keep it or have it demolished.

The existing landscape spaces didn’t fit together or make good use of the square footage available.  They wanted good flow.

Privacy Screening for an Urban Backyard was a Priority.

They especially wanted privacy and better views from inside the house.  In a larger property, creating lush green views from every window is easier with plenty of square footage between the windows and the neighbors.  In small urban properties, controlling the views is more tricky to do well with typically 5′ to 10′ of space to work with.  This space always has paths and other functions to perform and so is not solely available for plantings.  The view of the next door neighbors multistory house and roof was especially obvious from inside the home office.

The rest of their wish list looked like this:

Two entertaining areas

A fire pit

A better utility area for garbage cans

A grassy area for their dog

Keep the large shade tree to the north

BEFORE image of NE Portland backyard landscaping.

The existing covered dining area was very badly placed and blocked entry to the back yard.

Poor Access to the Back Yard

 This old Portland house had access from the home’s office to the back yard.  Not ideal.  No one wants friends and family traipsing through their office with BBQ prep and smores. The primary outdoor traffic would come from the kitchen door on the far north side which is a long ways from the activities of the back yard.

I feel when the home does not have access from a primary living room or kitchen directly into the back yard, we need to have a big reward (Carol make it magical!)  when we get to the back yard.  There is a psychological resistance when access doesn’t lead directly to the activity.

Landscape Integration

Repeating hardscape landscaping materials helps to integrate a small city propertyGiven what they wanted, the key to success was integration.  In this case it would involve bringing the walking surface to one grade and repeating hardscape materials.  The shapes of the sitting areas, paths and planting beds needed to be one continuous flowing piece.

I replaced the deck under the Portico (covered area) with a flagstone patio, level with the rest of the yard.  The flagstone is used again in the back yard to pull these previously separated areas into one.  The large fire pit patio also has touches of flagstone.  Using the same materials and making the walking surface the same grade did the trick.  A custom wood cover allows my clients to use it for a low table instead of a heat source when desired.

Blocking View of Roof Next Door

We blocked the view of the house and roof next  door with clumping bamboo.  To get a height boost, custom planters were built at 36″ high so my baby boomer clients would not have to wait for years to enjoy privacy and a lush wall of green to see  while working in their office.

The Kitchen Door

Clumping Bamboo in Custom Wood Planters Creates Privacy for Baby Boomers

Clumping Bamboo (Fargesia Robusta) in Custom Wood Planters will quickly provide privacy for this Irvington neighborhood home.

This little old concrete step was too big of a drop from the threshold and it wasn’t wide enough for a normal sized foot. We took the opportunity to legitimize this important family entry door by rebuilding this step with attractive materials that gave it beauty as well as function.  It sets the feeling for returning home and into the kitchen which is after all the soul of any home.

This step will be used every time anyone heads to the back yard for relaxing, entertaining, and family fun.

Cedar Gate is relocated to add utility space to Irvington Side Yard

Relocated Gate Saves Money and Improves Side Yard Flow and Function

Practicalities of Gates & Garbage Cans

We expanded the utility function of the side yard by relocating the double gate toward the front of the house.  I tend to always set the gate back some from the front corner of the house, (at least a foot or two).  I want all eyes on the front entry (in this case a magnificent front porch) not to the side yard. A gate parallel to the front of a house with columns often waters down the beauty of the entry to the home.

The garbage cans and recycling bins needed to be easy to roll out to the road for pick up. I had some grand ideas about plants on one side that would then switch but the gas meter location and garbage cans had other ideas.

I’m always keeping one eye on the goal.  This area may be “just the side yard” but it must be attractive enough to be the introduction to the magical back yard entertaining area. In this case, the side yard had to do triple duty, block the view of tall house next door, welcome people home via the kitchen side door and make us want to keep going and see the back yard.

Back Yard Privacy

Modern Style Gas Fire Pit Table is perfect for downsized baby boomer back yard

Firepit from PyroMania

We didn’t have enough square footage of our own for back yard privacy. The trick here was to utilize some of the neighbor’s small trees “borrowing” their privacy plants.  Yes it’s true a neighbor could tire of a small tree and remove it and leave a hole in our vignette but it’s worth the risk.  There is nothing worse than a pile of beautiful plants fighting it out in the air space above the fence.  It spoils the view for everyone. We want to see the shapes of our trees and plants, not a muddle.

 Shade will Increase

The shade will increase over the years as the client’s old maple tree gets bigger. At some point the lawn will need to be replaced with synthetic lawn.  However, most of the plantings I selected will make the shift to heavier shade.

My usual technique for any design is to take in the client’s desires and after careful site study create multiple layout drawings that all aim toward fulfilling those desires.

Heuchera 'Green Spice' is graced with Autumn LeafMy clients were very helpful as we worked through the different layout drawings.  Due to Covid we also worked over Zoom to finalize our layout.  During that process we discover our priorities and so the wish list was winnowed.

When the contractors estimate comes in sometimes there is another winnowing after the design is completed. We discovered we could not alter a fence because it belonged to the neighbor. We let go of a hidden garden behind the shed and kept the existing small deck off the home office as is rather than flipping it for cost reasons.

Fatsia Japonica Spiders Web is a perfect low maintenance plant for seniorsIt helps to have the design installed by a contractor who is familiar with my work and with whom I collaborate regularly.

My clients liked working with my recommended contractor Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors very much and got the benefit of our many years working together.  Victor Vencill of Vencill Construction designed and built the high end custom planters and the fire pit cover.  He also made corrections on their existing small deck.  The three of us work together regularly and together we make an amazing problem solving team and have fun while doing so.

Boulders create interest for gas fire pit patioCLIENT COMMENTS

“We loved working with Carol. She created a beautiful design and final product. She is a great collaborator and listener. She drafted a number of versions of the landscaping design based on many conversations. We were not very experienced with landscaping and gardening, but she spent the time to educate us and listen to our perspective and style. She also understood our budget and provided a design that was beautiful and worked for our family. She continued to provide input during construction, which we very much appreciated. We now spend time every day enjoying the beautiful spaces Carol designed.”
~David, Portland.

Do you have a tricky backyard that needs privacy and thoughtful use of limited square footage?  We love tricky city properties and would be happy to help you downsize your landscape to fit your new senior lifestyle.

Modern Landscape Design for Family and Dogs

How to Adapt When the Modern Landscape Design Changes

Before photo of dog only back yard in Mt Tabor neighborhood needs modern outdoor entertaining areaMy new clients are a family of six, four humans and two dogs. Their home near Portland’s Mt Tabor is three stories (2 plus a daylight basement) of mid century modern. It’s what I call a sleeper home. The front facade is attractive and simple –  so walking in the door to see the remodeled interior is an exciting surprise. They clearly know good design when they see it as they worked closely with an architect to achieve the  stylish and perfectly proportioned modern interior.

Clients Wish List:

Create a backyard landscape with an inviting sitting and entertaining area, a non structured kids play area, 1 or 2 raised beds for flowers or edibles and very low maintenance plantings.  Help make the back yard for everyone, not just the dogs.

Site Description:

The property has difficult access to the back yard. The family has to walk down a flight of stairs. It’s hard on their oldest dog. The only other access means going down and out the first floor, which is not used regularly. They primarily enjoyed the outdoors from balconies on the upper floors. The view south into sky and their tree tops (13 mature conifers) was lovely from the house. The large yard was lined with huge trees creating lots of privacy and bird habitat. The center of the yard was a blank slate.

The primary activity associated with the back yard was cleaning up dog poop, avoiding it or stepping in it and mowing the wild lawn in the spring and fall. It was not irrigated in the summer.

Designers  Solutions:

After photo of modern landscape design in Mt. Tabor neighborhood of Portland OregonAs much as I love starting with the layout first, (hardscapes, patio, planting beds etc.)  we needed to solve the dog needs first and change this to a yard for the whole family. To do that we needed to control where dogs went to relieve themselves.

I needed easy access for the dogs to get to their poop area and confine them from entering the rest of the yard. This means (it’s very simple really) the dogs can fly down the stairs to their run around and poop area but they can’t get into the main back yard except with their people.

We used the existing stairs location but made dog steps off the side of the landing allowing the dogs into a large area fenced off from the rest of the yard. This area is higher than the rest of the back yard so it’s not so far down. It’s big enough for the younger dog to romp around and do perimeter fence work, less stairs for the sweet old dog, has great shade and it’s easy for humans to get in there and clean up the poop.

After close up of hardscape in modern landscaping design in Mt. Tabor neighborhoodTo reach the back yard, we go down more stairs and enter into the outdoor family entertaining area through a gate. Dogs are invited to join their humans through this gate, after all they will get to use the big back yard too, accompanied by their humans. 90% of the poo goes in the dog yard which is covered in 6″ of special cedar chips.

New large Patio pulls the family outside

The new large concrete patio was scored in large squares to pick up the modern style of the house. These lines are repeated in the dry set large square concrete pavers set into the lawn as a path. The new patio connects to the house on the basement level. This area is covered by the existing balcony on the main floor, and has a storage area for yard toys, furniture and tools.

Finished Design or so I thought?:

We had our large outdoor entertaining and sitting area, a cedar chip area for kids unstructured play, a special area for the dogs to play and to poo,  a path into a second unstructured forest(ish) play area for the kids and a covered storage area. I specified synthetic lawn to protect the large native cedar trees. They are adverse to fertilizer and excessive water which is of course what a real lawn wants.

Sad Story – Cedar Trees have Seiridium Canker:

Before photo of dog only backyard needs attractive modern outdoor entertaining area

View from the master bedroom balcony before Seiridium Canker disease caused 11 large trees to be removed.

I referred Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors. Donna came out to meet the clients and assess the site about a year after we completed the design. Several of the cedar trees had lost significant foliage and what remained was yellow. The contractor brought an arborist out to examine the trees before moving forward.

The cedar trees had a disease called Seiridium Canker. The disease was so infectious that all 11 mature Incense cedar trees would be infected in a short time and so they were all removed. The two large Yew trees were immune and unaffected. Sadly we now had plenty of sun for real lawn………..The trees, privacy and shade were gone.

Re-Design Time:

We had plenty of light so we nixed the synthetic lawn and selected a roll out turf called RTF. (Rhizomatous Tall Fescue)

Carol Lindsay, Portland residential landscape designer sites tree in Dog Friendly landscape design in Mt Tabor neighborhood

Carol Lindsay with specialty evergreen Holly Oak (Quercus ilex) Sam of D and J Landscape Contractors just off camera will plant the new tree.

I did more research on evergreen trees for replacement. It was important the new trees be immune to the Seiridium Canker that had killed the cedar trees. After talking to a few arborists, Steven Peacock and Chad Honyl, I selected very drought tolerant trees, able to handle the expected temperatures of summers to come. The new trees will not fix the loss of privacy soon but my clients wanted a long term solution that acknowledges the climate change and is not a quick fix.

Quercus Douglasii – Blue Oak

Quercus Ilex – Holly Oak

Cupressus glabra – Arizona Cypress ‘Blue Ice’ 

Once the new trees were selected I completely redesigned the planting plan to handle the sun and fit a landscape that had real lawn and the irrigation that would accompany real lawn. On planting day I was on hand to place the new trees and see the progress. It is still shocking to me that the large trees are gone but I love the new design and most importantly so do my clients.

Client Comments:

“We only had a rough idea what we wanted at first, and knew little about plants and trees. After we finished the Landscape Design in a Day kit, Carol and her assistant Alana came to our house and went to work. We went back and forth as she created her plan, sharing our likes and dislikes. It was a pretty easy process. 

After photo freshly planted Holly Oak - Quercus ilex in newly fenced cedar chip area for dogs.

Quercus Ilex – Holly Oak is highlighted by newly installed night lighting.

One of our goals was to build out a new area for our dogs, so they could have their own comfortable place while keeping the main backyard clean and poop-free. Carol worked all of our ideas in, and we’re delighted with the new dog area. Not only that, but our new modern patio makes our backyard much more welcoming and usable.

Landscape Design in a Day was a good fit for us because we only had to set up one on-site visit and a few conference calls to participate in the collaborative design process.

The contractor she referred us to, Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors, was excellent. We would recommend Landscape Design in a Day and D & J Contractors to anyone wanting a thoughtful, worry-free experience that results in a quality landscape.  We love our new backyard!”  Steve

Materials used:

Lawn-RTF Sod – Rhizomatous Tall Fescue

Patio – Acid etched (washed) concrete creates a beautiful finish

Lawn pavers – 18″ Mutual Materials Architectural (concrete) Slabs are flush set in the lawn. The color is called Cascade.

Dog area – The retaining walls are juniper posts, (no staining needed) with Hog Wire in fill fencing and Fiberx cedar chips

If you are looking at a modern landscape design for your yard, please contact me for more information.

Mid Century Modern Landscape Design Starts With the Right Fence

Woodstock Mid Century Modern Landscape Design Remodel Starts with the Right Fence

 

Mid century modern landscape in Woodstock neighborhood

I got a phone call from Larry and Jan.  I could tell we were a great match from the first phone call.

Before photo of modern home with poor hardscape fence choice.

Before photo shows amazing windows and view of existing white fence and landscape.

This 1955 home sits on the corner. The white vinyl fence was on my goodbye list before I finished parking. It dominated the house and made some of the landscape problems 500% worse. It was new and expensive. I hoped they would not be appalled to learn I wanted it gone.

I walked into their house and I swear it felt like the house gave me a hello hug. There is a sense of a cape cod beach house owned for generations hidden in this modern mid-century. I could almost smell the pie.

Jan is a fabric artist and Larry has a keen appreciation of design and how things work together. This was going to be fun!

After landscape design mid century modern woodstock neighborhood includes new hardscape fence.

After design and installation of just right fence

The great room is all windows and makes the landscape outside of the home an intimate part of the inside of the home. The basement was beautifully finished with significant day light windows. They loved the light. My landscape plan would need to protect the light coming in from those windows.

My clients are neighborhood oriented. They like being across from the grade school and seeing kids come and go with their families. Yes, people could see them through some of those wonderful windows and no it didn’t bother them.

Clients Wish List

Before landscape design the fence accentuates the long line of the house with a poor hardscape choice.

Before our Landscape Design in a Day

Maximize view from inside the home by adding year round colorful plants

Summer flowers and hydrangeas and hostas for Jan

Create a more inviting entry

Expand the back porch for BBQ and access to a new covered deck or patio

Use a coral bark maple given to them as a housewarming gift

Covered outdoor dining area for 8

There was some thought to having no fence at all or keeping the fence that came with the house

Designers Take

The right fence would be the hero for this design. A fence connects to the architecture of a house more than any arrangement of plants. Even a tree, unless it’s huge does not have the trans-formative power of a fence. Get it wrong and it will bring the entire landscape and home down to its level. The right fence needs to be subordinate to the house and work with the style of the home not detract from it or cheapen it.

Getting It Right

New hardscape fence showcases the house and the new landscaping.

The right fence would be the hero for this landscape design

We all loved the design layout drawing that broke the straight lines of the fence and made space for plantings along the sidewalk. I worked through several versions of this design and my clients selected their favorite. They loved the fence I found on the Houzz site. It was a happy day when I saw the existing white vinyl fence being hauled off for donation to Habitat for Humanity Restore.

Covered Dining Area and Deck

We enlarged the back porch and brought a large covered dining area around the back corner of the house. The deck and cover stops before we get to the array of windows. I didn’t want to see deck furniture or lose light. The deck cover is a louvered roof system from Cardinal Motorized Pergolas. Larry and Jan were very pleased with their representative Kathy Hammer.

Jan preferred a flagstone entry path. It would look best with the original concrete porch side yard walk and brick planters. The flagstone would add contrast and create visual softening.

Synthetic Lawn, Planters and a Bench

Mid century modern landscape design with a flagstone path and bench are great hardscape updates.Raised planters answered Jan’s desire for herbs and a few edibles. The proportions of the planter, and an attractive construction, integrate nicely with the overall design.

Synthetic lawn is easy care and got their grandchild’s stamp of approval.

Installation

We moved into the installation phase without completing a planting plan because we knew we wanted to tweak the fence and path placements on site. I would never do this unless I have a long term working relationship with the contractor. I’ve seen many fantastic designs go down in sad smoke because a contractor redesigned and installed what he wanted.

I introduced my favorite landscape contractor, Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors and Victor Vincell, a building contractor with a most excellent eye and know how. The five of us, clients, designer and contractors worked together and a happy installation followed. The planting plan was completed and installed including a large Coral Bark Maple.

Finishing Touches Add Entry Appeal

Mid Century modern landscape style is simple and colorful to accent new hardscape fence.

Colorful sidewalk plantings with a balance of evergreens and deciduous shrubs and perennials created full season interest.

We went with a flagstone path (over modern slab pavers) for the entry and kept the original concrete porch and path. Keeping these elements worked well with the original brick planters which were painted a charcoal to go with the new colors of the house. The flagstone added a natural effect.

The clients replaced the skinny gutters (which didn’t handle the volume of winter rain water properly anyway) with nice big fat ones. It was amazing to me how this change amplified the modern style. The house body, trim and brick planters were painted, and the fence carefully stained to work well with the new colors.

The clients selected a bench to give the north side path a destination and provided me with a list of street tree options for their parking strips.  I selected Nyssa Sylvatica -Black Tupelo, two ‘After Burner’ for red leaves and one ‘Tupelo Tower’ for orange gold leaves. They were planted just in time to see their beautiful fall color.

Client Comments

Here is what Jan and Larry had to say about their experience.

“We loved our experience with Carol Lindsay of Landscape Design in a Day.  She understood us and our house and exceeded our expectations. The difference in the welcoming appeal of the house and the usability of the landscape is night and day. Her unique collaborative design process worked well for us. She suggested Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors to install and our experience with Donna was also over the top excellent.”

I love to work with landscapes in city neighborhoods.  Finding the right balance of privacy and adding value to the home and the neighborhood is a joy.  I’ve visited Jan and Larry and the friendly house several times since then.  It always feels warm and cozy.

To have your yard match your home, contact me for information on landscaping with hardscapes for your own personal style.

No Lawn Back Yard Landscape Design in Grant Park

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Water Features for Dog Friendly Landscapes

Dog friendly water feature in Willamette Heights neighborhood Portland Oregon

Jack and his water bowl

Water Features for Dog Friendly Landscapes

Lots of dogs love water.  It’s just a fact of life.

And sometimes, or maybe all of the time, when I have clients with a furry friend, the dogs “opinions” are part of the equation when designing a new landscape for the whole family.  There are many aspects of  a landscape design to consider when creating a compatible situation for two species.  Water features are one aspect.  People and dogs want to enjoy the water feature but they have different ideas about what is fun.  For people the sound of water can make a landscape feel like a garden and has a way of taking a space and turning it into a place.  Dogs have different ideas.

I started using echo chambers to create water features for my clients some 20 years ago when the echo chamber (designed by local Lew Smith) was a new thing.  They were safe for kids and easier to care for but then I saw how much the dogs loved them and that if I planned well most dogs could interact with the echo chamber water feature without harming it or themselves.

Take Jack Hofmann, a dog who knew a good thing when he saw it.

Jack and his Echo Chamber

I was hired to create a new entry design for a sweet old Portland craftsman home.  Technically the water feature was designed and placed to enhance the  new entry and to see it from inside the dining room.  Now Jack is kind of a one person dog, so he never fawned over me, much as I would have liked that. He would remember me politely when I came to check on his guardians landscape but when the water feature was installed, he claimed it immediately as his own and posed for me. He knows where his new toy came from.

I wasn’t the only one smitten by Jack’s photo. I was interviewed for an article in Houzz (check it out!) and his mug was featured in  “Protecting Your Pet From Your Yard and Your Yard From Your Pet”  a comprehensive article about dog friendly landscapes.

Jack’s “water bowl” is pottery plumbed into an Echo Chamber, which is a steel box under the pottery.  It creates an easy to care for water feature with great sound and because it has a dry return instead of a pond, it’s safer for kids.  There is no pond to worry about or a liner you need to keep safe from dog claws.  Read more about Echo Chambers in this blog post.

Water Feature for dog friendly landscape Portland, Oregon

This black lab thinks the water feature was set up to quench her thirst.

Zoey’s Spitting Frog Fountain

Some dogs specifically like to drink the water and make a game of it.  Does your dog love it when you get out the garden hose?  Your dog would love a water feature.  Zoey, a plump black lab loves water. This frog spitter fountain is an  inexpensive water feature that pleases people and the pups.  It’s safe for kids because no pond. The water pump recirculates the water through the frog and is under the round rock surface safe from doggy attention.

Remember to design access to the water for the dog and for kids too. If you plant all around it, expect those plants to be trampled.

Water Feature hydrant for dog friendly landscapeFireplug Water Feature

My client Patrick is a retired firefighter. He plumbed an old fire hydrant to use with his echo chamber.  The water feature was specifically designed for his dogs to drink out of.  The dogs loved their fire hydrant water feature and their new back yard which had two fences running parallel at the back property line.  This plant-less space between the fences was their  daily race way.

The Big Rock

Standard poodles and the neighbors kids loved the big rock (Montana Mud 8′ across) water feature which was a focal point for a home in Raliegh Hills.   I would find tiny little plastic toys and tennis balls tucked here and there, evidence of neighbor kids and tennis ball obsessed poodles who played in this water feature.  My clients thought this was adorable and loved how this unusual water feature looked with their NW Natural style front yard.

Water feature for dog friendly landscape in Raliegh Hills Portland Oregon

A fun water feature for two poodles.

 

For many people, life is better with a dog and designing a happy outdoor life for two species, not just one, is what makes happiness for this designer too.