On the Boards: Multilevel Modern Hangout

On the Boards: Multilevel Modern Hangout

This project maximizes a picturesque 6,000 SF backyard in the Los Osos hills with stately oaks and across-the-valley views. The design entirely re-envisions the patchwork and dated existing landscape, revitalizing it as a family-friendly hangout suitable for kids and adults.

The redwood fencing and gate delineate the overall space, while large format pavers provide an elegant walkway. A sand play pit and trampoline location provide entertainment areas for younger folks, while a hot tub and fire pit evoke warmth for cool Los Osos evenings. Water trough garden beds, citrus trees, and an outdoor shower provide for daytime activity.

With a significant elevation across the site, multiple elevation changes help to define rather than divide the space, increasing the area of usable landscape adjacent to the kitchen and front entry, and opening to the natural hillside beyond.

Taking inspiration from the elegant architecture of the residence, a series of 90-degree and 45-degree angles define paths of travel within the landscape, including the approach to the front door. Multi-level seating, lawn space, and retaining walls lend to the modern feel of the design.

Madrone designers made use of new Sketchup modeling and Lumion rendering abilities to assist the owners in visualizing the site elevations and general character.

On the Boards: Modern Family Retreat

On the Boards: Modern Family Retreat

With a modern design style, this family retreat features patio spaces, a deck, fireplace, water feature, lawn, play area, hot tub, retaining walls, and railing.

The main vision for this Paso Robles landscape design was to create terraced levels to accommodate family and entertain guests. This was naturally achieved using the landscape’s significant slope, which simultaneously introduced challenges and invited the opportunity for both integrated and distinctly separate spaces. With retaining walls in place and a design featuring railings and gates for the safety of children, we prioritized creating a secure design without sacrificing beauty and the natural aesthetics of the landscape.

The entertainment patio is tucked into a transitional space between an upper play area and lower deck. A fireplace and water weir feature frame two of its sides leaving it open on the third side to views of a native oak woodland.

The landscape’s functional and striking modern style was created using clean lines and uniform design elements such as concrete, cable rails, and a simple plant palette.

The Secret to Creating a Beautiful Outdoor Space

The Secret to Creating a Beautiful Outdoor Space

By Jill Bleher, Landscape Designer. Originally published in Living Lavishly VOLUME 14 Spring/Summer 2022.

As humans we seek habitats in which to dwell. This can be seen inside our homes as well as in our gardens. There are probably special things in your house that you cherish and enjoy. Maybe it is the family heirloom china displayed in a cabinet or the flat-screen TV that you use daily. These features help create an inviting space with their beauty, placement, and functionality. The approach is similar for designing an outdoor dwelling space. Have you ever visited a beautiful garden and wondered why it is so inviting? The answer is good design involving landscape features.

Landscape features are generally items that draw the eye, such as colorful pottery, a striking sculpture, or a beautiful tree. Features can also engage other senses, such as the sound of a fountain or the warmth of a firepit. Whether you have a small or a large yard, there are plenty of options for features to enhance your landscape experience. Here is an exploration of how to integrate features into your landscape retreat for the greatest effect.

Art as a Focal Point

One way to personalize and add dimension to a garden is to add artistic features. Artful focal points can be as simple as a beautiful ceramic pot or as complex as a large-scale wind sculpture. Good placement for an art feature is at the divergence of pathways, in a nook to the side of a patio, or in a space viewed from above. Uplight your art feature so you can appreciate it after dark.

When selecting art features, consider the theme of the setting. Pick a modern art piece for a contemporary landscape, place vibrant Talavera pottery in a cactus garden, or choose a stone lantern for your traditional Japanese garden. Additionally, art focal points may have sentimental value, such as a souvenir plaque from a trip or a garden statue that belonged to a family member. Ultimately, the purpose of garden art is to add meaning and beauty to the landscape.

Water and Fire Elements

Ambiance is a fundamental part of the garden setting. A well-designed landscape invites the visitor to linger and appreciate the space. Two elements that are especially good at adding ambiance to any garden are water and fire features. Consider the welcoming glow of a fire or the peaceful sound of water. It’s no wonder that both are common aspects of an inviting landscape sanctuary.

Deciding where to place a fire or water feature in the landscape is significant. Locate a fireplace or fire pit in a space where people can gather. If designing a new space, consider building a fireplace wall to partially enclose and warm a seating area. Moveable fire tables can be added to existing patios for an inviting element. Whether for roasting marshmallows or just adding light and warmth, fire features are ideal for inviting people to gather.

Since water features are sought out mainly for their sound, they can be tucked against walls or into nooks. Alternatively, they can be placed out in the center of a large space as a focal point. With so many options to choose from, it is best to match the style of your landscape. Select a steel water wall for a modern look, choose a core-drilled boulder fountain for a natural setting, or pick a tiered fountain for an Italian garden. Whatever the style, a well-placed water or fire feature will add dimension to the garden space.

Plant Selections that Pop

Perhaps the most obvious garden feature is plants. However, by their very nature plants are dynamic and not as easy to highlight as a static fountain or statue – they grow and change throughout the seasons. For this reason, picking the right plants to showcase can take some thought.

Trees and large shrubs make excellent features due to their size and often interesting forms. Some of the best trees to draw attention to are olives and oaks as they have beautiful branch structures and grow more majestic with age. A favorite large shrub to feature is the Western Redbud which bursts into bright pink blooms in early spring. Large Manzanitas or Arbutus trees are also excellent selections to choose with their red bark and gnarled forms. Accent trees at night with either uplights or hanging moonlights.

If you don’t have space for large trees, consider plants with striking architectural form such as Agaves or grasses to feature against a wall or along a pathway. Perennial blooming plants will delight seasonally. Try interplanting bulbs between other plants to add extra pops of color in spring!

Borrowed Views

One powerful tool for creating a beautiful landscape is to incorporate views. A “borrowed view” is when a distant landscape is included in the garden design. For instance, build an arbor to frame a view of neighboring vineyards or leave space between trees to view the mountains beyond. It might be years before your newly planted oak trees can be considered features, but you can highlight the view of a magnificent oak tree in the field beyond your property.

Ultimately, borrowed views are a great way to make your immediate yard feel larger and grander. It’s similar to adding a mirror on the wall in an interior room. Even a small yard will feel less enclosed if there is a view of the world beyond. Don’t lose sight of the greater landscape!

This exploration of landscape features and their applications applies to every person and every garden setting. Include one or many elements in your yard, but do it purposefully and make it personal! Seek out art features that catch your eye, add a fire or water feature to create ambiance, select plants to delight the senses, and borrow views when possible. In the end, don’t hurry the journey but enjoy the process. In so doing, turn your landscape into a dwelling space that is an expression of yourself.  After all, genuinely superb gardens are dwellings that evolve with the time and ponderous consideration of a magnificent tree.

….

Jill Bleher is a landscape designer and Cal Poly Landscape Architecture alumnus. She is passionate about designing unique landscape sanctuaries for others. When not designing yards for other people, she can most often be found in her own garden or inside creating crafts. For more information, visit Madrone Landscapes or call (805) 466-6263.

Designing a Gathering Space for the Central Coast Landscape

Designing a Gathering Space for the Central Coast Landscape

We enjoy the outdoors year-round on the Central Coast. Sunny winters and mild summer evenings are almost the expectation, so our landscapes aren’t just a beautiful space to look at; they’re a beautiful space in which to live. Whether you’re hosting dinner with friends or looking to enjoy an evening outdoors with the family, you want to get the most out of your outdoor living space. 

Here are a few good points to think about as you begin to envision a new outdoor gathering space.

 

Take note of special existing features. Good designs take cues from context; on the Central Coast, oaks often define landscape features. Or, maybe there’s a slope that can be used to create a sweeping seat wall or a rock outcrop that can play into the form of the hardscape edge. How will the gathering space relate to gates and fences, doors, and perhaps most importantly, the kitchen? Do you already have a special spot in your yard, and will converting it to a gathering space enhance its distinctive character? Outdoor gathering spaces are often situated in a specific context, providing strong clues to answering design questions.

Consider various options. You may already have a vision for how the space will look, and it may be the best solution. Think through all the options before you begin. What if the space were tucked into a different corner, on a raised redwood deck, as a sunken rock-studded fire zone, with a custom pergola integrated, or with a soft, sweeping vegetated edge. 

Consider the potential for built-in features such as fire pits, barbecues, fountains, refrigerators, coolers, sinks, seating variations, screening, and more. Planting, which often provides the smooth transition or soft edge from hardscape (such as concrete or pavers) into the larger landscape, plays a vital role in defining and elevating a space.

Design for your best use of the space. Consider how exactly how you envision the space being used over time. Be realistic, and think long-term. Here are six questions to get you started.

  • Do you need space for a cafe table for two or three, or a dining table for all the kids and grandkids? 
  • How likely are you to need shade over the space? 
  • Will you be using it primarily in the morning or the evening? 
  • How accessible does your gathering space need to be from the kitchen, indoor living spaces, or the primary bedroom? 
  • Who will use it most frequently, and will they be reading a book in the evening shade or soaking in the midafternoon sun? 
  • Does a pool deck or bocce court also fit nearby, and how does the gathering space fit into other long-term landscape goals?

Of course, if all these questions seem a bit overwhelming to tackle, you might consider hiring a landscape designer. Gathering inspiration online definitely helps to lay out a vision. Still, a professional landscape designer will help turn solid ideas into plans on paper, the first step toward an installed landscape. The more complex a project, the more potential for a designer to help streamline the process.

Interested in talking to us about your gathering space? Contact our landscape designers at [email protected] or (805) 466-6263.

On the Boards: Atascadero Oasis

On the Boards: Atascadero Oasis

Designed to succeed in the Atascadero climate, this Mediterranean-style oasis provides ample space for play, multi-functional entertainment features, and the tropical airs of the lush plant selections. The 7,000 SF design-build project is shaping up to be an inviting retreat for family and friends.

Its multi-purpose entertainment spaces include a pool, fire feature, outdoor kitchen, and reduced-footprint lawn that transitions to a patio. The custom kiva fireplace wall is built to warm colder nights and cozy up the recessed seating area just past the pool and mountable movie projector screen. The outdoor kitchen and bar seating make for picture-perfect socializing and party hosting.

Chock-full of fun elements and smooth transitions, this thoughtful and cohesive landscape is sure to be a delightful retreat for both family and guests.

Interested in talking to us about your landscape design? Contact our team at [email protected] or (805) 466-6263.