Sunday, March 18, 2012

Mission: Landscape Plan

A ton of time and effort has gone into the design of the home and now it was time for us to get something going for landscaping. I love well designed landscaping because it really helps connect the house to the land and enhances the home in so many ways:
  • Great presentation of the house as you approach.
  • Enhancing the views from inside or when you step outside.
  • Adds functionality to support how you like to live: cooking, entertaining and activities.
  • Bringing out the best in the exterior design features of the house.

To find the landscape architect that would be right for us, we turned to lots of great online resources like Houzz. As I mentioned in previous posts, I prefer to work with designers that have already done some modern-style work that we really like. I know that a good architect can roam across many styles but my confidence is just higher knowing they have actually done it. We compiled a list of promising local landscape architects and went through a process to figure out who would be the best fit for our project. In the end, we decided to go with Darwin Webb Landscape Architects. Their modern designs are really clean, fresh and I just clicked with Dar as soon as I met him.

Final Schematic Landscape Plan
We agreed on a fixed price for a schematic level landscape plan. Schematic is a term used in architecture when the focus is on the idea/concept. It would be like Detroit calling it a schematic car instead of a concept car. Super detailed dimensions and planting specifications are not part of a schematic plan. Good landscape contractors can often work from schematics as long as they have some familiarity with the features of the project. For added cost, you can transition to a construction landscape plan that has detailed specifications, a planting plan, etc.

For our first meeting at the site, I brought along our most basic list of requirements. Sure, we had some crazy landscaping ideas of our own but I thought it would be best to give Dar a chance to see the site with a fresh eye without any preconceived ideas. Our most basic requirements:
  • Something to define the boundary between our property and our neighbor to the South.
  • Privacy screening on the North side at ground level where people will pass by our dining room window.
  • Low maintenance without a traditional grass lawn.
  • A nice transition from the structured design of the house down the slope to the park ravine to the West.
  • We like bamboo and ornamental grasses.
What follows is a series of sketches and renderings that show how the schematic landscape plan started out as a super rough "napkin" sketch, to a series of concept drawings, and finally to the tighter schematic landscape rendering.

Initial "Napkin" Sketch

Variation A
Variation C
Variation B

Once Dar sent us variations A, B, and C, we went over the strengths and weaknesses of each. Dar took that input and produced the first draft of the real schematic plan. We were really loving how the plan was taking shape.

Schematic Plan First Draft

After one more round of feedback, this is the final schematic landscape plan and we couldn't be happier. The next step is some rough costing so we can see how much of this will fit in our budget or will have to be staged in later.

Schematic Plan Final

There are some really interesting modern features in this plan including gabion walls and steel planters. Here are some pictures to give you a better idea of what they are.

Full height gabion wall with river rounds

Steel planter next to gabion wall. Will end up rusted like below.

Steel retaining wall that is starting to show the rust patina


  1. It's been a pleasure working with Dar- highly recommend him to others.

  2. I just found your blog, love what you have created!!!

  3. I'm so in awe of the thought behind the look of is just so right,, you must be thrilled!

  4. Are those river rocks, in the gabion, lacquered?