Category Archives: Projects

Traditional – Modern Mix

This client started out needing to repair parts of their collapsing fence that had been built around large, mature trees.  One thing led to another and they ended up pursuing a total redesign of their back yard.  They wanted an inviting, modern design that would blend with their Park Hill traditional English Tudor home.  In addition to a new fence, their wish list included areas for sitting and entertaining around a fire pit, an outdoor kitchen and covered dining space, a hot tub, lighting and a water feature.  Several large trees and overgrown plants as well as an outgrown play structure were removed, leaving a blank slate.


The original concrete patio was replaced with a larger one with straight rather than curved lines for a more modern look.  The dining and cooking areas were located against the house for easy access from the indoor kitchen.  The dining area was covered with a pergola for shade which was strung with bistro lights for evening ambiance. The outdoor kitchen, housing a grill, smoker and refrigerator was clad with brick that matched the existing and capped with black granite.

A concrete sitting area was located in the rear corner, centered around a stone fire pit with a black granite cap large enough for resting wine glasses and small plates.  Outdoor furniture resembling what you might find in a living room was selected for seating and is accompanied by sanded wooden stools made from the original tree stumps.

A hot tub was added on the opposite side of the yard with a composite wood sitting ledge for sunning and drying off.  Lighted wood steps and cladding were used to conceal the hot tub.

Water features are one of the most calming and inviting elements of the garden.  A modern style water feature was added to the area between the dining and sitting areas so that the sound of the water could be enjoyed from either area.

Lastly, concrete pavers were used to connect the large dining and outdoor kitchen area to the adjacent sitting and hot tub areas as shown on the landscape design plan and plants were added to soften the hard edges.

Hardscape Design                                                                     Plant Design

Mid-Century Modern

This client wanted a mid-century modern feel for their new contemporary home, a style characterized by clean, simple lines, functional beauty and natural hues.  Their wish list included less grass and more planting areas, an expanded patio, a fireplace to provide privacy from the alley, a different style fence and a more level back yard.  They also wanted some play features for their children somewhere outside the main backyard space.

To make the yard more level, we built a board-formed concrete retaining wall around the perimeter of the back yard and brought in over sixty tons of soil.  A modern, semi-open fence was then added to the top of the retaining wall.  The existing concrete pad was extended and stone was laid over the top of it making a larger patio area.  A new fireplace, a mix of stone and brick, was designed to provide a private sitting area which tied together the materials in the patio and house.  Concrete slabs with joints for groundcovers were installed on two sides of the yard.  Brick trim separates the lawn from the new, larger planting beds.  To accommodate the children, an arbor was added to the long, narrow side yard from which swings and climbing bars were hung.  Climbing hydrangea will eventually cover the arbor and make for an attractive feature long after the swings are gone.

Park Hill Contemporary Remodel

This Park Hill client had just completed a remodel which included a new concrete patio and asked us to assist in finishing their backyard. They wanted a contemporary look with a fire pit, planters, a place for grilling, trees for privacy from the neighbors and lush foliage for this shady back yard.

A prefabricated fire pit and planters were selected for the patio and synthetic turf was added under the large shade tree where grass had not grown. To add to the contemporary look we added connecting concrete stepper paths to the front and back gates with an adjacent space for grilling. Lastly, Pear trees were added for privacy and plantings were selected with interesting foliage color and texture to complement the shady space.

Intimate Family HangOut

Our client had a narrow and underused back/side yard that consisted of a single tree with a small area of grass and mulch.  They wanted an extension of their existing concrete slab patio with privacy from the alley for a family hangout.  They also wanted a space to grow vegetables and compost.

Budget prohibited treatment of the existing concrete slab so we created an adjacent lower level patio to be used as a seating area which was perfect for a family hang out area.  An overhead pergola with a built in privacy screen and benches around a fire pit gave the space an intimate, enclosed feel.  All grass was removed and planted paths were added from the seating area to the front and back gates.  A raised vegetable bed was added on one side.  On the other side, the compost and air conditioner were screened from view.

Stapleton Scoop Article:

Client Testimonial:

“We had a long, narrow side yard that faced the alley and it was a totally unusable space with nothing but grass and mulch. My husband and I knew we wanted an extend patio space, privacy and shade but we had a hard time envisioning what we could do with it. Sarah did a great job taking our wish list and turning it into something that made the space totally amazing! She suggested things that I would not have thought of and picked out an amazing array of flowers and shrubs that bloom from Spring through Fall. The whole process was simple and having her oversee the project construction made it even easier! We spent more time out outside the summer it was finished than we had in the first three years we lived in the house!”
– Matt and Kristen Tenney

Modern Asian

Our clients had a large yard by Stapleton standards that did not include any builder landscaping other than a single tree.  They wanted a modern Asian feel with lawn, a sitting area around a fire pit, a shaded dining area, fruit trees, raised vegetable beds and a zen garden.

Before Photos:

Concrete was chosen as a less expensive alternative to stone combined with natural wood for a minimalist look.   The patio, fire pit and wall behind the wooden bench were constructed of concrete.  This wall not only provided a back to the bench but a sense of enclosure in the large, open yard.  A wood pergola was added over the new concrete dining patio to further tie the two materials together.  The zen garden, complete with an Asian style water feature, was placed adjacent to the sitting area with vegetable beds, fruit trees, black granite boulders and other plantings around the periphery.

After Photos:

Portland Inspired

These clients wanted a design for their uninteresting, builder-grade backyard where the adults, children and pet dogs could coexist.  They wanted a Portland Inspired casual seating area and outdoor kitchen, some art and a way to better connect their underused covered concrete porch with the rest of the yard.

First, the children’s playhouse was moved to the side of the house with a path connecting it to the patio.  A casual sitting area with a coffee table large enough to place dinnerware on and high enough to pull chairs up to allowed the space to maximize its function, serving as both sitting and dining area.  A screen was added behind the furniture to provide a backdrop that frames the area.  Grape vine was planted at its base as the owner enjoys having fruiting plants.  To connect the existing covered porch to the rest of the yard, the same Pennsylvania Blue flagstone used for the patio was added to the top of the concrete pad.  The railing around the porch was removed and replaced with planter beds against the porch to avoid a sharp drop off and new steps lead to the lower area.  A built-in kitchen was added to the covered porch, located adjacent to the kitchen door and includes a storage place for their smoker.  A beautiful, artistic bronze architectural screen was added to break up the garage wall.  A water feature and outdoor lighting were included to enhance the ambience.  The plantings were designed to provide a lush, full look that focused more on interesting foliage than flowers.

Updated Prairie Style

This client wanted to redesign their small front yard and porch with an updated prairie style for their craftsman home. The round columns installed by the builder were the only round element on the front elevation and they disliked the traditional white porch railing and steep, uninteresting composite wood steps with a railing.

The round columns were replaced with new square columns with simple, clean lines more in keeping with the door, exposed rafters and multi-pane windows.  When the fiberglass columns were removed and the structural posts exposed, a sag in the posts was revealed and a structural engineer was brought in to replace them and reinforce the porch ceiling before new trim was added.  To add a more contemporary look, the vertical wood railing on the porch was replaced with stainless steel rods run horizontally with a matching sliding porch gate to contain the family dog.  The existing composite wood steps were redesigned to be more gradual and reflect the long, low horizontal lines typical of the prairie style.  Natural local stone laid in an ashlar pattern replaced the composite wood and stainless steel lights were installed in the risers. A stone wall was added across the front of the porch with the same feel as the steps and the ground level beds were outlined with stone edging.

Plantings included symmetrical massings of ornamental grasses and low perennials and groundcovers with interesting textural foliage that repeat the horizontal line of the prairie land and sky.

The backyard, redesigned several years prior to the front reflects a consistent style and use of  materials.

Note: This project won a first place 2013 C.A.R.E. Award for Landscape Remodeling. The CARE awards (Colorado Awards for Remodeling Excellence) are sponsored by the Homebuilder’s Association of Metro Denver.

Client Testimonial:
“Sarah worked with us in completely remodeling our front and back yards – plants and hardscape. She provided lots of great ideas and worked with us in modifying the design until we were all happy with it. We have had SO many compliments on the finished product. We would work with her again!” – Jen Tryggestad

Colorado Zen

This client had plans to relocate to Denver from San Francisco when they contracted with Urban Gardens long distance to design their backyard which was a blank slate in the Lowry neighborhood.

Their vision for the backyard was to have a space with a “Colorado Zen” feel and an elegant, minimalist aesthetic. They wanted to use the space to for entertaining with a pergola to shade their dining table and a conversation area with a fire pit for summer parties. They also wanted a native landscape that required minimal water and maintenance and a place to grow their own vegetables and herbs.

The contemporary feel of their updated craftsman home was reinforced by drawing on Asian influences common to the craftsman style.  Broad, parallel lines typical of the craftsman style were used to break up the slope and create different functional areas.  Materials like wood, stone, concrete and pebbles with contrasting smooth and rough textures were incorporated and the three colors in the house, light grey, dark grey, and white, were repeated to create a harmonious color palette.  Massings of xeric plants such as ornamental grasses and those with architectural interest and interesting texture were included throughout the plan.

Note: This project won a first place 2013 C.A.R.E. Award for Landscape Remodeling. The CARE awards (Colorado Awards for Remodeling Excellence) are sponsored by the Homebuilder’s Association of Metro Denver.

Historic 17th Avenue Parkway

This family owns a beautiful old home on Park Hill’s historic 17th Avenue Parkway. Their backyard was a long, narrow yard with a lot of lawn, large overgrown plants, a different style of old worn fence on each side of the property, and a small rectangular patio against the house. They were interested in reducing the amount of lawn, adding more trees, changing the shape of the patio, having a small kids play area and a place to grow vegetables.

The hardscape plan included a combination of classic curves and straight lines, more in keeping with the elegant, historic architecture. A more generous patio constructed of red flagstone edged with aged brick was added which was surrounded by a raised brick planter bed/seat wall for an intimate feeling. Planting beds along the perimeter of the yard were enlarged and edged with aged brick. Overgrown plants were replaced with plants of a smaller scale in a color palette of purple, white, and yellow with a small amount of pink and magenta for accent. A new fence was added as was a raised stripstone (a cut of sandstone) wall at the back of the yard for growing vegetables. A children’s play area was tucked away on the perimeter of the yard where it could be viewed from the patio without being right in the middle of the yard. Lastly, the brick from the original patio was used to build brick paths connecting the patio to the front and back gates.

Craftsman Style

When we first met with these clients who live in the Stapleton Development in NE Denver, they were unhappy with their builder landscaping. They wanted more interest for their front yard with a raised bed, a little grass and landscape lighting we encouraged them to consider redesigning their front steps which were not wide enough and to consider covering their concrete porch with the same material we would use for the new hardscape.

The first step was to develop a hardscape plan that complemented the lines of the architecture in their craftsman style home. I developed a couple of different design concepts and they chose the one they liked best. At this point, we also considered several different material options. We ultimately decided to use the same brick in the house for the walk, the stair risers and as trim on the porch and stair treads. We used a dark lilac colored sandstone as the cap on the wall, on the stair treads, and on the porch. A buff colored stripstone (a cut of sandstone) was used for the wall.

Details included an inset of lilac sandstone in the brick walk and beautiful craftsman style post-mounted light fixtures which were added to each of the four columns. Porch furniture was painted the same color as the siding on the upper level. Lastly, a planting plan was completed which utilized burgundy and silver/blue foliage along with red, purple, pink and white flowers.

Client Testimonial:

“Sarah’s creative ideas have transformed our yard into a beautiful, relaxing haven. She is wonderful to work with, knowledgeable about all aspects of landscaping and has a keen eye for what works. Sarah not only provides exceptional designs, she manages each aspect of the implementation so every detail is covered. She personally checked on the progress of our project, gave us frequent updates, and identified and handled potential issues. With Sarah, we discovered how enjoyable landscaping can be and how exciting it is to see creative ideas come to life. Working with her is a true pleasure, and we highly recommend her without reservation.” -Sheila & Andy Knudsen