Kirkland Sneak Peek

Here’s a sneak peek of an outdoor living space in Kirkland that we photographed this morning.  Thanks to John Granen and his assistant Ben Schauland for photographing this space and a number of other SEI gardens and a few outdoor living spaces over the past weeks.

Stay tuned!  We’ll be updating our website soon to with these projects.


A friend who is in Israel for a wedding sent me this picture.  I love how something so simple – umbrellas – become something wonderfully beautiful when used en masse and in an inventive way.  These colorful umbrellas reminded me of a picture I took earlier this summer of a recently renovated apartment building on Eastlake.

Each apartment front door is a painted vivid accent color. Together, the doors create a colorful, dynamic and wonderfully unexpected and happy facade for what is otherwise a drab and monotonous building.  I love how these apartment doors illustrate that you can often achieve spectacular results with simple, inventive changes.



Sneak Peek

It’s been a busy and exciting Spring and Summer at SEI. We’ve been working on many interesting projects — from tiny back yards in Capital Hill, Green Lake and Montlake designed to maximize outdoor living, to a spectacular terrace garden high above Second Avenue in downtown Seattle, to a landscape for a traditional Japanese Tea House. Our website will soon be updated with some new projects as well.

Here’s a sneak peek at the Second Avenue Terrace garden.

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Shades of Green

I know we’re all getting tired of this year’s rainy and cloudy spring.  I just heard someone refer to it as “Maytober”.  There is one positive aspect of this, however.  All the cloudy and overcast days are great backdrops to showcase our gardens and all the different colors of green as the new foliage emerges. Pantone must have had this in mind when they selected this year’s color of the year – “Greenery”.  As I was putting my daughter to bed a couple nights ago, I looked out into the garden and enjoyed all the different shades of green – made all the more vivid by another cloudy Seattle day.



Where Are The Plants?

Here’s an outdoor living space we finished last year in Kirkland.  I like how the mix of materials, colors and patterns make the space visually interesting and give it a lot of energy.  The space looks great all year round and appears much bigger than it is.  In fact, there are just a few plants – the columnar Aspen, evergreen Jasmine,  and Creeping Jenny and Hops vine in the steel planter.  The plants peaking over the top of the fence are borrowed landscape thanks to the neighbor’s privet hedge.  One strategy we often use when designing small spaces is creating a stunning hardscape design that provide privacy and visual interest all year.

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Small Gardens, Big Ideas. Garden Design Magazine Highlights an SEI Garden

The current issue of Garden Design magazine includes a great article with 20 strategies for designing small spaces.  Read Functionally Carefree to learn about my philosophy of “making every element count – at least twice" in a small space and see a wonderful backyard retreat in Greenwood.

You can pick up a copy of Garden Design at Barnes and Noble – or better yet, subscribe.  Garden Design is a quarterly 148 page coffee table worthy magazine – with no ads!  Each issue is filled with stunning gardens and great articles on design and plants.  Here’s a special link from Garden Design for a free issue with your subscription.


What’s Old is New

A few years ago, Sunset magazine featured my garden in Small Yard Makeovers.  They recently re-released this special edition.  It will be on newsstands until May 12th.  It has lots of inspiring gardens and design ideas. One of favorite pictures is this simple collection of containers designed by Daniel Nolan.  Daniel works for Flora Grubb in San Francisco. If you don’t know about Flora, her store or her coffee shop, check her out here.  Click here to read more about my garden.

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Sunset Magazine-Pots


Thanks Sawyer!

Recently,  I was getting ready to leave a job site when the client came out and said her 5 year old son had something for me.  I went inside and he gave me a  ‘work order’ with a few things he wanted included in the garden. He let me know that he definitely didn’t want a chalkboard outside as he and his little sister already had one inside.  However, he was adamant that we include a hot tub and soccer field in the plan. The picture at the bottom of his work order is a hot tub.

We designed the backyard to be a very fun, interactive and adventurous play space for Sawyer and his sister.  Part of this includes five large circular steel planters.  I jokingly told his parents we could leave one of the circular planters empty and line it with a blue tarp.  They could then fill it up with warm water – and voila – they would have a hot tub.  If you want a good laugh, do an Internet search with the keyword “blue tarp pools” or check out this link to see DIY hot tubs.

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Keeping the Job Site Safe and Tidy

At the end of every work day, each foreman sends me a few pictures of the day’s progress.  Here’s one that Aniceto sent recently. In addition to seeing the progress of this stone wall near Green Lake, the picture shows a few other elements that are an important part of every SEI job:  safety and tidiness.  Note the temporary guardrail at the landing and caution tape at the top of the slope and that all tools are put away and the work area is clean.

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A Picture Says a Thousand Words

I was scrolling through the photos on my phone this evening when this picture caught my attention.  It is of a garden on Capitol Hill that we installed last winter.  The reason I originally took this picture – and why it caught my attention again – is that it captures the essence of much of our work.

There is a strong hardscape design with a mix of materials, so the garden looks great all year long.  Interesting details (like the shadow line on the stair’s riser and the Ipe cap on the stone seat wall) add richness.  The planting offers a great visual contrast to the hardscape in both its texture and color.  And what you can’t see from this are the multiple outdoor living spaces.  I look forward to sharing more about this garden in the coming months – especially the Mugnaini wood burning pizza oven.