ISSUE 33  |  Untamed Gardens

Best Professionally Designed Landscape: Outer Space Landscape Architecture

August 23, 2015 4:00 PM

BY Meredith Swinehart

The winner of this year’s Gardenista Considered Design Awards Best Professionally Designed Landscape is Outer Space Landscape Architecture of San Francisco. 

The firm’s project was chosen as a finalist by guest judge Carolyn Mullet, who said, “Modern in form, materials, and plantings. A garden that makes one think of easy entertaining and family fun.”

N.B.: This is the last of seven posts spotlighting the winners of the 2015 Gardenista Considered Design Awards. Go to this year’s Considered Design Awards page to see all the entries, finalists, and winners, and have a look at Remodelista’s Considered Design Awards, too.

Outer Space Landscape Architecture’s Design Statement: “This modern design incorporates clean lines and mass plantings, and maximizes space by utilizing all reaches of the property. The rear includes a bocce court, trampoline, zip line and sportscourt, dining areas, a kitchen with counter seating and a fire pit, extensive area for edibles, and bird, bee, and butterfly habitat.”

Q: What does your firm specialize in?
A: We do mostly residential work, although we would love to get into other areas of the field. While we prefer working on modern projects, all of our designs tend to have clean lines that are softened or accented by textural plantings. We take pride in listening to our clients’ needs as well as taking into account the project site to create gardens that our clients can enjoy as an extension of their homes.

Q: Who worked on the winning project? 
A: This project was a close collaboration with our clients and the architects, Russ Dotter and Wencke Solfjeld of Dotter & Solfjeld Design and Architecture. The garden was implemented by AT Landscaping, and photographs were taken by Michele Lee Willson Photography, as well as our clients’ teenage son, who took the stunning photo of the front fountain (below.)

Q: What were your practical goals for the project?
A: We created the garden for an active family of five. Our goals included a statement entry, a driveway that would double as a basketball court, areas for entertaining and relaxing, areas for sports and games including a large playing field, trampoline, zip line, and bocce court, as well as a private contemplative garden at the front of the property and an extensive edible garden.

Q: What solutions did you find to your design problems?
A: The living room was designed with NanaWall doors that open both to the front and rear of the property. We wanted to create a serene, contemplative space at the front of the property, but wanted to create privacy form the entry and street. A gabion wall and small olive orchard provide a buffer from the street, and a frosted glass screen provides the needed privacy while being a design feature for both the entry and courtyard.

Q: What are your favorite features of the project?
A: While we love the gabion wall and the glass privacy wall, I think our favorite feature is the planting. We had so much fun working on different vignettes throughout the property. We love the multi-trunk Arbutus ‘Marina’ in a sea of Festuca mairei, which evokes the hills of California. The herbs, edibles, and perennials provide a habitat for birds and butterflies, and the front planting–full of grasses and striking succulents–provides texture and interest to complement the architecture. The best part of the planting is that our clients’ teenage son collects leaves and flowers from most of the plants to create the most stunning floral arrangements. We are thrilled to have provided the canvas for his creativity.

Q: Where do you get your design inspiration?
A: We are fortunate to live in such a gorgeous area, and get much of our inspiration from the natural landscape. Also, every client and project is unique; we listen closely to their needs and desires, then use that as inspiration to tackle the design. And Pinterest–we spend far too much time on Pinterest.

Q: What is your favorite local shop or garden nursery? 
A: Without a doubt, Flora Grubb Gardens in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. They always have the best plants in ever-changing inspiring displays, a Ritual Coffee cafe, and if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of their resident snowshoe kitty, Cammy, soaking up some rays of sunshine.

Q: Which garden designers, gardeners, or landscape architects do you admire?  
A: We love, love, love Andrea Cochran. Her designs are innovative, yet always timeless, and always blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. We also love Bernard Trainor, and Piet Oudolf for his wizardry with plants.