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Landscape Design Visit: ‘Moving Art’ in a San Francisco Yard by Talc Studio

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Landscape Design Visit: ‘Moving Art’ in a San Francisco Yard by Talc Studio

September 13, 2023

The Outer Sunset of San Francisco is “a neighborhood on the edge of the world, a city suburb built on sand dunes, where it is miraculous to even grow a garden on,” says Anastasia Sonkin, co-founder of landscape design firm Talc Studio. “It’s a tough place to plant given the extreme coastal climate conditions—sun, fog, salt, wind, and sand.”

Yet, it is in this very part of the city that we recently spotted a backyard oasis alive with greenery. A miracle? No, just the handiwork of Talc Studio. “That’s where many of the first gardens we made live, and that climate has become one of our specialties,” says Anastasia.

Prior to Talc’s involvement, the backyard was a “big sand pit,” she says. “We would reach our hands into the sand and find relics like marbles, seashells, old concrete, bricks.” Their clients wanted lushness where there was once barrenness. They also asked for a greenhouse that could double as a reading nook, an outdoor dining area, decor and furniture by true artisans. And they wanted to be comfortable walking barefoot outside.

Below, Anastasia and her co-founder, Taylor Palmer, explain how they delivered everything on the homeowners’ wish list. “Gardens are where nature, people, and a particular place find each other. It’s an incredible opportunity to design that unity,” says co-founder Taylor Palmer. “To us it’s moving art—because it’s growing, living, dying, and regenerating.”

Photography by Jorden DeGaetano, courtesy of Talc Studio.

&#8\2\20;Our main inspiration for the garden came from iconic California coastal designs—such as the boardwalks at Sea Ranch and the glass windows from the Eames House (case study house #8 located in the Pacific Palisades),&#8\2\2\1; says Anastasia.
Above: “Our main inspiration for the garden came from iconic California coastal designs—such as the boardwalks at Sea Ranch and the glass windows from the Eames House (case study house #8 located in the Pacific Palisades),” says Anastasia.
 &#8\2\20;A lot of people associate grass with lawns. Our approach is quite the opposite, using the rare, the unsung, the lesser known that make up our native grasslands,&#8\2\2\1; says Taylor. For this garden, the team selected a fescue mix to create a soft, undulating prairie look.
Above:  “A lot of people associate grass with lawns. Our approach is quite the opposite, using the rare, the unsung, the lesser known that make up our native grasslands,” says Taylor. For this garden, the team selected a fescue mix to create a soft, undulating prairie look.
The greenhouse, constructed from local redwood, was designed by Bay Area woodworker Nobuto Suga and inspired by the glass windows of the Eames House, as well as work by other California modernist designers. Where they could, Anastasia and Taylor worked to keep the few plants that thrived from the old yard, like the majestic San Pedro cactus that stands next to the greenhouse.
Above: The greenhouse, constructed from local redwood, was designed by Bay Area woodworker Nobuto Suga and inspired by the glass windows of the Eames House, as well as work by other California modernist designers. Where they could, Anastasia and Taylor worked to keep the few plants that thrived from the old yard, like the majestic San Pedro cactus that stands next to the greenhouse.
&#8\2\20;Nobuto came up with other clever custom details, too, like a sliding door, pressure popper skylight, and copper piping as shelf brackets,&#8\2\2\1; says Anastasia.
Above: “Nobuto came up with other clever custom details, too, like a sliding door, pressure popper skylight, and copper piping as shelf brackets,” says Anastasia.
&#8\2\20;Grass is a grounding element that stitches together the various planting zones throughout the landscape. This ignites so much movement,&#8\2\2\1; says Taylor. &#8\2\20;We love grass. When in doubt, plant more grass.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: “Grass is a grounding element that stitches together the various planting zones throughout the landscape. This ignites so much movement,” says Taylor. “We love grass. When in doubt, plant more grass.”
&#8\2\20;We&#8\2\17;ve always struggled to find outdoor lighting that we liked, so we approached our friend Rico Duenas, a union electrician and a working artist. He makes sculptures using electricity. We collaborated on the design using brass cups that patina over time—a perfect material to withstand the coastal conditions,&#8\2\2\1; says Taylor.
Above: “We’ve always struggled to find outdoor lighting that we liked, so we approached our friend Rico Duenas, a union electrician and a working artist. He makes sculptures using electricity. We collaborated on the design using brass cups that patina over time—a perfect material to withstand the coastal conditions,” says Taylor.
The green dining set is by the designers&#8\2\17; friend Shin Okuda of Waka Waka; the tiled table is a collaboration between Talc and Nobuto Suga. &#8\2\20;The clients have eclectic taste and incorporated a range of colors, textures, old and new pieces throughout their interiors, so we wanted to carry that beat into the garden,&#8\2\2\1; shares Anastasia. &#8\2\20;We called upon our favorite builders, artists, and designers to complement their style.&#8\2\2\1;
Above: The green dining set is by the designers’ friend Shin Okuda of Waka Waka; the tiled table is a collaboration between Talc and Nobuto Suga. The clients have eclectic taste and incorporated a range of colors, textures, old and new pieces throughout their interiors, so we wanted to carry that beat into the garden,” shares Anastasia. “We called upon our favorite builders, artists, and designers to complement their style.”
Large sliding glass doors open directly onto the redwood deck. The eucalyptus wood stools and table are by Ido Yoshimoto.
Above: Large sliding glass doors open directly onto the redwood deck. The eucalyptus wood stools and table are by Ido Yoshimoto.
Thriving in this corner of the garden is a willowy Acacia iteaphylla shrub, Grevillea juniperina ‘Pink Lady’, and Salvia clevlandii. &#8\2\20;We&#8\2\17;ve experimented with a range of California/Australian/New Zealand coastal plants in our personal backyard gardens in the neighborhood, so we put the best ones to the test in this project,&#8\2\2\1; says Taylor.  The white sling chair is by New Zealander Ryder Jones.
Above: Thriving in this corner of the garden is a willowy Acacia iteaphylla shrub, Grevillea juniperina ‘Pink Lady’, and Salvia clevlandii. “We’ve experimented with a range of California/Australian/New Zealand coastal plants in our personal backyard gardens in the neighborhood, so we put the best ones to the test in this project,” says Taylor.  The white sling chair is by New Zealander Ryder Jones.
Above: Texture and movement.

For another Talc Studio project we admire, see:

For more Outer Sunset projects, see:

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Frequently asked questions

What is the concept behind the design of Outer Sunset Yard?

The concept behind the design of Outer Sunset Yard is to create an outdoor space that reflects the modern aesthetic of the home and provides a tranquil oasis for the homeowners.

How did Talc Studio approach the design process?

Talc Studio approached the design process of Outer Sunset Yard by carefully considering the site's unique characteristics, the homeowners' needs and preferences, and creating a harmonious balance between functionality and aesthetics.

What materials were used in the construction of Outer Sunset Yard?

Materials used in the construction of Outer Sunset Yard include wood and natural stones.

Can I hire Talc Studio for my own landscape design project?

Yes, Talc Studio is a professional landscape design firm that can be hired for landscape design projects.

Where can I find more information about Talc Studio's other projects?

You can find more information about Talc Studio and their other projects on their website or by contacting them directly.

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