Not quite fully baked projects

With landscape design portfolio pages, you typically only want to showcase pretty pictures of finished projects. What’s a bit of a bummer about that is that it takes a good 2-3 years for a landscape to fill in and start looking like something. We’re doing cool stuff NOW. If you follow us on Facebook or Instagram you get to see progress photos from time to time, but this section curates them in one place. I’ll update this page a few times a month so you can see what we’re working on, even if it’s not quite ready for prime time!

Arlington – a steep hillside landscape design

A fairly new home on an infill lot in Arlington is a great find for a growing family. And twelve foot ceilings in the basement are amazing, but they come at a price:

Yep, that’s the access to the backyard if you don’t want to go through the house! It’s also become a bit of an erosion issue, as a lot of water gets funneled into that narrow little strip of soil. As they say in the infomercials, “There has to be a better way.”

Building off the patio we constructed in the fall of 2016, we built a set of timber steps to the driveway – 38 steps, if I remember right. Wide flagstone landings at intervals make it a comfortable staircase to use, and using the natural grade to help us place the landings will help the steps feel like a natural part of the landscape as they weather. Against the house, drystacked fieldstone walls create tiered planters that also slow the flow of water. On the other side, a swale built from angular stone prevents erosion and keeps our new stairs from dumping water onto the neighboring property. Don’t worry, in a couple of years the cotoneaster we planted will soften the look of the stone swale.

We solved a few problems at the top of the hill as well. Because the house sits lower than the street, a lot of water was rushing towards the garage and down the hill. You can just see the river rocks in the upper left of the photo; here, we installed a 12″x12″ box drain and piped the water into the stone swale. At some point when the clients redo the driveway, we can also install a channel drain in front of the garage doors and tie that in to the box drain as well.

The clients also needed a spot to store their trash cans. We made the flagstone pad at the top wide enough to accommodate all three cans in a gravel area at the edge of the pad. Still to come: plantings to replace the sad grass next to the flagstone pad, and a railing!

Sperryville landscape design

We’re currently up to our armpits in a full property landscape renovation in Sperryville, VA. We worked with these clients at their home in Fairfax, and when they purchased this property I jumped at the chance to make it beautiful. The details: home was built 20-25 years ago. The property was well cared for, but there were no major improvements done. Additionally, while the home originally had panoramic views, a bunch of scrub trees had grown up in the interim. You can just catch the barest glimpses of the view in this photo.

sperryville landscape mountain views

So what’s the plan? EVERYTHING! The design includes an expansion of the ground level deck, a seat wall, new stone walkways, two water features, loads of plantings, and landscape lighting. We also brought in a local contractor to selectively clear some of the undesirable trees and open up the views. You can see how successful we were at getting some of the views back below – prettiest concrete pour I’ve seen in forever!

concrete pour in Sperryville VA with beautiful mountain views in the background

What they’re doing in that pic, above, is pouring the concrete base for the new flagstone walk. Here’s what it looked like after the pour:

freshly poured concrete walk in Sperryville VA

If you’re wondering what those indentations/trenches in the concrete are, you’ll love what’s coming next! The design of the front walk calls for flagstone squares and rectangles with bands of 4″ cobblestone cubes at intervals. We had to create those depressions in the concrete because the cubes are 4″ thick and the flagstone is 1″ thick. It’s the best way to ensure that we have a consistent, smooth surface. Here’s a picture of what it looked like before pointing up:

flagstone walk with cobblestone banding

And now, the finished walk!

Sperryville Water Feature

An important piece of this project is getting the homeowners out in the backyard. When I first got there the backyard was anything BUT welcoming:

What could you possibly do between the end of the deck and the start of the hill? NOTHING, that’s what! So we extended the deck and created a seat wall at the end of the deck.

That still left us with a big, boring grassy slope. To create something gorgeous and visible from multiple angles, we created a water feature that appears to begin from a natural spring, flows down the hill, and ends in a small pond. It took only a few days before the frogs moved in!

Since then we’ve added an even bigger water feature out front, planted and sodded, and we’ll be doing the lighting soon too. Keep checking back!

Manassas swimming pool and total landscape

The client owns a beautiful Victorian home in Manassas and wanted a landscape that reflected the home’s elegance and timeless appeal. Additionally, they wanted to create a backyard oasis for their family. The design brief centered around a swimming pool and pavilion. From there, we designed ample patio space, an outdoor kitchen, and loads of plantings. The city was pretty tough on us, wanting to ensure that the overall design suited the home and neighborhood. I think we rocked it out. Here are a few key elements:

The pool

swimming pool with brick pool deck in manassas va

The pool is 22’x40′, which is a great size for everything from hectic pool parties to solitary lap swimming. The pool decking is a brick paver that plays well with the vintage of the home and feels comfortable under bare feet. The flagstone coping, step treads, and banding help tie the pool decking to the flagstone pad below the pavilion.

The pavilion itself is an open-sided wood pool pavilion, with everything wrapped in composite trim to cut down on maintenance. We even matched the metal roof of the pavilion to the roof of the main house. Inside the pavilion, the homeowner is set up for entertaining! A U-shaped outdoor kitchen stocked with Fire Magic appliances was designed for a serious cook. You can see the tv in the back corner, and naturally the whole pavilion is wired for surround sound.

We didn’t just design the backyard. There’s a whole new front landscape, including a grand entrance with columns and stone steps.


Mountain Run Winery

One of the things I love about living in Culpeper is that all those DC area folks think this is an amazingly gorgeous area. They’re right, I’m just amused that they also seem to think this is the back side of beyond. It’s under two hours, people. Come on.

Anyhow, a lot of people want to come out here to get married in a beautiful setting. What’s more beautiful than one of Virginia’s farm wineries? The wonderful folks at Mountain Run Winery want to make their property something special for people getting married, and they hired us to design and install a patio and arbor for the ceremony site.

wedding arbor at Mountain Run Winery Culpeper VA

We created a two-tiered flagstone patio. The raised center portion, for the couple and their officiant, is set off with a medallion of irregular flagstone and a border of custom cut, curved flagstone slabs. The “wings”, where the wedding party stands, are a simple random-pattern flagstone. The arbor was custom designed and fabricated from cedar, and stained for a rich color.

culpeper flagstone patio

I’m always proud of the detail that goes into our projects, both on the design end and on the install end (Juan is amazingly talented). Here you can see how clean the cuts and the patterning are, and how the small details have such big impact.

Old House Vineyards

We’ve done a lot of work for Old House Vineyards and the owners for pretty much the entire time I’ve been in business. The place looks amazing, but the down side is that some rude people act like this private farm winery is now a public park. Can you imagine having to chase random people off your property because they brazenly decided to bring a cooler of beer and a picnic dinner after your business closes for the day? People are… special.

gate and walls at Old House Vineyards Culpeper VA

To combat this we’re installing a gate. Because this is such a big property and we’ve done some pretty spectacular Culpeper landscape projects in the past, though, it was never going to be “just” a gate. Massive walls flank the driveway and provide a means of concealing the functional-yet-boring gate while the winery is open for business, and columns visually extend the whole affair to give it more scale and oomph.

stone columns at Old House Vineyards

Two details (we like the details here, have you noticed?) make this gate special. First, the stone. You may notice that it looks different from most wall stones or veneers. There’s good reason for that. Rather than use a veneer stone or even a stone that’s split for use as a wall stone, I selected a regular, thick Pennsylvania fieldstone. Each of the 17 (!) pallets contained a full range of stones, from small to large and rounded to angular. Juan was cursing me out at first, but he quickly figured out how to make the stone sing. I chose this for my stone because Old House Vineyards sits on an old farm property. I grew up around old farm walls in New England, and I wanted a similar feel.

stone wall with copper pot still

The other detail was incorporating elements of the property’s current uses into the walls themselves. In the first photo, if you look behind Bonnie the Amazing Landscape Dawg, you’ll see that we integrated a French oak wine barrel into the stonework. Because there’s also a distillery on property, we decided to work a copper pot still into the stonework on the other side of the driveway.

Still to come are the finished column caps, gate, fence panels, signage, plantings, and lighting. But it’s coming along!


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