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Three Weeks to a Beautiful Backyard Landscape

Backyard Landscape Project: After, at dawn: Framed redwood lattice screens the neighbor's wall, illuminated steps lead to the house while the natural gas firepit provides additional beauty to the landscape

Early October 2017 took the Tamate Landscaping team to the picturesque streetscapes of Glen Park, San Francisco. The house at 226 Fairmount Street needed a major backyard landscape overhaul. The original landscape of grass, bush and decorative plants left little room for relaxing outside.

"Backyard

 

Backyard Landscape Project: Before, from parking area

Before, from parking area

After talking with the client about the possibilities, we pinpointed the goal. We would completely open the yard up and create an additional outdoor living space that the client could utilize for relaxing and outdoor entertaining.

The Backyard Landscape Project Begins

There was no way we could use the existing grounds. We gutted the entire backyard, including the paved walkway and faded, worn out, white lattice on the side. The old lattice was covered with dying ivy, which we also removed. We removed planters in favor of a more natural, planted aesthetic, to give the whole area an open, relaxing atmosphere. It took a lot of work, but only three weeks later, we have a beautiful backyard landscape, perfect for rest or entertaining, morning, noon and night.

Beautiful Backyard Landscape – Project Complete

We replaced the old pathway with interlocking pavers from McNear, in Slatestone Olevine. The dark color variation really makes the path stand out, in day or night. The pathway runs from the front gate entrance to the house/garden.

Backyard Landscape Project: After, pathway made from McNear Interlocking Paver in Slatestone Olevine

After, pathway made from McNear Interlocking Paver in Slatestone Olevine

Two steps down from the parking area, we installed a new redwood deck, large enough for several guests. The deck includes large planter boxes for decorative plants as well as strategic lighting. Step lights and path lights and uprights give the area a soft glow.

Backyard Landscape Project: New redwood deck with large planter boxes, step lights, path lights and uprights

After: New redwood deck with large planter boxes, step lights, path lights and uprights

The planter boxes are made of new redwood combined with reclaimed cedar from the site. The two colors really helped pull the shifting gray of the pavers together with the red of the deck.

 

 

 

Backyard Landscape Project: Planter boxes made of new redwood with reclaimed onsite cedar, hold decorative plants and upright lighting

After: Planter boxes made of new redwood with reclaimed onsite cedar, hold decorative plants and upright lighting

 

Backyard Landscape Project: Close-up of planter and back plant bed

After: Close-up of planter and back plant bed

Fresh, clean redwood lattice replaced the old, faded lattice. Not only does it provide a brighter backdrop, but it also hides the neighbor’s unsightly outer walls. Dying ivy and planters were removed in favor of decorative plants placed directly into the newly mulched plant bed. Back lighting provides additional illumination.

Backyard Landscape Project: Redwood lattice, decorative plants and backlighting

After: Redwood lattice, decorative plants and backlighting

We also replaced the stairs to the house with redwood and reclaimed, onsite cedar. Inset step lighting softens the darkness of the stairs.

Backyard Landscape Project: View of deck, lattice and stair lighting from the path

After: View of deck, lattice and stair lighting from the path

An additional interlocking paver patio holds a natural gas fire pit, as well as lighting on a 3-circuit remote switch. The fire pit is an iron dish provided by the client, which we customized to accept a natural gas fire ring. The pit is now permanently tied into the gas line, so it can be used at any time.

 

Backyard Landscape Project: Lower patio, made with interlocking pavers, holds a fire pit made from an Iron dish, customized to accept a natural gas fire ring

After: Lower patio, made with interlocking pavers, holds a fire pit made from an Iron dish, customized to accept a natural gas fire ring

 

Backyard Landscape Project: Close up of natural gas fire pit

After: Close up of natural gas fire pit

I think you’ll agree, the final product is breathtaking!

Backyard Landscape Project: After, at dawn: Framed redwood lattice screens the neighbor's wall, illuminated steps lead to the house while the natural gas firepit provides additional beauty to the landscape

After, at dawn: Framed redwood lattice screens the neighbor’s wall, illuminated steps lead to the house while the natural gas fire pit provides additional beauty to the landscape

 

Garden Design: Waterfalls, Stone Walkways and a 1,000 Pound Boulder

Before Landscaping Project

76 Castro Street, San Francisco

 

We love challenging landscape projects; we must. During a landscape project in Laurel Heights, we moved three large boulders and all the landscaping materials through the owner’s home. This time, it was easy; this time, we just had to move one boulder – up a flight of stairs to the back yard.

Pressed up against the edge of Duboce Triangle, a “walker’s paradise,” 76 Castro Street has an unassuming, genteel front that blends in with its neighbors. The backyard we were shown matched the look of the front, though looking worn down.

 

Before Landscaping Project

The owner wanted a complete rebuild  of the backyard, from the ground up. We gutted the entire back yard, including a deck. The only features that remained of the original setting were two mature maple trees. We designed the garden around the maple trees, so as not to disturbed them.

Steel Plate Installation

The new garden design including a stone retaining wall, replacing a weather-worn, wooden one. The old fencing we replaced with new, horizontal redwood fencing.

We also added a fire pit in the center. In the background of the picture above is a huge steel plate that we sent away to have bent by a huge hydraulic press. The plate makes a deflector for the custom gas fire pit.

Moving a Foundation Boulder Craning a 1,000 lb Boulder into Place

The most challenging part of this project was, as mentioned in the beginning, moving yet another large boulder. The boulder would become the base of a small stone cascade.

We also added new IPE decking, as well as a flagstone patio and a basalt bridge that leads across a stone creek. By the new retaining wall is the tinkling sound of water from the small stone cascade.

Basalt Bridge

Landscaping Project: After

Landscaping Project: After, Recirculating Cascade

Finally, we installed landscape lighting to provide warm tones at night.

Landscape Lighting at Night, Finished Project

Landscape at Night - Night lightning on Finished Project

Landscape at Night

It was a fun project, and we think the pictures speak for themselves!

Are you interested in renovating your backyard landscape? Contact Tamate Landscaping to discuss your project.

Contemporary Landscape Design: Building Around a Focal Point in Laurel Heights

156 Parker Avenue, Laurel Heights, San Francisco, Front View

156 Parker Avenue, Laurel Heights, San Francisco, Front View

Laurel Heights is a neighborhood in sunny San Francisco that shows a bit of the wide variety the whole city holds. It’s sometimes called the “model suburb”. This beautiful area is full of two-story Edwardian and Victorian style homes, as well as modern counterparts; blending contemporary landscape design into it isn’t necessarily easy.

It offers trendy restaurants and chic shops; it intersects entertaining city life with calm residential places. And if all that isn’t enough, Laurel Heights was chosen as one of the most popular neighborhoods for renters in San Francisco in February.

As we reached our client’s home at 156 Parker Avenue, we could see why. The house itself is beautiful, with well-tended plants at the front. The back wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what the client was looking for, either.

Before the landscaping project begins

The client wanted a peaceful, contemporary retreat where they could escape the challenges of city life. They had purchased a natural rock sculpture that weighed over one ton, and wanted us to design a garden to showcase it. The rock sculpture and an accompanying water feature were to be the focal point.

We came up with a design in which the sculpture would be installed in a custom-made concrete water basin. Two troughs would empty water into the basin from the left and right, pointing toward the sculpture. Once the design was finished, we got to work.

Our first step was to replace the old fence with custom fences. These fences were built all the way around, using finished redwood that was fastened in horizontally. Supervisor Dukey the Dog surveyed the site and kept a watch to make sure we did the job right.

In addition to the redwood fencing a new, wrap-around redwood deck was laid to help transition from the house to the landscape. The railing is stainless cable safety railing, which allows for a contemporary look without losing its functionality or helpfulness. Once the fence was up, we could get to the really exciting part of our one-month project.

installing-fencing decking-reinforced-railing

We built the forms for the focal point and poured in the concrete. While we waited for the concrete to set, we laid the black basalt patio.

pouring-concrete-into-forms building-concrete-forms

Once the concrete had set, the basin was filled and the one-ton sculpture brought in, then craned into the finished basin. Have you ever tried to haul a one-ton sculpture through a house without breaking anything? It was a big challenge. In fact, because of the lay of the land, all of the materials had to be brought through the house and out the back door. I’m happy to say that nothing was harmed in the fulfilling of this contemporary landscape design.

Hidden from view behind the water feature is a biological filtration system with an 18 watt UV light to kill algae. We also upgraded the filtration and added an additional 40 watt UV light because that corner gets a lot of sun and can be a breeding ground for algae.

craning-in-statuecustom-water-feature-showing-irrgation-setup

When creating the design, we had envisioned a ripple effect at night, caused by the two cascades from the troughs. With the proper landscape lighting, the ripples would reflect onto the sculpture and the background behind the sculpture.

Approximately twenty light fixtures were installed on three different circuits, controlled by a remote device. We installed under lights to cause the rippling effect. The outcome was stunning.

statue-as-focal-point

As well as the water feature, the client wanted a custom-made fire pit with built-in seating so they could escape the chills of the San Francisco evening. We built the gas fire pit with the focal point as the background. The built-in seating is made out of the same warm redwood as the deck and fencing.

custom-fire-pit-with-focal-pointcustom-fire-pit-with-seating

We also brought in turquoise boulders set around the patio to double as seating.

turqouise-stone-for-seatingafter-from-bar-b-que

The Bar-B-Q area has a gas line stub out in the corner for easy hook up. It also has articulation light fixtures for illumination while cooking in the evening.

bar-b-que-setup

Before & After
Overall, we’re very pleased with the results. It exceeded our expectations, and we’re proud to add this one to our landscaping project portfolio as another job well done!

Need help on your landscaping project? Are you looking for ideas for your contemporary landscape design? Call us at 415-265-2697 or contact us for a free consultation. Let us help you realize your landscaping dreams!

after-landscaping-project-from-upper-view
Realized contemporary landscape design, from above.

San Francisco Landscaping in Asian Style

Noe Valley

Noe Valley

In October of 2014, the San Francisco landscape was parched. California struggled under an intense heat wave. Los Angeles reached 92 degrees by noon. The LAUS school district cancelled all outside activities and sports for the rest of the week, and inland temperatures reached over the 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the weekends. It was hot.

While the ground sweltered and cracked, Los Angeles took on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the National League Division Series… and Tamate Landscaping moved into Noe Valley to make that part of the country a little wetter, prettier, and a whole lot more stylish.

Noe Valley CracksBefore Noe Valley

This time, our client was a return visitor. Previously, they had wanted Tamate Landscaping to build a roof top garden when they lived in the Mission. Eventually they sold the place, and bought a new home in Noe Valley.

This time, the project was to update the front entrance and backyard with an Asian flair. It took some time and a lot of custom work, but we got it done. Judge for yourself how well it turned out!

Curb Appeal

For the front, we focused on curb appeal. What once started with a mismatched brick and stone entrance now has beautiful, matching planters, custom-made by Tamate Landscaping. All together there are three: two on each side of the pathway to the front door and one on the other side of the driveway.

Each planter was built with steel reinforced concrete. By reinforcing the concrete with steel, it guarantees a longer life-span for the planters. Once the concrete cured, the planters were veneered with stone. We deliberately chose stone that had color offsets rather than a uniform l0ok, to provide a more “authentic” feel. Finally, the walls of the planters were capped with 1-1/2” thick, black basalt.

Kanjuji lantern

In the close up above, a beautiful Kanjuji lantern sets off a bed of pebbles and Blue Fescue, helping set the Asian tone. It is an excellent choice for a Japanese/Western, east-west landscaping blend. Made of natural granite, each lantern is carved into separate pieces (due to the weight of the stone) and assembled in its new home.

Hardscaping

We couldn’t let all the stonework go to waste in the dark. We added step lights, wall lights and small night lighting in the planters to provide curb appeal even in the dark.

Water Feature

We continued the theme in the back yard. Above is a custom-made, Japanese-style water feature. We made this from scratch, drilling and carving to make the stone trough. The unit recirculates the water, so it’s drought and budget friendly. As well, the water feature provides a soft trickling sound to obscure street noise. Another Kanjuji lantern graces the area, and a little stone Buddha is the final touch.

The backyard went from an overgrown, patchy area to a beautiful Asian-flavored landscape, including the little rest area set in the corner. It’s perfect for enjoying the rest of the garden, lulled by the peaceful sound of water trickling.

Update Your Back Yard

Outside Patio

Finished Patio

Noe Valley, also known as Stroller Town by some, is an upscale neighborhood in central San Francisco. Wide sidewalks, its own strips of shops, and an eclectic style of homes makes it a curiosity and a pleasure to walk through.

It’s a mixture of homes, both large and small. From multi-million dollar mansions to 6-figure homes, there’s something for everyone. Rumor has it, even Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook fame lives here somewhere.

Before Updates

In July of 2015, we were called to Elizabeth Street, on the northern side of Noe Valley. The client wanted to update her backyard, and it wasn’t a small project. At the time, it wasn’t a very esthetic landscape.

The client’s home has a modern interior design, and felt like the outside just didn’t match up. We agreed; the landscape definitely needed an upgrade.

You’ll notice in the picture above that there were some existing retaining walls and fencing, but it was an eyesore. We started there, with fencing on three sides.

High Quality Tongue and Groove

We wanted to make sure the surroundings were something the client and any guests would enjoy looking at. We used very high quality 1”x4” tongue and groove clear Western Cedar to cover the old concrete retaining walls.

Laying out the Panels

Tongue and groove type paneling allows for the individual boards to sit flush against the other. Using stainless staples and fastening the horizontally allowed us to provide a clean, staple-free look, as the staples were hidden in the grooves.

Bluestone Patio

Next the client wanted a bluestone patio using Connecticut Full Range tiles. This is a classic stone that provides a beautiful mix of colors. All natural hues, the Full Range contains blue, gray, brown, green and lilac, which allows an endless number of possibilities in patterns.

For this part of the landscaping project, we had to pour a 4” concrete pad as a foundation, then go back and use thin set to mortar the tiles onto the pad.

Outside Patio

Captured in this picture is the blueprint for the patio in the upper right corner. We choose a 3-piece pattern of 12”x12”, 12”x24” and 24”x24”, which provided a nice geometrical design.

The client also wanted veneer stone panels on the existing retaining walls, as well as a fire pit and new artificial turf. The existing concrete retaining wall was uneven, so we leveled it and used Blue Creek stone panels as a veneer on part of the wall. We capped the veneer with 1”-1½” bluestone. This created a great backdrop to showcase the client’s new, modern landscape.

As you can see in the picture below, the landscape now has bright, new artificial turf. The turf is S Blade 90 – a very heavy duty turf -, heavy enough to stand up to the wear and tear of the client’s 100 pound lab.

Green Turf Patio

The fire pit in the center of the patio was actually made with concrete. However, while concrete can handle heat without melting, it may crack – and we want this to last a good, long time.

With that in mind, we lined the inside of the fire pit with fire clay to stand up to the heat. (See image below) Fire clay is resistant to high temperatures, and can withstand heat of 2,759 Fahrenheit (1,515 Celsius) or more. It’s doubtful that the fire pit will get that hot, but if she wants to bake pottery in it, it will be ready for the challenge.

To top it off, we added an LED light to the lip of the cap piece, and veneered the outside with matching stone. We installed stainless trays to the fence with succulents planted inside. Above the trays are copper downlights. Between the downlights on the walls and the lighting on the cap stones, the patio will be well-lit at night.

Fire Pit PatioAnd the finished landscaping project! It took us two weeks and was a lot of work, but we’re extremely happy with the result.

Lights and Lanterns

Landscape Lights and Lanterns in San Francisco is a bit specialized. What works in the South Bay may be a complete failure in the city. The 49 square miles that we call home is often shrouded in fog and laiden with moisture and salt, wreaking havoc on poorly selected landscape lighting fixtures. Tamate Landscaping only uses high end copper and brass or stone fixtures that have proven to resist the elements. Yes, the initial costs will far exceed the price of something available at Home Depot but you will reap the benefits in a system that last exponentially longer. In addition, we select fixtures that accentuate the overall design of our projects. Here you see a Miyoshi lantern. It can be illuminated and is available 30″, 36″, 48″ and 60″ versions. Also available in a rustic finish version.

Below is one of our favorite and most used fixtures. Made by FX Luminaire, its the Saguaro Petite. Elegant, simple and of all copper/brass construction. Its used to illuminate pathways, patios and other landscape elements that are low to the ground by casting a 24″ soft, glare free light on the ground. Comes with a 20 watt bulb but can be retrofitted to use a LED bulb.

This fine stone lantern is a staple of the Japanese garden. Its the Yukimi Lantern. Made of solid granite and comes in 18″, 24″, 30″ and 36″. Tamate landscape often uses this piece to complement their designs.

FX Luminaires new PO series.  This little fixture is LED, solid brass and highly efficient at 2.4 watts.  Its used to provide a “wall wash” effect for retaining walls or you could even mount it on a 4×4 post.

Working  with water features in San Francisco over the last decade and experimenting with different fixtures to illuminate the underwater environment has been somewhat of a challenge.  We’ve tried many different companies to find quality fixtures while keeping in mind that the average consumer doesn’t want to spend in excess of $500 for one fixture only.  Most have failed or lasted only a few years until moisture slowly finds its way into the housing.  Below is an underwater light from Kitchler.  Its a 4.25 watt LED and fully encased in epoxy within a stainless steel housing which makes the possibility of leaks impossible.  And Kitchler backs that up with a 15 years warranty.   Listing at $170, its not exactly cheap but the way to go in the long run.  Below is a photo of the Kitchler, model 15711 SS and also 3 in one of our koi ponds.

 

This is the Oribe lantern in a rustic finish.  Its a lantern that was designed by Lord Oribe, a tea ceremony practitioner in the 16th century.  It has a light box at the top and a carved buddha on the bottom.  Available in 30″, 36″ and 48″ in rustic as well as new grey granite.

 Next is the FX RotundaLuna®.   Its specifically designed to gently illuminate small scale plant material, boulders, and short garden walls. Halogen lamp model produces a white light that enhances green plant material. The xenon lamp has a mellow golden light output for enriching earth tone elements.

Another staple landscape lighting fixture, The FX Luminaire LustroRame.The LustroRame provides a source of subtle light from a flawless luminaire. This solid copper and brass unit is an excellent choice for shadowing or backlighting small plant material or garden sculptures on upscale residential or small commercial projects. The MR-16 halogen lamp based LustroRame produces a powerful crisp light that enhances plant material and larger scale landscape elements.

Pictured below is the all granite Kanjuji Lantern.  The Japanese Kanjuji lantern offers clean lines with a east-west blend of garden styling. The Kanjuji lantern can add a Zen feeling to a garden around a western building.  Its perfect also for a contemporary asian garden.  Pictured below is a 24″ tall version with a low voltage light hooked up to a timer.