Natural Playground Design

texture maze

This view of the playground shows various textures and plants used to engage kids’ senses. A low stone wall & grassy berm is a fun feature for climbing up & rolling down.

We’ve been working on a playground design recently, but this isn’t your average run-of-the-mill play space. The clients at this childcare center wanted a natural playground with emphasis on natural materials, sensory experience, and creative play. We love to design these types of spaces. Not only are they great fun to plan, the benefits of time spent in natural spaces are also well documented and include better focus back in the classroom, development of creative thinking skills, greater appreciation for nature, and a decrease in stress.

story circle

The story circle has a soft floor of wood chips and is surrounded by soft, colorful grasses.

Our design encourages both active play & passive, creative play. There are all sorts of fun things to hop over, roll down, dig in, and climb through including: boulders, balance logs, tree stump steppers, a low stone wall with a grassy berm, a trike path, and a ‘stick forest’ within a sand pit.

To engage kids’ senses, there is a maze of pavement textures (which includes slate, concrete with nature stamps, wood cookies, soft mulch, and wood planks), plants, and low willow tunnels. There is also a story circle surrounded by soft Pink Muhly grass- a plant that has airy cotton-candy pink flowers that sway in the breeze. There will  be raised beds for growing veggies and a butterfly garden patch for observing winged friends.

texture maze and garden

Another view of the texture maze, which includes low willow tunnels. These tunnels will allow kids to explore spaces that feel hidden, but are actually very visually open to supervisors.

Plants are an integral part of this playground, and kids are encouraged to interact with them. The plant palette consists of non-toxic, tough plants that provide various sensory experiences. Kid-friendly picks include fuzzy lamb’s ear, fragrant rosemary, fountain grass with fluffy seed heads to rustle in the breeze, and bright flowering perennials to attract butterflies.

Below left: a sampling of textures found in the playground- wood cookies, slate, boulders, lawn, and concrete with nature stamps.  Below right: Pink Muhly grass has great color ond soft texture.


pink muhly grass





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1420 Pearl

We’re pleased to present our newest multi-family housing project! The 8-story 1420 Pearl Building will add 282 new living units at the north end of the bustling Pearl District. The prime location is just 2 blocks from The Fields, one of Portland’s loveliest new city parks, and just 5 blocks from neighborhood favorite Tanner Springs Park. Of course many local eateries and shopping opportunities also abound, making a residence at 1420 Pearl very walk-friendly.

Pearl Urban plaza Pearl Urban courtyard Pearl Urban courtyard water feature Pearl Urban courtyard seatingOur work on the project focused primarily on the ground-level courtyard and the green roof topping the building. The Courtyard features seating areas, stormwater planters, and a varied plant palette that includes lots of fragrance and seasonal color.Pearl-Urban-Courtyard

















The Roof Deck will be an excellent hang-out spot for residents. Features include a custom spa, fire table, and enclosed seating for those rainy evenings. A large portion of the roof is also a vegetated eco-roof. This portion will be planted with drought tolerant sedums. Eco-roofs provide many benefits. Eco-roofs significantly decrease stormwater runoff, save energy, reduce pollution and erosion, and help preserve fish habitat. Ecoroofs also absorb carbon dioxide, cool urban heat islands, and filter air pollutants. In addition, habitat for birds and insects is provided along with greenspace for urban dwellers.

The-Pearl-Green-RoofPearl Roof terrace planters Pearl Green roof spa Pearl Roof terrace spa Pearl Roof terrace

Kudos to SERA Architects, our partners on the project, for a great job on the building design.

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New Seasons Market

We recently had the pleasure of designing the landscape for New Seasons Market’s newest store on North Williams in Portland. Designed by LRS Architects, the building includes parking for 164 bicycles- an important feature in this bike-friendly neighborhood. The landscape features 11′ tall metal carrot sculptures, custom metal vine trellises, and a small green roof.


New Seasons

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It’s chilly out there so naturally we’re thinking about fire. When it comes to planning an outdoor fire feature, you will find yourself deciding between a natural gas custom feature or an off-the-shelf fire table. We’re here to help you understand the pros & cons of each.

Natural gas- the luxury option. One of the main advantages of natural gas is that you can design the fire feature to take just about any form…. Creative freedom!  But in order to have a natural gas fire feature, you will need to have a natural gas line run from your home. This is a significant up-front expense, and will require digging up your yard.  Natural gas fire features tend to burn stronger and give off much more heat (BTUs) than propane. You can get flames up to 18” high!

Pros: convenience, ease of lighting, warmth, creative freedom

Cons: up-front cost of install, gas line installation is invasive

Fire table

This nice looking propane fire table is convenient, but not nearly as warm as a natural gas feature would be.

Natural Gas Fire Pit

A custom natural gas fire pit. Nice & toasty!









Propane- convenience with some drawbacks. Propane fire tables light just as easily as gas fire features, and do not require an underground gas line so they are much less expensive to install. However, the fire table itself houses the propane tank so design options are limited to pre-manufactured fire table units. While there are some nice models available, a frequent issue is wimpy BTUs.

Pros: convenience, lower cost up-front

Cons: limited design options, not as warm

Of course, you can also go with the old standby wood-burning feature. But you’ve got the obvious issues of wood storage, wet wood, and smoke to deal with. Then again, for some folks building the fire is half the fun. Share your thoughts below!

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Shapiro Didway in Luxe Magazine

Hillside residence front entryOne of our recent projects has been featured in Luxe Magazine! This 1950’s hillside home has been lovingly restored inside and out. The owners of this home embrace a clean, modern design aesthetic. Our landscape design keeps things modern and simple while adding touches of Pacific Northwest style such as rough-hewn boulders, native Vine Maples and conifers. Landscape lighting enhances the plant choices, creating interesting shadows on the outer walls of the home.

The project Architect was Scott Edwards Architecture. Interior design was done by Maison Inc. 

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