Posted by Sam Williamson

In the spirit of the season, here is a design project I did last year: turning our living room into a forest under starry skies for a Halloween dinner party. Besides gardening and landscape architecture, I also enjoy costumes and stage design.

The "clouds" were cotton batting used for quilts and the night sky was deep blue fabric with LED lights. The "stars" of course were all the same brightness, and I was surprised by how fake that made them look, so I strung a second semi-translucent sheet of black fabric below them and poked a few of them through (making bright stars) and left some of them behind the fabric (making dimmer ones). The windows were covered with a roll of brown paper we found in our house when we moved in. Beyond the trees was the silhouette of a distant horizon made from the cardboard boxes of the bookshelves we bought when SHWA moved into its new office on SE Madison St.. The cardboard was painted black and lit from behind with strings of red Christmas lights.

My wife Janet did a beautiful centerpiece employing, among other things, blackberry vines snaking along the tabletop and she made pumpkin soup in hollowed-out pumpkins. I made a digital "mixed tape" of crazed music interspersed with woodland night sounds.

The trees were free and harvested from the State Forest. Red alder saplings will, if left unchecked, choke and block drainage culverts along their roads. The Forest Department has to clear them out every year and are happy to have someone else remove a few of them. Everything was recycled the following day.


The "Bump-In Detail"

Posted by Joel Port

This summer we've been working on the landscape design for a beautiful, traditional craftsman home in SW Portland. One of the distinct challenges was to connect the interior rooms with the garden spaces (which are about five feet below the finished floor elevation of the house and deck). So, we set out to create a graceful descent that provided opportunities to comfortably view the garden along the way. A single flight of steps was definitely not going to work. Instead, we developed a plan that utilizes several flights that lead in different directions. Each flight (made up of four 5”-tall steps) will be separated by a generous 6'x6' landing. We've found that using short risers and deep treads lends a more relaxed, comfortable feeling to any garden space.

The steps and landings will surround a central, raised planter. The planter allows us to raise the grade surrounding the deck in order to comply with safety codes that would have otherwise required guard rails. We wanted to maintain an open feel for the area, without railings, so the raised planter was essential.

We decided to utilize a traditional, Flemish-bond brick pattern on the raised planters. Unlike the more common running-bond brick pattern, Flemish-bond alternates between stretcher-header-stretcher-header and so on. We like the fact that the pattern isn't seen much in western gardens and it presents an opportunity for us to add even more visual interest by tweaking it slightly. We decided to include areas where certain bricks were recessed into the face of the wall. The feature has become known as the “bump-in detail”. The "bump-in detail" will show up elsewhere throughout the garden too. A similar feature will even be used for the back wall of the dining pavilion. Except the "bump-ins" will be "knock-outs"... stay tuned for more on that.

Mark Wheeler and his masonry crew has just finished their work on the raised bed and piers. I'm really pleased with the way they've turned out!

In the coming weeks, construction on the decking and steps will continue. The landscape crew will also be setting a boulder retaining wall and installing plants. I'll keep posting updates along the way. Check back soon to see the progress.


Unbuilt Work (at least so far)

Posted by Sam Williamson

Two years ago SHWA designed a dining/seating structure for a client on an island off the coast of Maine.  My family and I are visiting friends and family on that same island right now, so I thought I would dust it off to give myself a little homework assignment in Sketchup.  Here are some images:

foggy view

Here it is closed up. The retractable roof panels are pulled closed and the folding doors and clerestory panels are shut too.  The interior is a comfortable 16' x 16'; fully capable of being warmed by the big stone fireplace on a cool or rainy Maine summer evening.

opened up

The sun came out!  The roof has been retraced and doors have all been opened.   The floorspace is now 24' x 24'.


A stone retaining wall levels more area around the pavilion, creating more space for spillover; big enough for a summer cocktail party.

view inside

The simple plan of the interior space allows for the furniture to be easily rearranged.

side view


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