As a Knoxville landscape architect, I spend most of my time creating landscape designs for Carex Deign Group clients throughout East Tennessee. When I’m designing paver patios, pools, planting beds, landscape lighting, outdoor kitchens or outdoor living spaces, I find inspiration from many sources. I get especially inspired when I have the opportunity to travel. We’ve shared travel-inspired landscaping ideas for your Knoxville landscaping from Salt Lake City, Toronto, the U.S. Open of golf, Washington, D.C., Kansas City and Breckenridge, Colorado. My wife and business partner Julie recently graduated from East Tennessee State University with a masters degree in business administration. To celebrate her accomplishment, we took a trip to Spain we’d been planning for a long time. Here’s what inspired us while we were there:
A Variety of Pavers
No matter where we were in Spain, there was a noticeable lack of poured concrete pavement. As a landscape architect, I was overjoyed, not because I don’t like poured concrete, but because in most cases, pavers just perform better. Pavers come in variety of looks, are engineered better for durability and strength, and cost less to repair.
Below are several of my favorites from this trip.
Cobblestone in a Fan Pattern
Tumbled cobblestone pavers in a fan pattern (above) is a classic choice. This pattern was developed because the fan represents the reach of a worker who kneels in one spot and fans the pattern out as far as he or she can reach before moving to the next.
Modern Granite Pavers
Granite pavers in a gray color like the above are a great choice for modern spaces. With the running bond pattern (i.e. linear), it’s a very clean look.
A pavement choice I don’t see often in the United States (especially in the Knoxville area) is river rock. The material has gained some popularity with indoor installation as bathroom, kitchen or shower floors, but is more often used outdoors in water features or planting beds. What I love about using river rock as a pavement surface is the mosaic look it creates (see the first photo above) as well as the texture that you can feel beneath your feet (second photo above). Although I wouldn’t want to walk for miles on such a surface, the texture used in a small space such as a patio or short walkway would do well to connect one to the space.
Contrasting Textures in Pavers
I loved the area pictured above because of its use of two contrasting pavers. The cobblestone with its small rectangular shape and rough texture juxtaposed with the large smooth pavers sends a message. The smooth area guides the way and encourages you to move along the path while the cobblestone encourages a slower meandering with less directional guidance. (Who knew pavers could be so subliminal?!)
Long, Gracious Steps
As we explored the area around the art museum we visited, I was struck by the beautiful steps pictured below. These long, gracious steps guide an easy climbing cadence that’s more leisurely and comfortable. Despite ascending two flights, it felt more like a stroll than a climb. If you have a lot of space, this style of steps may be a good option to make your landscaping easier to traverse.
Formal gardens and sitting areas
Julie and I stayed at a beautiful winery while we were in a little town called Elciego, Spain. Among the rows of grapevines, there was a formal garden that was too nice not to include here. This parterre garden is classically done with geometric patterns and hedges that outline the planting areas. This garden was interesting because of the height differences of the plant material. By leaving the outer boundary high while keeping the interior hedge lower, the landscape architect who designed this space opened the interior space to make it feel more spacious. Additionally, the crushed brick paths encouraged us to wander slowly and enjoy the plants, which we did!
Although parterre gardens like the above are beautiful, they can be hard to maintain because of the precision (and time!) needed to shape the hedges and care for the many plants. In contrast, I was inspired by the large green space pictured below in the city of Bilbao. This little park has a formal look without the maintenance headaches inherit in parterre gardens. I loved this landscape design because it demonstrates that a “patio” doesn’t have to be made of pavers or concrete to be beautiful and functional. Additionally, the patio doesn’t have to be surrounded by plant material to be a formal space. Using fine crushed gravel for a patio and creating visual interest with geometric patterns rather than with a plethora of plants helps manage the initial landscape construction costs and eases the burden of maintenance beyond mowing and edging.
Work With the Light
When I’ve shared information about lighting in past blog posts (here, here, here and here), I’ve focused on landscape lighting. What inspired me about the space pictured below was its long shadows and illuminated destination, which is accomplished with natural light. Julie recently shared some of the benefits of hiring a landscape architect vs. a landscape construction company that employs designers. Another example of where a trained landscape architect can bring more to the table is by conducting what’s called light studies. Light studies explore the natural light in a space to determine the best design choices for types of plants, location of various features, colors for plant and hardscaping materials, use of landscape lighting, etc. A good light study will help a landscape architect design for maximum drama as this path portrays.
As we were wandering around the Casco Viejo neighborhood of Bilbao, Spain located on the country’s northern coast (think of it as Knoxville’s Old City neighborhood), we came across the fountain below.
We later found out that the fountain is commonly known as the Fountain of Dogs. According to this website, it was perhaps once used to clean animals bound for the market, but today is used for its water supply.
This type of wall-mounted fountain or water feature is a beautiful touch for urban or small spaces because you get the relaxing sound of running water without taking up much space. If you have a small courtyard, small patio, or just a secluded nook around your house, this may be a good option for incorporating a water element into your landscape design.
Turf in Unexpected Spaces
On our way to an art museum in Bilbao, a stretch of beautifully green grass tucked into the tracks of a rail bed caught my eye.
This piece of landscape architecture is striking for a couple reasons. First, it adds softness and texture to a space that’s mostly hard and smooth. Secondly, using turf in this way is totally unexpected. Most people in the Knoxville area think of grass being used solely for lawns, but your landscape design may benefit from using turf in unexpected spaces. Consider using turf in the joints of pavers, as tread on steps with borders of steel, or in lieu of a pool deck. Turf in these areas can be real or artificial, but either way you’ll add interest to your space by using grass differently.
Contact a Landscape Architect
I hope you’re feeling as inspired about your Knoxville landscaping as I am. If you need help from a landscape architect in Knoxville or the surrounding areas of East Tennessee to turn your inspiration into a finished landscape design, reach out to me at 865-765-5550 or fill out our contact form.