It can tame slopes, add dimension, or even double as planting beds or seats. A good retaining wall is basically the superhero of your garden
– January 21, 2016
Thomas J. Story
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Create a sunken patio
Because her house near the Southern California coast is set in a hillside, Leslie Mannes was short on outdoor space for get-togethers. The only possibility: a tiny, crumbling patio out back. Enter landscape designer Ryan Prange (fallingwaterslandscape.com), who revamped it into a stylish, surprisingly roomy-feeling refuge with some genius landscaping ideas. Prange hid part of a broken concrete retaining wall behind a wooden screen and the rest under a curtain of creeping fig (Ficus pumila) planted against the wall. He repaved and planted the patio floor, tucked a seating area into the corner, and added built-in benches and a gas firepit. “Now the patio is inviting,” Prange says, “and full of nice little surprises.”
Thomas J. Story
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Modernize an entry
Concrete steps lead the way to this Oakland, CA house on a hill—much more modern than the busy red bricks that used to be in their place. Charcoal-colored concrete retaining walls are the perfect neutral color to show off the chartreuse details, from window trim to plan life. Design: Russ Dotter and Wencke Solfjeld;dottersolarchitects.com.
A large retaining wall not only holds the slope at bay, but also becomes the wall of an outdoor room, complete with TV affixed to it. The aluminum arbor, pictured here, was custom fabricated by Design Construction. Miller and his team built it on-site and painted it silver to match the wall sconces. Redwood slats cover the top. Design: Envision Landscape Studio (envisionlandscapestudio.com).
Oakland Yard: After
Believing that stairs and retaining walls can be an integral part of the design rather than something to hide, Schulz envisioned a grand staircase as a backdrop to outdoor meals. San Francisco–based landscape architect Mary Barensfeld helped him realize his dream, giving concrete walls, built-in planters, and stairs an art deco–esque treatment.