Landscape Design in the PNW

Modernizing Yards on Mercer Island

The Pacific Northwest, known for its lush greenery and mild climate, offers a unique opportunity for homeowners to create stunning outdoor spaces including enhancements such as outdoor kitchens, water features, and fire-pits. But one thing you can’t count on is the weather, and we’ve seen considerable changes in temperature and precipitation over the last few decades. We spoke with the founder of Lifestyle Landscapes, Roger Franklin, to learn more about how to create an outdoor environment that adapts to our unwieldy weather while also protecting the natural environment.

As Mercer Island residents continue to invest in their homes, many are opting to revamp their outdoor spaces to make them more functional and aesthetically appealing. One popular approach is modernizing established yards by incorporating contemporary design elements and amenities. According to Roger, the landscape projects most popular with Mercer Island residents include modernizing established yards with outdoor kitchens, water features, and fire-pits.

Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchens have become increasingly popular, as they provide a perfect space for entertaining, dining, and enjoying the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. These kitchens often feature built-in grills, pizza ovens, and ample counter space for food preparation. Additionally, they can be designed with weather-resistant materials such as stainless steel and stone, ensuring they can withstand the region's damp climate.

Water Features

Water features, such as ponds, fountains, and waterfalls, add an element of tranquility and beauty to any outdoor space. Mercer Island residents are incorporating these features into their landscape designs to create a serene environment that complements the natural surroundings. Water features can also serve as a focal point in a yard, drawing attention and inviting exploration.


Fire-pits have become a must-have for many homeowners, providing a cozy spot to gather with friends and family on cool evenings. Mercer Island residents are embracing this trend by adding fire-pits to their outdoor spaces, often choosing designs that incorporate natural stone or sleek, modern materials. In addition to their aesthetic appeal, fire-pits can also help extend the outdoor living season by providing warmth during the cooler months.

Additional Considerations

Proper drainage is essential, as the region's frequent rain can cause flooding and damage to outdoor spaces. Homeowners should invest in a well-designed drainage system that directs water away from structures and prevents pooling in low-lying areas. This might include incorporating French drains, grading the landscape, or utilizing permeable paving materials.

Selecting the right hardscape materials is necessary for creating a durable and attractive outdoor space. In the Pacific Northwest, it's important to choose materials that can withstand the region's damp conditions without becoming damaged or slippery. Some options to consider include natural stone, such as flagstone or basalt, and concrete pavers, which can be treated with a sealant to prevent water damage.

We’re curious to know how you spend your time in your garden and welcome photos and messages on our Instagram page, @mercerislandcitylifestyle.

When you are considering upgrades, consider the following:

·      Replace impermeable concrete slabs with pavers. "Not only are pavers more attractive, but they also allow water to absorb into the ground and prevent runoff, and better yet – they are less expensive than installing a new concrete pad." Concrete pads tend to crack and do not stand the test of time in the way that pavers do. 

·      When installing a fire-pit, choose propane or natural gas over wood-burning. Not only does burning wood contributes to pollution, make our clothes smell, and blow smoke in our eyes, it also is a fire hazard in our increasingly dry summers.

·      Consider the timing and plan backwards. If you want to have a tricked out backyard by July, you need to consider that reputable landscaping companies are often scheduling 3-8 weeks out during the warmer months, and prior to scheduling your project they will need a few weeks to work with you to finalize a design and get permitting from your municipality.

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