Michael B.

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Michael B.

Garage Conversion + Landscape

An urban garden + adjacent writer's studio replace an underused back yard in Portland's Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Inspired by Japanese precedents and our client's love of mossy Pacific Northwest landscapes, we conceived of a multi-purpose outdoor space that would look good in all seasons, with materials that weather well. A cast-in-place paving scheme designates zones for a barbecue grill, a cedar soaking tub, a fire pit, and dining area. A maple tree forms the focal point and will grow to shade the yard.

The studio concept came into being midway through construction: it was intended as a garage rebuild, but the owner decided he liked the building too much to sacrifice it for parking.

This project was featured at, Houzz, and was a finalist for the Gardenista/Remodelista Considered Design Awards.

“Good taste, good listener, good company. Everything turned out great, and I'm continuing to work with him on new projects. Michael is hands-on with the contractors and makes sure everything is proceeding according to plan. And he is always quick with answers and a helping hand. ”


cast in place

Cast-in-place concrete is tricky and the site had its quirks. We had to work around tree root structures, respect the property lines of 4 neighbors, and ensure adequate drainage via system of perforated PVC pipes and a dry well.


moss + mint

Scotch moss + Corsican mint between the pavers break up the rigorous geometry, softening the landscape both visually and underfoot. The mint emits a strong fragrance when stepped on. In places where it doesn't make sense to have the heavy scent and moss (under the dining table, for example), the greenery transitions to gravel.


concrete + Cor-Ten

A board-formed concrete fire pit + planters give a nod to a Portland tradition. The fire pit's custom weep holes are capped with Cor-Ten steel. These will rust over time and create a deliberate patina, adding another layer of texture to the landscape.


good neighbors make good fences

A staggered-pattern 7-foot-tall cedar fence is sheathed on both sides. This maximizes privacy and also affords neighbors the same beautiful fence, at the behest of our client. As with the hot tub, the fence will weather to a silver-gray over time.


studio furniture

We designed a stand-up desk for our client. Other custom pieces include tables made from wood slabs brought from the owner's family home in Hawaii. All furniture was designed by Michael Howells and fabricated by The Joinery.

General Contractor: Tall Firs Building Co.

Photographer: Anna M Campbell