After years of apartment living, a beautiful and utilitarian backyard was tops on the wish list of a Portland family. Steve Shapiro of Shapiro Didway Landscape Architects and Jennifer Leonard of Nifelle Design, both based in Portland, were brought in to transform a soggy, flat and bare-dirt corner yard into a viable outdoor space to serve the family of five.

After fixing drainage issues, Shapiro worked to bring privacy to the area and to link the landscape with the home’s traditional architecture. He planted more than 50 emerald arborvitaes and a selection of other trees along the perimeter to ensure seclusion; then filled the gardens with plantings such as hostas, star jasmine, daphnes, and Japanese roses that provide white blooms from early spring into fall. Inside the yard, he created two gathering areas: one at the north end for family and entertaining from spring into late fall and a second closer to the house for reading a book or enjoying a quiet conversation. Between the two is a grassy area where the couple’s three children can play and practice sports. A winding bluestone path connects all the areas and stylistically links the home’s classic architecture and landscape designs.

A basalt fireplace custom built by Stone Sculptures of Vancouver anchors the north-end gathering area and guarantees warmth during chilly weather. A sectional sofa and ottoman, designed by Leonard and manufactured by Terra Furniture, were built to withstand the whimsies of Portland weather. Framed in aluminum with a teak finish, the sectional’s seat cushions are upholstered in a Sunbrella textured weave in linen and sesame; custom pillows are likewise covered in durable Sunbrella fabrics. The dining table and chairs, also designed by Leonard and manufactured by Terra Furniture, are similarly constructed of aluminum with a teak finish. The backs and sides of the armchairs are upholstered in Desert Cane wicker sling fabric. All the seat and sectional cushions are lined with waterproof fabric to ensure cushion integrity and protection from the elements.

The loveseat, chairs and stools in the more intimate sitting area closer to the house are from the Ventura collection by Gloster from Fishels in Portland. The charcoal–colored Sunbrella upholstery is complemented by throw pillows in a striped Sunbrella fabric.  Coffee and side tables are in polished concrete from Currey & Company (available to the trade). Frost-proof gardenias planted in tall matte black fiberglass containers provide a finishing touch in a sweetly scented backdrop.


CONTRACTOR: Hammer & Hand,

INTERIOR DESIGN: Nifelle Design Fine Interiors,


LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Shapiro Didway Landscape Architects