Tropical Lush

Words by Adrienne Dyer. Photos by Jody Beck.

When remodeling mid-century gems, homeowners are faced with the challenge of marrying modern materials with historic preservation. The owners of this recently renovated 1950’s bungalow on Ten Mile Point not only preserved the integrity of the original architecture and façade, but they turned to Red Door Landscape Design & Build to recreate the front landscape. “The homeowners bought this house because it reminded them of plantation-style homes in Hawaii,” says lead designer, Caitlin Francis.


The use of concrete speaks to the home’s modern West Coast appeal while the tropical plant selections evoke the islands of the Pacific. “They wanted the garden to be lush yet contemporary, and to incorporate features that would draw the eye naturally into the house.” The owners had already updated the front façade, adding an expansive window with sightlines directly through the house into the backyard, with glimpses of the ocean beyond.


To finish the home’s high-impact first impression, Francis centred the design around a cascade of floating seven-and-a-half by ten-foot concrete slabs, weighing 3,000 pounds each, and pigmented a custom grey tone to work with the colour of the house. The steps bridge the slight grade drop between the front door and the driveway, lit from beneath to create a floating effect and enhance their architectural appeal at low light.

“Sanderson Concrete, on the mainland, had to make custom moulds and we received engineering support from RJC Engineers to ensure the slabs were thick enough to handle the cantilever created by the overlapping design. Transport on a crane truck was precarious, but not nearly as much as the placement. In the end, the result exceeded what we anticipated,” says Logan Thomas, owner of Red Door Landscape.


To create a lush, tropical blend of perennial colour, Francis planted Phormium “Sundowner” and Astelia “Silver Spear” interspersed with a variety of grasses. Together, the plantings complement the soft concrete grey with shades of green and streaks of warm rose. In spring, established Klondyke Azaleas bloom vivid orange and yellow in the company of vibrant green ferns and grasses. By summer, fragrant creeping rosemary will cascade its blue blossoms over the wall, with additional splashes of complementary colour from lavender sprigs tucked in the nook of each step.

“The natural grasses and plants offer a contemporary feel and blend with the local environment to make the garden look as tropical as it can be without adding palm trees,” say the homeowners. “The results demonstrate that you can take an existing mid-century home and update the landscape with modern elements to bring the home into the twenty-first century.”