Category Archives: Ideas

While we love to completely transform existing landscapes into a modern oasis, or conjour up a beautiful, innovative space for a new house, not everyone needs a complete master plan.  Sometimes a few simple but big impact elements can be added to upgrade your outdoor space.  Here we’ll share our five favorites.

Add Curb Appeal and Function with a new Entry Walk and Fence:



Here an old, narrow, concrete walkway was removed and replaced with these beautiful, oversized, tabby concrete pavers.










Previously there was no connection to the sidewalk.  By adding a new oversized brick landing at the steps and taking the entry walk all the way to the sidewalk, we are able to create a sense of welcome and connection to the neighborhood.  The addition of the brick piers and wood fence define the public and private space and the plantings of perennials and grasses give it a pop of color and texture.

Build a Deck:

If you have a great back yard, but hardly ever use it, try adding a large deck.  A deck has the advantage of being at the same level as the living area of your home making access easy and convenient.  It also makes a great space for adults to hang out and stay out of the fray while the kids run and play in the yard.  A well designed deck can create another ‘room’ in your house for entertaining in our great Charleston climate.

Add a Fire Pit:

This may be one of  the simplest elements to add.  If you have an existing stone or brick patio, adding a nice wood burning or gas fire pit can elevate your entertainment space.  The fire pits shown below are custom designs.


We love a good greenwall for use in tight spaces.  The use of the vertical space on an existing fence or wall can bring more green to your small garden.  Fill it with native grasses and perennials, or even herbs for cooking.  The Wooly Pockets system shown below is modular and can be used on various materials.  You can also simply add stainless steel cables in an interesting pattern and grow flowering vines.

Use Your Front Yard for Entertaining:

This typical suburban home is located on a canal resulting in a very narrow backyard.  By taking back some of the unused space in the front yard we have given the homeowners a great space to entertain.  A low seawall defines the space and gives privacy without feeling like the entrance is cutoff from the neighborhood.  By planting a small tree, native grasses and perennials, we further increase the privacy and enclose the patio in a beautiful garden.

Hope you enjoyed these few tips on making the most of your outdoor spaces. – H.R.K.

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There are many creative ways to add more ‘green’ to your space.  Whether it is a narrow walkway between buildings, a small courtyard, outdoor patio or open air shade structure, there is no reason to be limited by your available outdoor area.  The following are some creative ways to make the most of underused or small spaces and add a little more green to your life.

This greenwall in a courtyard for Half-Mile North in the upper peninsula provides a great backdrop of beautiful native perennials and grasses.  A system of Woolly Pockets were attached to this custom designed cypress and steel fence.  The pockets are a modular system that provide a perfect vertical growing environment and can be customized to any design large or small.

 This narrow walkway connects the courtyard above that sits between two buildings to the street and a parking lot.  Instead of being limited by the narrow dimensions and lack of light, the design embraces the constraints and provides an innovative solution.  The push and pull of the sidewalk creates a dynamic feeling and allows for the planting of native perennials and shade loving plants.

At Blue Acorn’s office across the street, the steal arbor we designed boasts a lush green roof.  This shows that a green roof isn’t just for buildings.

A simpler way to bring a little green to a courtyard is to plant a vine like fig vine at the base of a wall and let it grow.  Here, the courtyard at Edmund’s Oast gets a verdant boost and the orange sign pops from the green background.

As a final example, the crisscrossing stainless steel wires set against the wall of this building provide just enough structure for this native honeysuckle vine to climb.  The result is a fun pattern of green leaves and coral blooms.

Although the examples cited are from commercial projects we have done, the elements would be equally applicable to a residential project. -H

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In this further discussion on the Public Realm, we will focus on great streets and how they add to the life of a city.  You will find great streets all over the world and they each share common characteristics that contribute to their success.  Every great street will function well for vehicles, transit and pedestrians and will have a comfortable sense of scale between the buildings, sidewalks and streets.  I would add, that part of a streets ability to function for pedestrians includes an environmental component, so we can add green infrastructure to the list. A system of street networks within a city that consider all of these elements as part of their design will add to, not detract from, the life of a city.

 Lets look more closely at one remarkable street in Charleston, King Street.  What characteristics make it such a thriving part of the city?  Obviously the variety of uses in the buildings make it attractive.  The restaurants, shops, businesses and residences create a vibrant place. However, without the public infrastructure, that is ‘the street’, it could simply be another strip mall.  The narrow driving lanes and edges defined by two to five story buildings create a feeling of enclosure without being clausterphobic.  The passable sidewalk sheltered from passing vehicles by on street parking, make the pedestrian feel safe.  The use of quality material such as bluestone sidewalks, granite curbs, and brick crosswalks provide a sense of human scale.  Site furnishings such as street lights, benches and bike racks create a comfortable and inviting space for pedestrians.  With the addition of street trees, the space feels complete.

King Street


While we do not want to replicate King Street in every area of the city, per se, it will be beneficial to utilize similar features and characteristics.  For example, Morrison Drive in the Upper Peninsula offers a lot of potential, especially considering all of the redevelopment of existing buildings and new building that is occurring.  Currently, this street has some positives like street trees, sidewalks and striped bike lanes, but the lack of safe pedestrian crossings, limited on street parking and significant lack of lighting and site furnishings leaves a lot of room for improvement.  By utilizing the large Right of Way, we could potentially see designated transit lanes, protected bike lanes, increased parallel parking, bioswale/raingardens and improved sidewalks and pedestrian crossings.  Adding a vegetated median and making safe crosswalks could greatly improve the safety and aesthetics.  Already, improvements have been made in areas like Half Mile North and 960 Morrison Drive as these areas have been redeveloped.

Existing Morrison Drive

The following diagrams illustrate the above ideas to create a ‘Complete Street’ on Morrison Drive.  Although not every street in the Upper Peninsula will include all of these elements, many of these elements such as sidewalks, crosswalk improvements, street trees and bioswales can be incorporated to greatly improve the public realm in this area.  Depending on the size of the street, scale of the buildings and predominate uses, these elements can be incorporated appropriately.

Once a functioning and pleasing street network is established, attention should be paid to the public plazas and green space in this area.  Every redeveloped corner offers an opportunity to include small elements such as interesting paving and seating elements or possibly public art.  These small moves taken together have a big impact on the feeling of the public realm.  A few well planned parks can meet the needs of the existing and future residents as the area transitions from a predominantly service/light industrial area with a few apartments and single family homes, to a hub of activity with new residential properties, office, restaurant, and service uses.




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The value of the public realm to a great city should not be taken for granted.  When we think of great public spaces in a city, we are often drawn to the iconic large parks.  And when citizens think of their needs for green space, it is often channeled into their ideas of gardens, sports fields or playgrounds.  Without a doubt, every great city has their share of well known and loved parks.  But there are aspects of the public realm that should not be discounted even though they seem less glamorous or obvious.

So, what is the public realm?  I would define it as the realm that belongs to the public as a whole, in which we carry out our every day tasks and errands.  It includes streets, pathways, corridors, parks, publicly accessible open spaces, and built elements that are accessible to everyone regardless of ownership.  These are really places where vehicles may be able to traverse, but the pedestrian rules.

In Charleston, we can all immediately name the great parks we are familiar with.  White Point Gardens, Marion Square, Hampton Park and Waterfront Park are jewels of greenspace for the city.  But so often a lot of the social life of the city happens on its streets.  King Street is a great shopping street with its narrow right of way, many shops and well defined edges.  I meet friends, colleagues or clients along this street almost every time I walk it.  It has such great value.  Upper King street has become a thriving area as well, with restaurants that incorporate outdoor seating, and great little side streets that offer more gracious sidewalks.  This allows for gathering nodes such as fountains, benches for seating shaded by trees and civic buildings that open up onto plazas that act as impromptu spots to eat lunch or sit with a cup of coffee and take in the bustle of the city.  These less defined spaces are where everyone in the community is welcome and people have the opportunity to mingle and meet and feel a greater connection to the city as a whole. This is where children walk to and from school every day, business people take lunch, tourists sightsee and citizens conduct errands.

A sidewalk, a plaza, a bench or a small fountain may seem like ordinary things, but with the right attention to design, these spaces and elements elevate the life of a city from ho-hum to lively.  Charleston’s Mayor Riley and design professionals at the City have done a superb job of giving attention to these aspects of the city in the lower peninsula and filling in the small holes in the urban fabric to bring a richness that the community can enjoy.  In the future, we will have the opportunity to take these aspects of design into areas such as the upper peninsula, and the suburbs of West Ashley to allow for the continued development that is already happening here to bring richness to those areas as well.  In addition, there is opportunity to add a greater element of sustainability to our design standards.  Thankfully the city has already begun to think of these areas as a whole and are prepared to be proactive instead of reactive.  As a Landscape Architect, it is exciting to consider the opportunity to be a part of the future of this area as it grows.  With each new project or renovation, a small part of the public realm is mended and improved for the entire community.  High standards for design and continued thoughtful consideration given to details of this new public realm are sure to increase the vitality and enjoyment for all citizens.

In part two of this discussion on the public realm, we will get into a few of the specific details for design:  Corridors, plazas, parks, and complete streets. -H

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Posted by  on 11/11/2015 at 09:46 AM | Permalink

A majority of people can agree that curb appeal is important to most homeowners and significantly impacts the value of a home. Landscaping can help make your property feel inviting, attractive, and can be practical when it comes to environmental concerns.


 Not many people are aware how to assemble flora that creates a perfect landscape which  is not only aesthetically pleasing, but is functional as well. Nor do they know who they should actually call. I caught up with JR Kramer, owner of Remark Landscape Architecture, to find out what a landscape architect does, why you need one, and how using one can save you money, time, and heartache down the road.


To start, one may ask “Do I really need a landscape architect and what types of projects do they usually work on?” JR clarifies that landscape architects provide services in a wide variety of areas from residential design, master planning, urban planning, campus design, as well as green roof design. Bottom line- if you’re designing an outdoor environment, you need a landscape architect. They can design outdoor living spaces, such as courtyards, patios, driveways or pool houses, and so much more. One example of a landscape architect’s particular skill set is how JR worked with a client who was adding a garage and wanted to make sure it sited correctly. JR was hired to provide a site plan for the garage and guest parking and a landscape master plan that integrated the new garage and parking with future patio and gardens.

Your next question might be “how is a landscape architect’s work different from that of a landscape designer or lawn care specialist?” First things first: A landscape architect has a college degree in landscape architecture, has at least two years of training under the guidance of a licensed landscape architect, and has taken a rigorous national certification exam to ensure competency to practice landscape architecture. Pretty intense, but very important! This education and training qualify him or her to be able to take on larger and more complicated projects that include small structures, detailed hardscape designs, and drainage solutions such as rain gardens. As opposed to a garden designer, who may not have to have formal training, a college degree in design or horticulture, or even have a certificate. Keep in mind that basically anyone can call themselves a landscape designer in South Carolina but to be a landscape architect you must be licensed. A lawn care specialist provides services retailed to cutting grass, fertilizing, and maintaining other aspects of the landscape. It’s always vital to ensure that a lawn care professional has proper training as well as certificates for fertilization  and any other kinds of chemical installation.

Now you see how important it is to use a landscape architect for your hardscaping and outdoor design needs. However, is it worth the cost? Speaking of cost, how much are we talking here?

JR explains that Fees range widely, but a good rule of thumb is for a fee to be 10% of the construction cost and up to 20% for a smaller complicated project. A typical landscape master plan starts at $2,500. Again, there are a lot of variables, such as the client’s specific budget and base plan (survey, plat, the site measurements), the construction details needed, varying degrees of required research, how many concepts to be provided, and the number of client meetings. Another aspect to keep in mind is the general timeline for your project. You were already wondering that, anyway, right? JR postulates that the normal process right now, from time of initial meeting to final design, takes anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks depending on the size of the project, review process (HOA, ARB), and the promptness of client review and feedback.

So you decided to build a new home or office building. Congrats! But the decisions don’t stop there. Should you wait until construction is finished before planning out your landscaping? JR recommends a homeowner should hire a landscape architect as soon as possible. JR explains, “It’s important to bring on a landscape architect to help set budgets, provide feedback in house placement, drive and walkway design, preserving trees (or taking out trees that will impede construction), and provide grading and drainage plans.” Also keep in mind that if a landscape architect is hired early enough, a client can roll fees into a loan to ensure all costs are covered.


Aside from planting the usual grassy lawn, perhaps a few shrubs or flowers, and maybe an occasional stone path, is there really much else to landscaping? You betcha! There is a lot more to landscaping than meets the eye. JR notes that outdoor living space which incorporate native or low maintenance plantings and simple clean lines in the design currently trending in the Lowcountry. Clearly JR can demonstrate how important landscape architects are and would be happy to help you with your next landscaping project. Learn more about JR and Remark by visiting or by calling his office at 843.952.7817. JR also welcomes questions and project ideas by email at


Posted by  on 11/11/2015 at 09:46 AM | Permalink

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