Remodeling and Home Design

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    What a great education in design! Thanks, Susan!



    Just like learning to love broccoli, exercise and going to bed on time, pretty soon embracing straight lines will be second nature!

    Shirley Bovshow

    Great argument for straight lines done right. I like the long patio that you broke up into 3 distinct areas as well as the very functional sideyard.

    Beautiful work Susan.


    Thanks Shirley! I think we share an affinity for repurposed sideyards.

    Laura Livengood Schaub

    Great lesson, Susan! I love 'use straight lines, just not IN a straight line!' That's so true. I nearly always design paving on a diagonal anyway, but really appreciate the way that it expands a small space so gracefully (like you did in your own back garden!) Thanks!

    Thanks Laura! I do organic layouts much more often than this type...which is why it's so much fun when an opportunity comes my way.

    jocelyn/the art garden

    Yes, yes, YES! Great "recipes" here for making small spaces more functional. I love your tips on how to integrate plantings to soften the hardscape, too. Thanks!

    Thank you Jocelyn. I realize for the designers that read these posts, I'm rarely telling them anything they don't already know, but for me it's still a reminder to THINK about design, instead of just firing up the computer and plugging away.


    It's wonderful to see your designs in plan mode. And that grandmother's garden is anything but grandma-like! I believe it's my favorite.

    If you saw all the bunnies, signs and tchockes she had around the perimeter of her garden when I met her you might change your mind, lol!

    Rebecca Sweet

    I can never get enough of your design lessons, Susan. For whatever reason, I've NEVER had a client let me install a garden with straight lines instead opting for curves, curves curves. Armed with your beautiful illustrations above, I'm sure to convince a potential client of the beauty of straight lines on the diagonal. I love these!!

    As any man will tell you, curves are easy to love! It takes a little more effort to appreciate a less innately organic design approach.

    Jenny Peterson

    Okay, this is one that I am going to come back and read again--there were so many individual lessons in there! Straight lines, pathways, entertaining areas--you're amazing and I love the way you design! Mwah!!

    Right back atcha!

    Michelle D

    Exceptional quality in the writing, graphics and the content.

    Michelle, I consider you one of the most talented designers in the Bay Area and am truly flattered by your flattered. Thank you for taking the time to read the post and comment.

    Susan Schlenger

    I like your varied use of shapes along side yards. You are right in that the natural tendency is to think in one, direct straight line, but you have shown that other geometry is so much more interesting. A fireplace and fountain in a side yard? Love it!

    Thank you Susan. Unfortunately, that was the only project that was an exercise rather than the real, because I'd LOVE to see that one built.

    Judy's Gardens & Design

    Loved your article Susan. The clear descriptions and beautiful visuals are wonderful. You are a talented educator and designer! Very fun post.

    Thanks Judy!


    Wonderful post, Susan showing geometry as an interesting design element.

    Thank you Carolyn!

    Lesley Hegarty

    Thanks for a really helpful post Susan. As designers it's always refreshing to see how fellow professionals work. Some great tips there - here's to straight lines! Lesley and Robert

    I agree, I love the chance to see how other designers approach their work.

    Robert Webber

    Just to add to what Lesley has said above:
    Susan, such good points made here about line, straight, curved and diagonal. You have such great feeling for space!
    Best Wishes


    Great ideas, Susan! Although I have plenty of space outside, my kitchen is so small that I'm always dreaming of ways to expand, preferably without changing exterior walls. But that's off topic, oops.
    I like the combo of some curves with some straight lines. Well, all our houses have straight lines, so of course there are some of those visible in the landscape.

    It's not completely off topic. For example, laying tile on the diagonal has the same positive design effect indoors as out. It's generally a bit more pricey as it requires more cuts and generates more waste, but really makes a difference in a kitchen or bathroom.


    I am soooooooooooo with you! Recently I've found myself actually straightening out curves I'd made in my own garden, because they just didn't feel right but it was what people were doing then. It's been an interesting learning experience. Thanks for adding to it!

    Alice Joyce

    Very cool, Susan,

    Educating non-designers like myself in the art of designing a small space (ummm, like my own garden)!

    I'm now pondering Church's innovative use of the diagonal.

    Activating space - 2-D or 3-D ... it's a good thing!!


    The LA Times had a piece that might help clients in this predicament. Their solution was just to buy the place next door and create a little compound. Space crunch solved. Okay, I didn't say it was particularly realistic approach. Your ideas would work better for the rest of us.

    James, if only I had consulted with you beforehand, this would have been a MUCH faster post to write.

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