This project takes a completely different approach than the first project we showcased. With this project, we redesigned the backyard to remove a big chunk of the driveway. We wanted to replace it with more lawn, native plants, lighting and a more decorative patio for the space. In essences, the goal was to create a lively yard where family trumped blacktop.
This is the first of two projects we’ll highlight that exemplify how rethinking your driveway can give you more of what you want while being more sustainable. This project didn’t get rid of the driveway as a driveway, but it did completely eliminate every inch of asphalt and made it entirely pervious.
Over the last 2 years, we’ve started working with homeowners to help them re-envision their driveways. That might sound a little pedestrian, but it’s exciting news. For generations, every house has craved to have a little private road leading to their garage. These short roads are problematic. Blacktop is toxic and it contributes to flooding. For many suburban places, driveways take up a huge proportion of land. Before asphalt, drives were made with stone, oyster shell or just plain ol’ dirt. But somewhere along the way, we decided to replace those options with blacktop - some of the most toxic stuff you can find - right beside the very place they call home. Now we are removing the blacktop and replacing it with life!
I come across this image from time to time on Pinterest or when I'm looking through Google Images. It is one of the best examples of why native plants are so incredible. It's a fairly straight forward diagram showing the depth of many native plants compared to a standard lawn grass. The lawn grass is on the far left. The lawn grass is Kentucky Blue Grass and the root system that supports it is less than 4inches deep. The roots can't keep the grass alive in hot, dry times of the year because they aren't long enough to find water beyond their depth. This is why you have to water it so much.
Seeds are the gateway to new life. By caring of seeds in your planting beds, you get a front row seat to witnessing nature at work. However, the entertainment is subtle. A recent trip to the the South Orange Rain Park became a great refresher at just how amazing ecology is and how everything is interconnected. Its beauty isn’t an extrovert but goes about its business out of sight. Seeds have a secret I can’t stop thinking about.
When I'm not working on residential projects, I do lots of work with public space. It's one area that needs more attention. As more people learn about my efforts in this realm, I get questions about how to start and complete a project like this. To help as many people as possible, I've started to create a booklet called the Citizen's Guide to Renovating Public Space. Keep reading to learn more.
Last Sunday (Oct. 27, 2019), we won the first-ever Idea Competition held by Montclair Design Week for our project called Watchung Plaza Plaza. Watchung Plaza Plaza is a placemaking project aimed at rebooting Watchung Plaza to be more creative, safe, connected and desirable place for pedestrians, lovers of design and nature. We hope it is only the very beginning of reimagining the larger ward of Montclair into a flagship example of a more livable, sustainable neighborhood. As the winners of the competition, we received a $1000 grant from the Awesome Montclair, a local branch chapter of the Awesome Foundation (a global community advancing the interest of awesome in the universe)
In 2017, we designed and built the world’s first Rain Park in South Orange, NJ. It was a huge deal for us and really set a new direction for the thinking around green infrastructure, public parks and community engagement. However, things didn’t go as plan for getting lots of amazing plants to grow in the new space. The lack of flowers and other nice things to look at caused a bit of an uproar, so we have doubled efforts to get the Rain Park moving in the right direction. The new direction has given us a chance to also show how landscape design can be as much an art form as a gardening and maintenance.
Invasive plant species are a huge problem. They have overtaken giant expanses of the landscape. As they do, they erase the ability for native plants and animals to thrive, and there’s no easy solution to get rid of them. But there is a bit of a silver lining. When I was walking along the bank of a river about a week ago, I came across a few very amazing plants that had beaten the odds among a mess of knotweed and porcelain berry (two of the worst offenders of the invasive mob).
It's the first official day of spring and things are definitely heating up in my studio. We have lots of really exciting residential projects going on as well as a few other types. One project that I'm super excited about is a stream side and habitat restoration project. It's very, very early in the process, so I can't even say 100% that we will be able to do it. But I'm excited none-the-less. The project entails restoring a piece of land on the border of South Orange and Maplewood, NJ. I did a video about the project, and you can watch it through the break below, or going to my company's Youtube page.
If you watched my recent video about the Rain Park, you know that I’m a big fan of cutting back perennials and grasses in the spring instead of the fall. There’re lots of ecological and aesthetic reasons for that. I’d recommend the Rain Park videos if you are interested to get more details. Or you can read this blog – because I’m taking a bit of a deeper dive on why spring cleanups are better for the environment and your sense of wellbeing. Get the facts after the break.
Just about every designer, architect, builder or creative I've ever known wants to make a difference. I'm no different. One of the reasons design and construction is so interesting to me is how it can positively impact other people and nature. To do my part, I'm always getting involved with projects that can foster communities around a love for the natural world. One of the projects I'm the proudest of is the Rain Park. If you don't know about the Rain Park, I've got info about it on the Project page of this website and I"ll add a few links in this blog. We designed and built the Rain Park about 2 years ago. My kids love going to it, and I've had tons of other people tell me how much they love it too. It's incredible during every season. I've had the chance to go to it this winter, and I made a couple of videos about it. The videos are on the chambersdesign Youtube page, but if you follow the link, you can watch them here too.
Last week, the Yardblog post was about green infrastructure. So this week, I thought it would be a good idea to write about something a little more specific about green infrastructure and yards. Obviously, rain gardens are a perfect topic! If you search this website about them, you will find lots of info. Rain gardens are amazing gardening items and extremely popular these days because they have enormous benefits for a property and nature. They create micro-habitats, improve the health of pollinators, look incredible, naturally fight mosquitoes and many others. Though there’re lots of good reasons to put one in your yard, the number one thing rain gardens are designed to do is manage stormwater. With the right placement in a yard and with the right design, a rain garden can turn a soggy backyard into a paradise or transform a boring spot into a eco-wonderland. Read more after the break.
Many in design to engineering have called suburbs “a tumor on the planet”. Yet, the suburban landscape is a treasure of opportunity for a better future. Even single-family homes are remarkable tool of transformative power with sustainability. This isn’t the normal thing you may read about suburbia though. Cities are more often championed as the ideal for social, economic, creative and ecological improvement, but this view is myopic in its prognosis. Everything happening in large cities from green infrastructure to urban farming to bike/pedestrian lanes to renewable energy has a greater potential for success in suburbs at lower costs, more ease of application and would serve a greater number of people. This is a huge topic to unpack, so in this blog I’m covering only one of the ways suburban living can make the world more eco-friendly, namely green infrastructure.
This week, we found out we have won a grant from Sustainable Jersey and the Nature Conservancy to reforest land within the Township of South Orange Village. We are super excited about finding out this news. This is the second award in two years we’ve won for reforestation in South Orange, and helps us continue to show a commitment to environmentalism in the state. The project will be half park, half reforestation while enhancing wildlife, acting as green infrastructure and fighting climate change. More details after the break.
The goal is to make this blog a resource for helpful tips and sustainable ideas. I create original content that shows projects in progress and the behind-the-scenes of installation. And, I try to have as much fun as I can doing it.