Debbie Brook: Landscape Designer

Debbie Brooks had always loved gardening and the outdoors, so when she completed her interior design courses at junior college and ruled out being an architect, landscape design seemed like an excellent option.

“Even though I wasn’t interested in architecture, I still loved design, art, graphics, color, texture and all that,” Debbie remembers. She enrolled in Edmonds Community College’s two-year Horticulture and Landscape Design program where she began working alongside one of her teachers who was a contractor.

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“He would hire me to do designs for his clients and we would work on the project together,” she says. “In those days I would actually do the physical work and dig ditches and holes to plant trees. I really got a lot of hands on experience.”

Following her graduation from Edmonds, Brooks moved around a bit, completing projects in Seattle, Santa Barbara, and St. Paul before moving to Portland to work in Teufel Nursery’s plant department.

“Even though I had design background, I thought it would be a good fit and fun to learn more about the plants,” Debbie explains. After four years with the plant department, she made the move to Teuful’s residential landscape division where she did design and project management work before venturing out on her own two years later to start her business, Creative Garden Spaces.

With Creative Garden Spaces, Debbie offers everything from consultations, to full sets of landscaping and construction plans, to project management. Over the years, she has developed a specialty for designing outdoor rooms and covered living areas of all shapes and sizes.

“Because of the weather here in Portland, I’ve fallen into this niche where I design a lot of structures and backyards that have covered areas,” Debbie says. “Even though it rains a lot here, a lot of my clients are outdoorsy and they want to be outdoors. They want to extend their spring and summer season into winter.”

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This past summer, Debbie completed a large project in Southeast Portland that allowed her to incorporate several unique features into her design. For the backyard, Debbie’s design included a multi-level outdoor living space as well as a large grass area and a sport court. The lower level of the living space features a covered patio and a small kitchen with a sink and a grill. On the upper level is an area the homeowners have dubbed the spa. “It’s an in-ground hot tub with a stone wall shower,” Debbie explains. “The structure over the spa was all constructed out of reclaimed barn wood.” Additionally Debbie designed a custom fire pit for the property. “They wanted a fire pit and most fire pits are usually either square or round,” she says. “They had a more modern design overall and a lot of rectangles- a rectangular lawn, a rectangular structure, a rectangular patio. Plus they like to entertain a lot. I did a rectangular fire table so people could sit on both sides.”

Debbie also made sure that all the retaining walls around the patio are sitting height so, as she explains, “If there’s a large party, anywhere you go there’s a place to sit.”

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For Debbie, designing for Portland’s rainy climate has not only provided her with a marketable niche, it has also allowed her the opportunity to work with unique materials found in the Northwest. “We have a lot raw materials- cedar and native woods,” she says. “There’s a trend toward using recycled, reclaimed wood, so now I’m starting to offer that as an option for my clients who are building sheds, playhouses and other structures. And then we’ve got a lot of great native stone like basalt and some nice flagstone. It’s kind of a playground for designers really.”

Find out more at: www.CreativeGardenSpacesNW.com

About The Author: Katie Mitchell