Creating Curb Appeal for House Sale

by Clara Beaufort, for Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb.  Clara is a garden writer and community gardener based in Georgia. She created GardenerGigs to connect local gardeners with those in need of plant care help.   You can reach her at clara@gardenergigs.com.

Any good real estate agent will tell you that creating curb appeal is an essential step when you plan on putting your home on the market. Your home’s interior could be completely remodeled with all the best upgrades, but if the exterior is lackluster, many buyers won’t even walk through the door. The good news is that investing in curb appeal does more than just help sell your house faster. It also improves your home’s value, so you can be confident that it’s money well spent.


Brooks Kolb’s Design for a Laurelhurst Front Living Room

Lawn and Garden 101

When you’re ready to invest in improved curb appeal, the hardest part for most homeowners is figuring out what to do first. Think of this step as Lawn and Garden 101 – you’re getting a feel for what it takes to get your yard in tip top shape. The first tasks to do will vary by season, so we suggest starting with a seasonal checklist. For example, Martha Stewart’s spring gardening tips include surveying your yard first, then deciding how to fill any gaps, reseeding grass, pruning, and preparing flower beds.

Starting with these tips will help you come up with a lawn and garden plan, plus it will help ensure you’re choosing the right plants for the season. Timing and choosing plants carefully is always important with landscaping, but especially when you want to sell your house. This is because plants that are in bloom and have lots of color will make the biggest impact on buyers. To get this maximum effect, The Spruce recommends that spring sellers plant early bloomers, hardy annuals, and flowering shrubs.

Creating and maintaining a beautiful lawn and garden is a lot of work, but you don’t have to do it all on your own. Whether you don’t have a green thumb or you simply don’t have the time it takes, hiring a gardening service is an easy way to get (and keep) the results you’re looking for. These pros specialize in all aspects of landscaping, whether you need help with the planning stage, planting, weeding, or other maintenance needs. And, remember, spring is the ideal time to make your exterior shine.

Tackle Other Exterior Projects

Curb appeal is about more than just your lawn and garden, which is why the next item on your to-do list should be addressing other exterior issues. This includes fixing anything that’s broken or worn looking, plus making cosmetic improvements strategically. Look at things like making repairs, such as fixing a broken deck board, along with cleaning spots you wouldn’t normally think about, such as your home’s roof and siding.

Inexpensive Extras

In addition to doing the necessary work of repairs and cleaning, buyers will be even more impressed if you go the extra mile with curb appeal. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune or a ton of time. Our suggestion is to pick just a few “extra” projects that will make the biggest impact, such as creating a more welcoming front entryway.

If your front door is looking shabby, give it a fresh coat of paint, and don’t forget about house trim and shutters. Along with a spruced up front door, make your front porch even more inviting with a container garden, adding a seasonal wreath, and a new welcome mat.

It’s also smart to think about making the most of your home’s outdoor spaces for the season you’re in. If you’re selling in spring, a birdhouse is a great seasonal accent for your garden, and the beautiful birds you attract are an added bonus. Or if you’re selling in summer, consider staging outdoor spaces to highlight the potential for backyard barbeques.

When you’re getting your home ready to sell, you want to highlight its best features while making house hunters feel welcome. Don’t underestimate the value of curb appeal, which affects your home’s appraisal value, to give that warm impression! From a neat and tidy lawn to seasonal accents, every improvement you make outside will help get buyers through the door – AND a better price at closing.


Recent Work: A Cascadia Avenue Garden

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is proud to announce the completion of an extensive new garden on Cascadia Avenue in the Mount Baker garden. The front garden features six rectangular perennial beds flanking the central front walk, while the much larger back garden boasts a substantial number of amenities: a swimming pool, shed with kitchenette, sports court and children’s play area. A raised hot tub is situated to look out over the flames of a custom, natural gas-fed fire feature to views of Lake Washington beyond. In addition, a custom tree house nestles in an Evergreen Magnolia tree for the owner’s young children. More than thirteen varieties of fruiting trees, shrubs, vines and espaliers are distributed throughout the garden, all without blocking views of the lake. Brooks collaborated with architect Kim Lavacot for the shed and tree house.

Photographs by Miranda Estes Photography

Recent Work: A Mount Baker Garden

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is proud to announce the completion of a substantial new hillside garden in the Mount Baker Garden. Since the main floor of the house is at a much lower elevation than the street, an elegant concrete stair winds down past a dramatic waterfall to the front door. From the main stair landing, a wide gravel path loops around to the back garden, which features a tranquil koi pond and a mahogany observation deck with sweeping views of Lake Washington and the Cascades. On the north side of the house, a second stair descends to a lower level rental unit which has its own lawn. Lush plantings of trees, shrubs, ornamental grasses and perennials are distributed throughout the garden, while a variety of erosion control shrubs anchor the steep slope below the deck. Brooks collaborated with Turnstone Construction on the two contrasting water features.

Photographs by Miranda Estes Photography



Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s Inverness Garden published in “New Landscaping Ideas That Work”

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb is thrilled to report that his Inverness Garden was just published as a case study in the new book, “New Landscaping Ideas That Work,” by Julia Moir Messervy (Taunton Press.)  Titled “A Backyard Retreat,” Brooks’ garden design is honored with a two-page spread on pages 154-155 in the book, which show-cases nation-wide garden designs.  It is also featured in a full-page photograph chapter heading, “Spaces that Work,” on page 20.  Julia Moir Messervy is also the author of “Home Outside:  Creating the Landscape You Love” and “Outside the Not So Big House” (with Sarah Susanka.)

Quoting Messervy, “Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb created an elegant landscape to meld beautifully with a mid-century modern home built in 1962.  The new owners wanted a private dining terrace on the east side of the house.*  Bands of white Texada concrete pavers alternate with fields of charcoal Texada to give interest to the flat plane around three sides of the house.”

*it is actually on the south side of the house.

For more information, please visit the Inverness Garden project page, https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/inverness-garden/.

Photographs by Ken Gutmaker









Brooks Kolb’s Inverness Garden to be Published in “New Landscaping Ideas That Work”

Seattle landscape architect Brooks Kolb, ASLA, is thrilled to announce that his Inverness Garden for the “Century 21 Idea House” is set to be published in the forthcoming book, “New Landscaping Ideas That Work.” Written by Julia Moir Messervy, the celebrated author of the “Not So Big House” book series, the January, 2018 publication will include a case study of the garden and a photo spread by Ken Gutmaker.  This garden provides an outdoor living room designed to complement the architecture of the house, which was originally designed in 1962 by architect Jack Morse, who was a friend and colleague of Kolb’s father, Keith Kolb, FAIA.

This garden was published in the Fall Home Design issue of the Seattle Times “Pacific NW Magazine,” in October, 2012, with photographs by Ben Benschneider, and can be found on Kolb’s website, here:  https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/inverness-garden/








Photograph by Ben Benschneider

Brooks Kolb LLC Honored by BUILD Magazine

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb, ASLA, is  honored and delighted to announce that his firm, Brooks Kolb LLC Landscape Architecture, was granted a prestigious award from BUILD Magazine, an international publication of construction and design based in the United Kingdom.  Announced in September, 2017, BUILD named Brooks Kolb LLC “Best Traditional Landscape Architecture Firm – Washington State and Best Washington Residential Garden Design:  Interlaken Park Garden.”  See the link below, page 75 for the essay Kolb prepared, describing his firm for the magazine:


Mike Siegel 9-7-14.7

Photograph by Mike Siegel

Published in the September 7, 2014 issue of the Seattle Times’ “Pacific NW Magazine,” more photographs and a description of the Interlaken Park Garden can be found here on Kolb’s website:   https://www.brookskolbllc.net/projects/interlaken-park-garden/



Brooks Kolb’s dad Keith Kolb honored by UW

Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb’s father, Keith Kolb, FAIA, was honored last Saturday night in the Alumni Awards Program of the University of Washington’s College of the Built Environment (UW CBE.)  My 95-year old dad was honored as a distinguished Professor Emeritus for his outstanding record of teaching architecture until his retirement at age 70.  The program included 3 awards given to recent graduates, plus 2 “Distinguished Alumni Awards.”  These last went to Lee Copeland, FAIA, who was Dean at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Fine Arts (now re-named Graduate School of Design) when I was in the master’s program there, and Steven Holl, the New York-based architect who designed the beautiful Chapel of St. Ignatius on the Seattle University Campus as well as the Bellevue Arts Museum.

Here are 2 photos of dad, dated April 1, 2017, with (from left to right) Marga Rose Hancock, the long-time Executive Director of the Seattle American Institute of Architects (AIA); Betty Wagner, the long-time UW Architectural Librarian; and Jane Hastings, an architect colleague of dad’s who broke the (lower) glass ceiling in the 1950’s by receiving her degree in architecture and going on to a successful architectural practice in Seattle.


What’s Blooming in January?

by Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb

When we think of a garden bursting into bloom, we automatically think of spring, and in the Pacific Northwest that means March and April. However, that doesn’t mean that no plants are blooming in January and February, when the garden still appears to be mostly dead. In addition to the lovely purple and yellow Crocus bulbs that everybody is familiar with, not to mention the Primroses and Cyclomens found in every supermarket’s flower shop, here are some fantastic selections for winter blooms, and three of them are fragrant to boot!

Sasanqua Camellias are a species of winter-blooming Camellias, with many named varieties. They come in white (‘Setsugekka’ and ‘White Doves’), light pink (‘Apple Blossom’); dark pink (‘Tanya’) and red (‘Yuletide.’) If you’re lucky, the latter selection will bloom at Christmas-time.

Witch Hazels (Hammamelis) are a large species of small trees or tree-form shrubs with fragrant, confetti-like flowers that twist all the way along their up-reaching branches in shades of bright yellow to deep orange. And they’re fragrant besides.

Tall Sarcococca, called “Sweet Box,” is a delicate low hedge of glossy green leaves featuring white to cream-colored flowers partly concealed in the leaf joints. These perfume the air with a vanilla-spice fragrance. Sarcococca ruscifolia has small red berries, while the virtually indistinguishable Sarcococca confusa has small black berries resembling currants or huckleberries.

Pink Dawn Viburnum (Viburnum bodnantense ‘Pink Dawn’) is a tall, upright shrub with lovely, Daphne-like fragrant pink flower clusters that bloom on the bare wood.

Hellebore Hybrids (hybrids of Helleborus orientalis, also known as “Lenten Rose”) offer downward-pointed, cup-like flowers in shades ranging from white to chartreuse to pale pinks, mauves and purples on a low-growing evergreen shrub or tall ground cover. These are flowers that I always think of as painted in water colors rather than oils. You can select a variety for a desired color or just purchase randlomly mixed hybrids and enjoy the resulting color rainbow.

If you had all 5 selections in your garden, January would not be a dead month in the garden after all!

Helleborus orientalis hybrids 

Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’

Should I stain my fence?

By Seattle Landscape Architect Brooks Kolb:

Clients often ask me, ‘what should I do about my fence?’ I always tell them, stain it or paint it a dark, warm color, such as dark warm gray, charcoal, deep olive green, or even black. The green foliage and vibrant colors of plants really “pop” against a dark background, and after all, the goal with a garden design is to give you lovely plant massings to look at, rather than acres of fence. The subject comes up regularly, though, because typically builders of new homes and fence contractors alike leave a brand new fence or deck with no stain. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen brand new houses, beautifully painted or stained, with un-stained decks sticking onto them like a sore thumb. The thought that people have, if there is one, is that the goal is for that unstained wood construction to dry to a beautiful silver. Unfortunately, that never happens unless your home is at the seashore where you have plenty of sun, wind and especially salt air to weather the fence. In town, unstained fences only turn a mottled gray and brown, and the pressure-treated posts change color at a different rate Super Jack.

Moreover, decks should be stained or painted a dark color so as to reduce glare. With light-stained decks, the sun bounces off the horizontal surface, causing annoying glare. Additionally, light-stained decks reveal all the inconsistencies in the wood grain, while dark decks tend to hide those imperfections.

Stain is recommended over paint because paint can flake off over time. Cabot has a good line of “semi-solid” stain colors. Semi-solid stain is ideal for most fence and deck stain projects because it absorbs into the wood grain more than semi-transparent, meaning that you don’t have to re-stain as often. At the same time, it is less likely to flake off than solid body stain, which behaves a lot like paint. Normally you need two coats, and you need to apply it only when you’re confident to have four or five days of dry weather after the stain is applied. The good news is that you can now get latex stain, rather than oil-based, which makes it easier to apply and wash up afterwards.

Great Plant Picks for Winter


Snowberry – Symphoricarpos albus


Arnold Promise Witch Hazel – Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’


Star Magnolia – Magnolia stellata

I always tell my clients that a Seattle garden should be designed with winter in mind.  If a garden looks good in winter, it’s almost guaranteed that it will look really great in spring and summer.  Above are three great plant picks that are are certain to lift your spirits in winter:  Snowberry, with its white berries on bare winter twigs; Arnold Promise Witch Hazel, with confetti-like yellow flowers in January, and Star Magnolia.  The photo shows Star magnolia blooming in the spring, but in the winter, its fuzzy, pussy-willow-like buds are a lovely promise of spring to come.  The larger Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia soulangiana) has equally gorgeous winter buds.

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