Landscapes that Marry Ecology with Psychology 3

The Landscape Design of Genevieve Joelle Villamizar

“Fifteen minutes of relaxation can change the course of your day. My work creates those opportunities,” muses landscape designer Genevieve Joelle Villamizar. “More so than ever, landscape design is the creation of spaces inviting us to ‘be’, to live in joy and connect.”

Villamizar’s recent projects include the KDNK radio station, a brewery, a distillery inn and the planting plan for Carbondale’s first natural playground at the new LEED-certified Ross Montessori School. Two private projects remain her perennial favorites: a tiny courtyard and a multi-acre horse property. By helping her clients make the right investments and implementing effective systems that reduce costs and inputs, Villamizar’s Salt + Dirt | Outside Design’s span the breadth of outdoor living.

Investing in Tranquility – A  Sunken Lounge

Tommy and MaryAnn Sands never used their backyard—ever. A minuscule lawn, open to the eyes of neighbors peering down from adjacent townhomes, it was so uninviting it had devolved into a spacious cat litter box.

Villamizar layered the space, allowing for different uses through the rhythms of the day. Clematis and roses smother a swinging bench, entwining a sweet summer spot for coffee and contemplation. A custom-fabricated pergola of fiber-coated steel dapples the light during al fresco meals. An expansive parasol offers privacy from the neighbors above. Dark gray hues throughout cool and soothe the space, making plants and details pop. A Buddha meditates over the gardens that enfold and lace the space with fecund life.

“In a postage-stamp project like this, anything is possible,” comments Villamizar. “You are forced to become more creative. Ironically, the secret to a small space is subdividing. Breaking it into multiple components expands the energy and potential. This was a radical, complex project that took a lot of courage.” And MaryAnn had that.

Villamizar notes that landscape is often the last thought. “I prefer to work with the architect, from the beginning, to maximize opportunities.” Investments ideally should suit the neighborhood’s price point to avoid what real estate brokers term “over-building.”

“Tom and MaryAnn rose above that,” says Villamizar. “They prioritized their lifestyle and that made it the right investment for them. They have a sweet property where they enjoy jazz and cocktails, gardening and coffee. Their summer revolves around their pleasure grounds.”

Nine Point Something – A Landscape System

Dr. Aaron Koepp was Villamizar’s first official design client prior to acquiring her design degree from Colorado State University. He retained her to design his golf course property. Then his medical offices. And finally  his horse property, where “not knowing any better, he was investing in systems that decreased the vigor and value of an exceptional piece of land,” Villamizar laughs.

“Now, the landscape slowly evolves from dormancy to seas of waving grass, sparkling with life each season. It’s breathtaking.”

It took three years to revitalize the land. “We were peeling back layers, undoing damage. It was overgrazed and infested with noxious weeds. And there was nowhere to simply ‘be.’”

Villamizar explains that as a landscape designer, she often finds herself “educating the lawn service, the gardener… Most people don’t how to care for nature. We developed management plans to increase vitality and carve a sense of place into the landscape. We significantly reduced maintenance costs.”

“We pulled from the spirit of valley, echoing the red rock hog-backs, the river elements, focusing on grand gestures rather than fussy details,” she explains. “We used aspects of the native landscape to create holding space for family life within it.” She notes that the plant palette was planned to invite birds. As an avid birder, Dr. Koepp soon saw birds he had never before seen.

Of her business’ name, Salt + Dirt | Outside Design, Villamizar says, “If something’s worth its salt, it’s worth exploring. The new millennium has re-engaged us with nature but in a different way—we want to live more outdoors. There’s no denying that dirt on our hands is restorative. Many of my clients want small opportunities to indulge that—maybe growing a little food, an outdoor bread oven—but they don’t want to be gardeners. I create those opportunities.” Villamizar ponders this a moment. “When I can find the inroads unique to each client and can design to meet their needs, matching the ecology to their psychology, I’m living ‘in service’ and contributing to life.”

Readers can view more photos and reviews of Villamizar’s work on Houzz by searching “Salt AND Dirt”.