“I KIND OF just want you to sit in these chairs and feel the space,” says Sophia Bueche when I arrive. “We have a really great view in back, but we find ourselves out here a lot in the morning — right here.”
We sit and survey the front yard from red Adirondack chairs just outside the front door. It is simple and pretty, with patterned (or recurring) colors and plants.
Across the West Seattle property, there are many places to tuck yourself away and sit. “We’ve done it on purpose,” Bueche says. People ask her all the time where her favorite place to sit is, and her reply is always, “Wherever I am.”
Sophia and Lane Bueche bought this place in late 2003 and slowly have overhauled and redesigned every inch, starting with the backyard. They put in a new front yard over the past three years, after deciding between updating an original bathroom or digging. “Pink bathroom, front yard? Pink bathroom, front yard?” says Sophia, laughing. The yard won.
From the street, it stands out. The parking strip has a huge swath of cement, a design feature that was grandfathered in and feels like an esplanade. Here, the couple has placed a collection of bright-red container plantings, one filled with a glossy, electric-blue, painted maple stump, giving you a feel for what’s in store — a fun, whimsical property with creative and sophisticated touches.
What is now a styled yard with sweeping walkways and grasses used to be a slope with old apple trees and blackberry vines. Thanks to easy access from the street, they could rent a Bobcat and bulldoze the hill, creating elevation.
Lane designed the front yard and added an L-shaped pathway to the front door. Slabs of cement pavers make a wide path interplanted with dwarf mondo grass. He also designed and fabricated a low fence line from aluminum and mahogany, and Sophia planted a hedge of low bamboo for privacy. While he’s not a formal designer, Lane “has a very good gift for special design, and a very creative eye,” says Sophia. He envisioned the yard shape, and Sophia was in charge of plant selection.
While she hasn’t been a gardener long, she chooses plants based on color and texture, and visits nurseries for inspiration. “I didn’t know what these were, but I liked the leaf, and I liked the color,” she says of the white-leafed Senecio ‘Angel Wings’ planted next to Heuchera ‘Forever Purple’ and red and yellow variegated coleus off the front stoop. A thick row of Japanese forest grass adds a long sightline of lime green to the entrance.
The entrance is grand, which was the intent. “I like big, wide staircases,” says Sophia. She created a little respite with an archway of two maple trees that turn into each other.
The front yard flows and bends around a perimeter of garden beds, with thick, green grass at the center. “We did the metal edging on the grass, and I have to tell you, Lane had a blowtorch, and we were jumping on it and hammering it,” she says. A strictly DIY couple, they like it because it gives the space a clean edge. Lane, a jewelry designer, had worked with metal before, but not to this scale.
Against the house, as you turn into the backyard, she has planted more tall grasses, including Japanese blood grass, a simple, patterned color scheme of red and green that echoes the front yard and accents their brick home.
Off the back of the house, a peaceful space replaced an overgrown backyard that had been covered in tarp to hold in the hillside. The view is expansive and stunning, and it perfectly sets the stage for their cascading staircase.
Sophia knew she wanted a big staircase, so they added a major waterfall, stepping down into the backyard. “We didn’t really think it would be this big when we laid it out,” she says. At the top of the falls is a square, shallow pool of water adjacent to an outdoor living room. “The grandkids sit up top and tumble boats off the side,” she says.
Across from the unintentional kiddie pool stands a pine tree shaped with cloud pruning. It was an overgrown mess when they bought the home. “Oh, we love that tree. The whole yard is centered on this tree. It is our pride and joy,” Sophia says. They underplanted it with lavender, Japanese anemones and burgundy bugleweed. Nearby stands a potted, contorted filbert.
At the foot of the fountain and stairs, Sophia has planted crocosmia and black-eyed Susans that run across the back of the house and surrounds a backyard hot tub. The blooms are bright and cheery. “This will be the last year these will be here,” she says. “It’s too big. When it was smaller, it was prettier. The plants will actually tell you if they don’t like a spot.”
Lane is a visionary, and Sophia adds the flair. Together, they have put a lot of effort, time and thought into the property — and it continues. “My garden is always changing,” says Sophia.