We just got back from the East Coast, where we had the treat of staying with friends on their exquisitely manicured 12-acre property in Pennsylvania. The experience was a perfect example of how the perspective of travel can make you appreciate the beauty of design even more.

By now you know that layering colors and textures and varying the height and proportion of your elements will create a more dynamic design. We’re usually talking about interiors, but these principles also apply to outdoor spaces.

Look carefully at this gorgeous landscape. Notice how natural materials are layered to create a serene yet textured effect? You see fieldstone holding up the fence (the same fieldstone that’s used in the house and a bridge on the property).

The woods and the heights


The warm tones of the fence contrast with the rustic, weathered deck and silvered teak patio furniture, while the painted pool house adds a fresh white pop. Don’t forget the gnarly trunks of the honey locust trees!

The landscaping has been carefully cultivated to incorporate different heights and proportions. Your eye takes in the ground cover, the mid-height lines of the shrubbery and glorious displays of mature trees.

Color my world The owners wanted color all year round, so plants were chosen so that the landscape has layers of color in every season. We were treated to yellows, reds, lavenders, pinks and infinite shades of green. Can you imagine the view in autumn?

Obviously most of us will never have this kind of property to design (nor would we want to maintain it!). But as I always say, opportunities to travel are opportunities to be inspired — whether by architecture, interiors or landscaping — even if you’re not picking up ideas for your own home. When you understand the elements that go into a design, you’ll appreciate its beauty that much more.

Cathy Lee is a home style expert, speaker, president and designer of Cathy Lee Style. Her redesigns of residential and business spaces have been featured in local and national publications and on HGTV. For more info and inspiring photos of design projects, visit