J. Brownlee Design

First and foremost, we are a professional design firm specializing in the creation of unique exterior spaces to complement their surrounding built living environments. But beyond that, our designs are created to tell a story – the story of how our clients live and enjoy their lives. Design permeates the entire development process – from when we first ring your doorbell for the initial client meeting until we are standing together enjoying a cocktail in the completed space after the final details have been completed and you are ready to enjoy the extension of your home into the outdoors for years to come.
As we move through the three primary phases of the design, we will relate the design process to these core storytelling elements and discover how each phase builds from one to the next, and not only how your story is told, but most importantly, why the story is worth creating in the first place! We begin by creating the vision together with you in the Concept Design Phase, define that vision in the Design Development Phase, keep that vision on track through the Construction Observation Phase, then experience the vision together as the finished outdoor living space is realized.
Discovering Your Design Story
The Concept Design is where the story begins. Here, together, we will create the design vision that will guide the entire development process as the project progress from a seed of an idea to the finished transformation of your outdoor living space – an extension of you, your home, and your property that creates an emotional connection that you will never want to leave.
To set the stage for this story, we focus on three elements to gather the information needed for a successful design…
Where these three elements come together is the heart of a great story – one from which we can build the vision that elicits the desired emotional connection, becoming an extension of how you live, and feels harmonious with the space it is created upon.
Client Lifestyle
(Character Development)
The first step is to for us to perform a client interview, where we will look, listen, and learn about you. Sometimes this is a single meeting at your home. On more advanced scale projects, this may entail a series of meetings or dinner/drinks to move past formalities and truly get to know you – your family, your kids, your dog, your tastes, desires, interests, etc. What is it that makes you…well, you.
We will also schedule the first meeting with you at your home. We want to experience your lifestyle with you in your home environment – looking at the details of your decor and your personal style. We will ask questions and listen about what is important to you, both for the project and in your lives. We will learn how you live your live day to day. We strive to listen to what is being said, as well as what is not said, and find ways to weave these nuances into the fabric of the concept design vision.
In the end, this will be your space, your home, and your families experience, and we want to make it one that you will enjoy both now and for years to come as we all progress through stages of life.
The Site / Character
(The Setting)
The site is the plot of land on which we are tasked to create your outdoor living or backyard destination resort. It is the canvas on which we have to work, but it is seldom considered a “blank canvas”. Each site has it’s own unique character, or aspects that make it unique and special. Some of these features are positive assets — Attractive views, existing specimen trees or attractive vegetation, or something unique or specific that we find and will want to build off of or emphasize in the design. Other features are more negative, or liabilities that we will need to mitigate — unattractive views, roadway noises, drainage issues, aggressive political boundaries (easements / setbacks), imposing neighbors’ homes, etc. We will seek ways to address correctable issues and draw attention away from site liabilities that cannot be changes. Still other site characteristics are ones that may be considered difficult or negative, but often allow for us to find creative solutions that end up “making” the design. Extensive slopes, either toward or away from the home — or even significant cross-slopes (left to right or reverse) are examples where we have to be creative to carve-out usable space. A saying that I use all of the time is, “The more difficult the situation, the more creative the solution”, and this holds true almost all of the time!
Whatever the specific site situation, we will want to spend some TIME on the property to perform a detailed site analysis of the property before we begin the Concept Design process. This typically includes walking the site, taking TONS of pictures, finding specific elevations, flying our drone for overhead views, and getting a FEEL of the site in person. We will want to view sun angles and how these change throughout the season (we have a very cool app that will show the sun patterns across the day and seasons!). We will want to feel the wind and listen to the sounds and look at the surrounding features — neighbors upstairs windows that may be able to be blocked by a correctly placed tree, etc.
The site and its inherent character play a major part in the direction we will go with the design. On projects that have amazing views or visual draws in the distance, the design goal is to create a developed space that leads the eye to bounce off the design and focus instead on the beauty of God’s creation beyond. We never want to compete with the majesty of nature when she beacons to be experienced. Conversely, on projects with outside negative visual elements that try to distract you from the outdoor living experience, we work to create a visually (and often audibly) strong focal element that works to keep your attention “locked in” to the designed space and not allow your attention to be grabbed by undesired outside Influences. There are many ways to accomplish both of these task scenarios, and we work to find the solution that best fits your property, your house, and your lifestyle.
Defining the Emotional “Theme”
of the Story
Once we have met the characters and discovered the setting, the immediate goal is to develop the theme, or the “moral of the story” that we will look to create through the design. The theme is the emotional goal that will be experienced when the homeowner, their friends, and their family are in the space. Themes are the design goal based on how the characters desire to experience the space. Here are several examples of common themes that we address in our design:
A great design should SPEAK to our soul when we experience the space together. It should be so enticing that you just can’t tear yourself away and don’t want to leave. These emotional theme connections are not obvious items that you add, but instead are carefully woven into the space on a sub-conscious level – just below our visual perceptions. The development of the theme is key to creating the heart of a design, but is almost always overlooked or not considered by most designers. The WHY is far more important that the WHAT, or the individual items included in a space.
The House / Architectural Style
(The Story Style)
The driving factor that determines the overall style of the design should be an understanding and analysis of the house. The Architectural Style and details of the home are the basis from which we take our cues and begin to build the stylistic theme of the design from these. The goal on most designs is to either blur or erase the line between indoor and outdoor living, creating an intentional flow through the combined spaces that effectively “draws you out” from the indoor and into the outdoor spaces — inventing you to enjoy the entirety of the property, not just the walled indoor sections.
This approach also creates consistency in the design and a connection to the home that will make the square footage of the home feel much larger and inviting. Accessory structures, lanai’s, cabanas, pavilions, and pool house structures should also play off of the architectural details of the home to appear as they are part of the original architecture, not added elements at a later date. When the home architectural style is a major player in the design, the theme feels expansive and impactful to the character of the designed exterior space.