Landscape Guide For Your Mountain Home

Mountain-style landscaping is more than just a design choice. It’s a way to connect with the natural beauty of your surroundings. By using local materials and native plants, you’re not just creating an organic look but also fostering a deeper connection with the mountains.

Mountain landscaping can fit any space, whether a sprawling backyard or a cozy city garden. Interestingly, mountains host about a quarter of the Earth’s land biodiversity, making them a rich source of inspiration. By integrating elements of mountain life into your landscaping, you can enjoy a piece of this natural beauty right at home. Incorporating principles of residential architecture can enhance your outdoor space’s functionality and aesthetic appeal. Dive into these mountain landscaping ideas and start crafting your outdoor haven.

Combining Visual Appeal and Practical Use

winter mountain home landscaping

Balancing aesthetics and functionality in mountain landscaping requires a thoughtful design and material selection approach. The unique challenges mountainous terrain presents—steep slopes, rocky soil, extreme hazards, and harsh weather conditions—necessitate innovative solutions that marry beauty with practicality. When planning a mountain landscape, it is essential to consider plant selection, hardscaping elements, and sustainable practices that will thrive in an elevated environment.

A well-designed landscape can transform a mountain property into a visually stunning, sustainable, and usable space by balancing aesthetics and functionality. This harmonious approach ensures that the landscape is not only an extension of the home’s living area but also a respectful nod to the beauty and integrity of the natural environment.

Creative Landscape Ideas for Mountain Homes

Essentials of Natural Mountain Landscaping

Mountain landscapes often evoke images of rugged terrain, diverse plant life, and serene beauty. To replicate this in your yard, incorporate natural elements like stones, boulders, and organic lines. Avoid sharp corners and artificial materials that disrupt the natural flow. Pathways made of natural stone or wood walkways can wind through the space, guiding visitors on a journey. Garden sculptures, water features, stone benches, and wooden harbors can be focal points, creating interest and harmony with the surroundings.

Incorporating Native Plants and Trees

Native plants and trees are vital in mountain-style landscaping. Choose species that thrive in your region’s climate, ensuring minimal maintenance. Consider shrubs like willow, blueberry, huckleberry, or rabbit bush for various textures and colors for multiple textures and colors. Sun-loving perennials such as goldenrod, sunflower, and daisies add vibrant, drought-tolerant hues. Quaking aspens and other trees can create shade and visual interest year-round. These plants support local wildlife, reduce the need for water, and blend seamlessly with natural surroundings.

Utilizing Rocks and Boulders

Rocks and boulders bring authenticity to mountain landscaping. They add structure and visual interest to your yard. Use them to create retaining walls, pathways, or focal points. Mimicking natural formation: boulders are placed irregularly rather than in straight lines. Incorporate various sizes and shapes for a more organic feel. Select local stones to blend with the surroundings and minimize transportation impact.

Integrating Mountain-Style Hardscaping

Hardscaping elements like stone patios, fire pits, and outdoor structures can define functional areas. Stone patios extend living spaces, offering spots for dining or relaxation. Fire pits create inviting gathering spots, ideal for cool mountain evenings. Align these elements with the natural terrain, preserving views and the natural flow of the landscape. Use materials like stone or wood to maintain a cohesive and natural look. 

Creating Interest with Texture

When it comes to mountain landscaping, one of the most compelling strategies is to delight with texture. Landscaping textures involves using plants, rocks, and other materials to create visual and tactile interest. This technique is particularly effective in mountain settings, where the natural landscape is already quite dramatic. Utilizing a variety of textures can not only enhance the aesthetic appeal but also add depth and dimension to your outdoor space.

In conclusion, delighting with texture in mountain landscaping involves carefully selecting and placing plants, rocks, and hardscape elements to create a cohesive, visually stimulating environment. By blending various textures, you can mirror the natural beauty of the mountains and craft a landscape that is as inviting as it is beautiful.

Introducing Layered Elements

The strategic addition of layers can create depth and visual interest in a mountain landscape design. Layering in landscaping involves arranging plants of varying heights, textures, and colors to mirror the natural progression of mountain terrain. This method enhances aesthetic appeal and improves the ecological balance by providing diverse wildlife habitats and enhancing soil water retention.

By thoughtfully adding layers to your mountain landscape, you create a multifaceted environment that not only pleases the eye but also maintains the mountainous terrain’s integrity and natural beauty. This method allows for a harmonious blend between the cultivated areas and the wild, rugged nature often found in these high-altitude ecosystems.

Adding Water Features to Mountain Landscapes

Adding water features like streams and waterfalls can create a soothing and natural atmosphere in mountain landscapes. You can choose from a variety of options:

  • Ponds: These can range from small decorative ponds to larger bodies of water that support fish and aquatic plants.
  • Waterfalls: Cascading waterfalls, reminiscent of natural falls found in mountain settings, can add a dynamic element to your yard.
  • Fountains: Fountains offer a more controlled and structured water feature, suitable for front and backyards.
  • Birdbaths: Simple yet effective, birdbaths attract wildlife and add a tranquil element to your landscape.

Each type mirrors natural elements and connects the outdoor area with its mountain surroundings.


Mountain landscaping offers a unique blend of beauty and functionality. By incorporating local materials and native plants, anyone can transform their yard into a serene retreat. Features like rock pathways, garden sculptures, and water elements enhance the natural charm while supporting local ecosystems. Strategic layouts maximize views and create a seamless transition from home to nature. Incorporating modern ranch house exterior elements can enhance this blend, adding a contemporary touch to the natural surroundings. Embracing these mountain home landscaping ideas elevates the aesthetic appeal of outdoor spaces and fosters a deeper connection with the environment.



Emily Warren, AIA, NCARB

Emily is celebrated for her insightful commentary and technical expertise. As a licensed architect with over a decade of professional experience, Emily boasts a rich background that spans high-end design, historic documentation, and sustainable development. She honed her skills with the National Park Service’s Historic Documentation Programs, mastering complex projects completed to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards.

Emily’s work is distinguished by meticulous attention to detail and a passion for advancing architectural knowledge. Her leadership and teaching capabilities, demonstrated by her guidance of interns and management of multimillion-dollar projects, underscore her commitment to fostering growth and excellence within the architectural community. Emily’s compelling narratives and technical prowess make her an invaluable voice in the field as she continues to inspire readers with her dedication and vision.

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Charlotte R. DeChant



As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.

Douglas M. DeChant

Founding Partner/Principal


Architecture is more than a profession for Doug, our principal designer; it is a calling, understood since childhood. While a modernist at heart, his work reflects the necessary context of each setting and the voice of each client. He trained in the program of modernist and former Bauhaus Director Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, at Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in Chicago. After working throughout the nation and overseas, Doug settled in Vail in 1985, where he met his wife, Charlotte. Together they founded the practice in 1989 and have enjoyed raising four amazing children.

Doug’s service has included the Eagle County, Colorado, Planning Commission; the faculty of the Byron Fellowship, an annual sustainable communities conference; panelist at the Summit for Creativity in La Jolla sponsored by The Design Futures Council; participation in local design review boards; youth sports coaching; and various lay-leadership positions in his church. In 2004, he conceived ‘Benevolent Architecture’, a proprietary service offering low-cost or no-cost architecture and consulting to worthy ministries and non-profits.  In 2005, Doug began to develop an intimate, artistic retreat and conference venue, Wellspring Ranch, LLC, relocating and restoring several historic Colorado structures upon a remarkable property outside of Buena Vista, Colorado.

He is a member of the American Institute of Architects, certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards, and has been licensed in numerous states, including Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Indiana, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He finds balance in guitar, sculpture, hiking, snowshoeing, golf and crafting various elements of his retreat venue. 

Tom Bashford


Tom, one of our most valued, gifted leaders, passed away unexpectedly in March 2017. Together with his joyful spirit and hilarious dry wit, he enhanced our studio with a wealth of design and management experience. Tom will never be replaced. He was the type of person, father, leader, and mentor to which we all aspire, and the fruit of his efforts will live on, in his son, in us, and in our projects.

Pam, Peraya Mongkolwongrojn


Peraya, Pam, is originally from Bangkok, Thailand, where she first became interested in Architecture from the rich spatial environment.  She explored Canada before moving to the States to pursue her passion for architecture. Pam went to the University of Arizona to earn a Bachelor of Architecture professional degree. During school, she energized a passion for the arts and drawing. 

In her free time, Pam enjoys exploring the great outdoors, hiking through Colorado’s scenic landscapes, and finding inspiration for her designs in nature. With a keen eye for detail and a creative approach to problem-solving, Pam has been involved in many of our custom residential homes. Her passion for the arts and drawing has influenced her design style, which incorporates elements of beauty and functionality. Pam’s commitment to excellence and her love for architecture make her a dedicated professional who strives to make a difference through her work.

As she continues to grow and learn in her field, Pam remains devoted to creating innovative spaces that enrich people’s lives and leave a positive legacy for future generations.

Brett Lehr

Project Manager

Brett is a designer with a unique blend of expertise, holding an undergraduate degree in Media Arts from the University of Nebraska-Omaha and an M.Arch degree from the University of Nebraska. His diverse educational background has ignited a passion for utilizing realistic virtual environments to enhance the efficiency, enjoyment, and overall success of architectural design processes.

Beyond his professional pursuits, Brett finds joy in a variety of hobbies, including snow skiing, biking, fly fishing, golf, and hiking. Embracing the scenic wonders of the Vail Valley, he has found the perfect lifestyle fit, drawing creative inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty.

Laurie Baggott


Our studio is fortunate to have Laurie bring her considerable experience in business and finance to our daily operations. Among her many administrative responsibilities, she manages accounting, payroll and invoicing for us. When not busy here or as a private chef, she avidly hikes in our beautiful summers and snowshoes in the winter.

Patricia Marcine


Earning her Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Houston in 2016 was just the beginning. From there, Trish headed to Europe, to study at the Graz University of Technology in Austria and work at the Aedes Architekturforum. Then she determined it was time to return to the Rocky Mountains. We became beneficiaries of her delightful, collaborative spirit when she joined our studio in early 2018. Her savvy technical support and inspired design voice enhance each project, while her design comprehension and growth demonstrate that she has a future with much to offer the profession. As a lifelong artist, Trish’s search for a practical art form and meaningful profession has been fulfilled by custom residential architecture, where “…not a day truly feels like work.”

Trish grew up in Northern New Jersey, playing club and varsity soccer, enjoying ski club with friends, and learning to snowboard at a young age. As a teen, she competed in various equestrian events, highlighted by working for Frank and Mary Chapot to train Olympic-level show jumpers. Eventually, faster hobbies were necessary, and Trish became a driving instructor for the SCCA and track-day rider on her CBR600RR. She’s also been an enthusiastic racer on our company’s ‘ski team’. When a new project surfaces, she’s pleased to slow down enough to collaborate with the team.

Emily Warren


Emily joined us from the DC area, lured by the mountains, our core values and our creative environment. She earned a Master of Architecture and Bachelor of Science in Architecture degrees from SUNY Buffalo’s School of Architecture & Planning, with a minor in Earth System Science.

Through her wonderfully infectious spirit, Emily eagerly contributes diverse knowledge and experience, having worked on historic National Park Service documentation, and urban high-density residential projects facing strict constraints. She is a productive and dedicated team player who thrives through learning and contributing to the growth of others. Her detail, project management and organizational skills are exceptional. Emily is licensed in Maryland, and nationally accredited by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards.

Emily is passionate about youth empowerment, with considerable experience teaching and mentoring in schools and camps. She’s an ardent weightlifter, hiker and nature enthusiast, embracing the Vail Valley’s active, outdoor lifestyle.

Cam Frey


Cam was introduced to Colorado’s rivers and mountains at an early age, returning annually from Michigan with his family to fly-fish and hike near the small mining town of Creede. His interest in design and architecture was ignited by his high school drafting teacher, who instilled a balanced approach to design through technology and craft. Cam received his BA from UNC, Chapel Hill, followed by a few years of medical research before heading West to earn his Master of Architecture from the University of Oregon. There he became interested in the interdisciplinary study of Biomimicry; an approach to solving design problems by looking to nature. Not coincidentally, this interest, the stunning landscapes, wildlife, and outdoor lifestyle led Cam back to Colorado in 2014. He joined us in 2017, quickly becoming a central piece of our culture and project management structure.

Cam serves on the Design Review Committee of the Arrowhead at Vail community, is a certified Biomimicry Specialist and licensed Architect in the state of Colorado.

His other pursuits include fly-fishing, skiing, hiking, and a good game of euchre…, and the list continues to grow. He is married to a wonderfully talented children’s book illustrator, and dotes on his young son.

Ben Marion


From an early age, Ben had a pen in hand and a curiosity for exploring both natural and built environments. Much of his adolescence was spent drawing what he observed, balanced with his passions for cross-country skiing the New England forests and playing soccer as far away as Europe. Like many of us, Ben arrived in Colorado as an adult, following a lifelong passion to further pursue the resort lifestyle. After graduating from the University of Colorado, he practiced with some of the finest architects and builders in the region, creating fine homes and other structures. His broad experience includes California mountain resort homes, as well as mixed-use and commercial structures, peppered with an interesting mix of furniture building and construction. In our studio, Ben is a strong design voice and outstanding project manager, leading by quiet example as he mentors our emerging leaders.

Ben remains passionate about skiing and soccer, coaching both youth sports locally. Travel remains in his blood as he and his family explore the west in their vintage 1967 camper.

Bert Willemse


Bert found a home away from home in the Vail Valley while exploring North America’s most beautiful landscapes on a post-graduation road trip…, from his hometown of Bellvale, New York to Wasilla, Alaska. He had completed his studies at SUNY Buffalo and apprenticed with two well-known firms in New York’s Hudson Valley area before joining our studio. As the son of a general contractor Bert gained practical construction knowledge with hands-on experience in the field. His many professional attributes are exceeded only by his wonderful, collaborative spirit.

Naturally, Bert is an active individual who embraces hiking, biking and skiing in our amazing Colorado mountains.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principal

After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology’s School of Architecture in 1994 and working as an intern for three years at Fujikawa Johnson and Associates in Chicago, Adam packed his van and toured America to determine where he might settle; he found Vail and Shepherd Resources in September of 1997. After growing from intern to project manager to associate, Adam began transitioning into ownership in 2017 and became a principal owner in early 2020. As a dedicated designer, Adam loves collaborating with his fellow architects and interns while managing a busy studio.

His priorities are rooted in sustainability, strong leadership skills, and staff mentoring to uphold the core values of the practice. He is licensed in Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina and serves as the chairman of the Red Sky Ranch Design Review Board. Adam enjoys golf, mountain biking, skiing, music, and any activity involving his daughter Bellalee. Adam has been practicing for a quarter century and looks forward to designing and collaborating for another quarter century; the opportunity to doodle a quick sketch, with the future opportunity of walking through such a doodle fuels his creativity and passion for design.

Adam H. Harrison

NCARB, LEED AP / Principle

As a young artist, Charlotte tailored her pre-architecture undergraduate degree at Colorado College, in Colorado Springs, and completed her Master of Architecture at the University of Colorado, Denver. With her fresh eyes, she is an observer, analyst and critic of our processes, and her imagination inspires and contributes to our creativity. Of the partners, Charlotte’s willingness to raise the children fostered Doug’s ability to focus upon the practice.

She is a lifelong resident of Colorado, skied Vail in the early years as a child and remains an excellent bump skier (if the sun is shining). She was an original teammate of the Vail Breakaways, Vail’s first women’s hockey team. Charlotte’s vision includes an amazing gift for seeing, rescuing, restoring and placing cast-off furniture and other elements, giving the pieces valuable, renewed lives.