Photos by David Stuck
Few neighborhoods were more distinctly designed around the concept of indoor-outdoor than Bethesda’s Potomac Overlook, a planned mid-century enclave with “California modern” homes tucked into dense, mature woods and gentle hills rolling down to the Potomac.
The homes, built with clean, uncluttered modern lines, include wide windows, porches, patios and breezeways that bring nature—and the outdoors—indoors.
One of the homes in this now designated historic district was given an outdoor facelift recently, enhancing the residents’ access to their naturally beautiful landscape.
Enter Johnson’s Landscaping Service, a longtime Montgomery County business founded in 1960, an outgrowth of Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers, in Kensington and Olney, started by grocer Raymond Johnson in 1933 after finding the flower business more lucrative.Brothers and co-owners Matt and Charlie work the landscaping side, while brothers and co-owners Tom and Jimmy take care of the flower and garden centers.
This project took Matt, Charlie and crew to Potomac Overlook, where the client’s heavily wooded property needed some TLC. Making it more user-friendly and attractive included removing or transplanting existing plants and flowers and adding new, designing and installing stone walkways and paths, dry-stone and mortared walls and borders, flagstone steps and split-rail fence, all while artfully solving a standing water issue with a French drain and river-rock splash along the foundation.
Matt noted trends in outdoor spaces such as the Bethesda home that extend the indoors, including with patios, walls and plantings “so the space feels more enclosed, more private.”“Seating areas, grill areas and outdoor kitchens have become more prevalent,” Charlie added. “As everybody hung on to their money, and opted not to sink it into a [vacation] rental, they spent the money at home, creating an outdoor space.”
Potomac Overlook’s mid-century modern homes invite the outside in, and the inside out, with wide windows that look onto hillside treetops. Indoor plant-scaping trends include plants known to improve indoor air quality, said Tom Johnson of Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers. “We’ve definitely been seeing a lot of outside trends growth, but I would say the most surprising would be in houseplants.”
New walkways, paths and steps down the sloped backyard, and up to parking areas, allow homeowners easier access to their outdoor spaces. New stone walls, borders and green and flowering plants integrate the new features into the natural landscape.
Correction, June 22, 2020, 9:30 a.m.: The story was altered to correct the name of the founder of Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers.