Designing Despite Dangers - Pro Landscaper Magazine USA

Designing Despite Dangers

by | Dec 10, 2021 | Build, Design, Featured Slider, Landscape Architecture

Steep slope redesigned for a South Carolina family

Safety can be the entire purpose of a landscape transformation.

It was a main goal for a South Carolina homeowner who purchased a 3-acre property overlooking a lake.

The home featured a beautiful interior, but the exterior was only nice to look at from the window.

Through creative, skillful designs though, the dangerous and unwalkable space became a beautiful outdoor area ready for anyone to enjoy.

“There was about a 100-foot drop from the top of the driveway down to the lake. The grade was way too steep, and probably not up to code. Essentially it was just slippery, dangerous, pea gravel,” said 

Pearce Butcher is the landscape designer who took on this tough project. 

Pearce manages a landscape design firm called “Pearce B. Designs” based in Greenville, South Carolina. She runs her business from her home, “creating beautiful spaces for functional outdoor living.”

Pearce launched a career in the landscape industry by combining two passions, art and nature.

In college, she double majored in Environmental Science and Art, and her mother helped her navigate her path after graduation.

“You know, when you’re 18 and you’re a freshman in college, you’re not always sure what you want to do. My mom knew I always loved art and advised me to be an art major. I really loved the outdoors though, and she said ‘you know, there’s a job for designing the outdoors’. That is when I realized that landscape design was my thing.” After an internship in the Metro DC area after her junior year in college with a woman-owned design-build firm, she then went to George Washington University to earn her Landscape Design Certificate.

Pearce focuses on the master plan for her projects, then the homeowners decide how to bring the designs to life.

Some just want a long-term goal and will draw out the construction for several years.

Some will even take on the project themselves! Many will hand the designs over to a local contractor though, and Pearce will help them find one fit for the project. 

“Let’s say I have a lot of boulder work; I’ll recommend someone who is great with natural stonework. Or another project might be a different contractor’s jam because, for example, he loves putting in traditional southern gardens. I try to get to know people in the industry well, and they will call me when they need work too.” 

For this project she chose James Lajoie of LandArt Landscapes.

Pearce loves keeping her operations small though so she can maintain a strong work-life balance.

“As my business grew, my children grew. I have two teenagers and a first grader, so it is a lot easier to get work done from home. I want to take on clients while still being present for my kids.”

For each project she spends several weeks with the client to develop their ideas, get familiar with the project site, and give them a hand-rendered layout of the plan. 

“I enjoy the process of putting marker to paper. I do this kind of strange unique hybrid approach where I design it in CAD then print it out on paper and fill it in with markers to give it some color. It makes each one a little bit unique, like a special gift to the client. Many people will even hang them in their home as artwork! To me, a garden is a form of art. Plants are the color, texture, form and shape of the piece.”

For the lake house project, Pearce’s artwork took shape in the form of a long path that meandered down the steep hill.

It allowed the homeowners and their family to safely get from the home to the water, even their elderly parents.

Pearce spent several days on the property measuring and analyzing the area.

She designed a path that moved down through the wooded area of the hill and added a pitch at the top and the bottom held by a slate base.

Halfway down the slope is a resting and viewing area with a 20-foot diameter fire pit that was custom built by Fire Kettles out of Orangeburg, SC.

LandArt handled the stonework and landscape installation. James even drove to Tennessee to hand-pick the stones for the project.

“I wanted to blend into the natural environment as much as possible. It needed to be functional and still look natural.” 

After Pearce finished designing, she connected the homeowners with an installation team fit for the job. They finished in about a month, and the entire project cost less than $150,000.

Project photos —

Headshots — Rachel Garrison Photography

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