In Conversation With…

Inner Gardens Landscape Designer Kimberlee Keswick

In this edition of Inner Gardens’ “In Conversation With,” we sit down with Landscape Designer Kimberlee Keswick who embarked on a remarkable journey of restoration and transformation as she revitalized the landscape of an historic manor in San Francisco’s Presidio Heights. The captivating English Tudor residence, built in 1914 by esteemed architect Houghton Sawyer, had fallen into disrepair over the years, prompting the owners to bring on Inner Gardens designers Kimberlee Keswick and Stephen Block to breathe new life into its dilapidated state. Photography by Douglas Friedman.

The stately façade of the Presidio Heights Manor

Nestled in the prestigious neighborhood of Presidio Heights in San Francisco, there’s a magnificent manor that combines old-world charm with a modern urban lifestyle. While the interior of the house has received much attention, it’s the stunning outdoor landscape that adds magic to the property. We had the chance to speak with Inner Gardens Landscape Designer, Kimberlee Keswick, about her experience working on this captivating transformation.

“It was a clean slate,” Keswick shared, reflecting on the task at hand. “The only plants that remained were the cherished rose vines along the façade of the home,” a personal attachment of the family. Fortunately, the owners granted the Inner Gardens team carte blanche to craft a landscape that would complement the architectural grandeur of the home and uphold its estate-like essence.

Two antique stone eagles perch atop a garden entryway in a manor redesigned by landscape design firm Inner Gardens.
Two antique stone eagles perch atop the garden entryway.
A previously underutilized area with an outdoor treillage and planters, installed by Inner Gardens.
Transforming a previously underutilized area into a captivating space was accomplished by installing an outdoor treillage and planters.

Inner Gardens’ founder Stephen Block and Keswick met with the clients to discuss their vision, ensuring the team’s plans were in alignment with the family’s. One of the strongest directives given to Inner Gardens was to incorporate an urban vegetable garden and a beehive into the landscape. This desire to intertwine old-world charm with modern sustainability elements was central to the vision of the homeowners.

Keswick recognized the importance of balancing the grand architecture of the house with a sense of intimacy. “Because this property has one of the larger interior gardens in the neighborhood, it was an exciting opportunity to work with that kind of space,” she observed.

Another wonderful asset was the expansive terrace running the length of the house, serving as the ideal entertainment space. Large-scale Obelisk Boxwood and Thuja Juniper were added, providing a strong visual anchor for the garden while complementing the home’s stately elegance. To achieve a sense of privacy and intimacy Keswick added a series of pleached flowering pear trees along the exteriors garden wall, transforming the streetscape into a warm and welcoming space for the neighborhood to enjoy.

Garden objects, stone tables, and antique and vintage planting containers with large scale boxwood obelisks. Design by Inner gardens.
The terrace was an opportunity for Keswick to add in a beautiful layering of garden objects, stone tables, antique and vintage planting containers with large scale Boxwood obelisks creating a timeless and contemporary setting for the family to enjoy and entertain.

Limestone spheres in a garden designed by Inner Gardens.
Limestone spheres in the garden.
A 17th century stone bench in a garden designed by landscape designers Inner Gardens.
This 17th century stone bench was sourced as a centerpiece to provide a tranquil respite for the homeowners to unwind with their family and dogs.
In crafting a predominantly green garden with subtle pops of color, Block and Keswick carefully chose plants that would not only add visual appeal but also benefit the resident bees. Hydrangeas, peonies, campanula, and biokovo geraniums were selected specifically for their ability to propagate bees. Artichokes and flowering vines like clematis were also incorporated, contributing to both aesthetics and the overall ecological balance.
Trellised vegetable garden created by Inner Gardens.
The Family’s trellised vegetable garden.
A beautiful grouping of hand curated antique, and vintage stone planters with boxwood.
A beautiful grouping of hand curated antique, and vintage stone planters with boxwood.
Block, Thomas, and Keswick worked together meticulously to put the final touches on the landscape, ensuring a harmonious composition. Among these additions were a stunning limestone table adorned with antique stone urns, carefully selected to align with a unified color palette. These rare and thoughtfully curated garden objects elevated the aesthetic appeal of the space, completing the vision for the garden.