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Maria Killam’s White Garden Transformation: Before & After

By 08/10/2014July 18th, 201765 Comments

Maria Killam's White Garden Transformation- Before & After

It’s fascinating to have a Perennial garden designed like mine. There’s always something that takes turns blooming, so finally when my white Shasta daisies along with my white hydrangeas were looking their best, I had my photographer Tracey Ayton come out to take photos.

She also photographed a summer house I’ve been working on for a client and when I received all the images, they were so beautiful, I got a teeny bit depressed.

I never want to take another photo, on my own, ever again.

If you don’t have a photographer that shoots entirely without lighting and ONLY using aperture, you should find one. The days of lights blazing in the middle of the day along with additional lights added by the photographer during a photo shoot are OVER.

It’s no wonder her work is featured in every issue of Style at Home, including my house here, this past April.

So, you’re in for a treat, because almost exactly one year and three months ago, our front and back yard full of concrete and ugly shrubs was entirely demolished. This is what it looked like with two bobcats at work.

I don’t think I’ve ever written a post showing you the entire before and after of everything. So here it is. Designed by MaryAnne White entirely long distance from New York.

Red & Yellow Succulents

First, there are a few hits of yellow in my garden. When I bought these succulents in May for my concrete urn, they were yellow and green. The raspberry came later and I thought it was pretty fun that the colour scheme of my living room (below) got accidentally repeated inside the urn right outside that window.

My living room

Elizabeth Avenue Before

So here’s what our house looked like April 2012 when we took possession. That’s my nephew William, excited that we have moved to live nearby!

Front View Elizabeth Avenue

Here’s what it looks like now. We are having all kinds of problems with our grass. We have had 7 or 8 grass experts out to look at it and the final conclusion is that there’s too much sand in our dirt. The other day I was pulling weeds and they came out super easy, roots and all : ( obviously a sign that there’s not enough dirt.


A close up of my white petunias.


Side view Front Yard


White Daisies & Hydrangeas


Love the Annabelle Hydrangeas! They last a long time in a vase as well.

Side View Before Elizabeth Avenue


Sandy Pathway

Here’s the sand freshly installed waiting for the flagstones.

Side View Front Yard


My favourite part of the transformation of our front yard was that MaryAnne designed an extension to our portico. Then she told me to get our lonely 2×4 column beefed up, in addition to removing the downspout from such a huge focal point at the entry to our house.

The gutters clearly needed to be replaced anyway so then it was easy to move the downspout to the side of the house instead. 

Flagstone Pathway

Our Wooly Thyme is coming along and I think I’ve mastered keeping the Lambs Ear under control and looking like ground cover.

Shasta Daisies

Such a pretty picture of my Cosmos Daisies around the decorative fence.


Here’s another shot of my succulents. How often do they need watering? I still haven’t figured that out. Aren’t they a little like a Cactus?

Studio Before

 This is the obscene amount of concrete that was in our back yard!

Studio Backyard

And here’s’ the after photo.

Design Studio Before

This is what my design studio looked like before for those of you who haven’t seen this picture.
Maria's Studio Office


Evergreen Vine

I have since replaced these painted Muskoka chairs that peeled and cracked instantly with white vinyl ones with a 40 year guarantee that I can leave sitting out all winter long.

The white umbrella I had from another house so I installed it here. I leave it open even when it’s pouring rain. I think a closed umbrella just looks lonely and sad and I like the resort feel of having it out and open even though we actually rarely use this area.

Firepit Area

Shasta Daisies

Studio before

Before photo of my design studio

Inside my Studio Office

My studio – After

Vegetable Garden Before

Vegetable garden Before

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden After

I had the Tutears made this past winter.

Purple Tree

Garden Shed Before

The first year we lived here, Terreeia and I were raking and raking the leaves that fell from this purple tree in the Fall.

One day I emailed MaryAnne and said “Should we just get rid of this big ridiculous tree in the middle of our yard?” She emailed me back “Off with her head”.

The big Rhododendron beside it we moved in front of the cedar hedge on the left side of the vegetable garden to cover up the bare spot in the cedar after we removed a storage shed during the renovation.

Garden Shed After

Garden Shed After

Patio Before

Patio Before

Maria's Whit Garden Transformation

Patio After

Since we can’t replace our deck until the siding gets replaced and that is NOT in our current plan, I decided to decorate our deck instead this Spring.

This is my favourite corner this summer. Our deck is so big, now that we have this kind of seating and outdoor dining, it’s extended our living space by 1/3.

Maria's Patio

I chose brown from the Restoration Hardware Provence collection because it coordinates with our house. The coffee table is from Wayfair. So many other sectionals I saw had individual seats you’d buy and attach to form a sectional. I liked that this one was only three pieces because of the bench seat on both sides.

Anyway, back to the colour choice, our roof is brown and the siding is a pale taupe. Cream was not an option because all the trim and windows on the house are screaming white and charcoal was obviously from out of no-where.

Their light grey colour (below) is gold and taupe combined to achieve the read of a lighter grey and since I would always look at that furniture and think “Gold and Taupe”, brown was what I ended up with.

Screen Shot 2014-08-10 at 2.14.38 PM

Outdoor Dining Table

And I repeated the brown in the Chatham Collection dining set that I bought from the Pottery Barn.

outdoor tablescape

Outdoor Console Table

Photography by Tracey Ayton

And you saw a sneak peek of this vignette here. The x ottomans I picked up from Target when they were on sale for $59.99. Could not resist even though they are not outdoor.

You can see that the light teak colour was repeated here. Does anyone know how to keep teak this colour or do I have no choice but to apply a wax turning it orange?

Hope you enjoyed the full tour! We are having a hot and fabulous summer here in the West Coast, how about you!

Related posts:

Danger: Your Designer has Left the Building

Easter time and my 500 White Tulips are Blooming

My New Decorative Gate: Before & After

If you would like help creating a palette for your home, become a client. Online or In-person.

To get your exterior colours right, download my How to Choose Exterior Colours with Confidence webinar and get my go-to list of colours.

Download my eBookHow to Choose Paint Colours – It’s All in the Undertones to get my complete step-by-step system on how to get colour to do what you want.

To make sure the undertones in your home are right, get some large samples!

And, if you would like to learn how to choose colour with confidence, become a True Colour Expert.


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  • Absolutely love the before and after shots. It looks so lovely Maria.

  • Victoria says:

    Absolutely glorious! Love the amazing transformation outside as much as inside, Maria! I best it’s the best yard and house in the neighborhood!

  • Mary-Illinios says:

    Your neighbors must love you. Your yard is stunning!
    I bet if the previous owner saw their old place they would leave with their jaws hanging.

  • BillP says:

    Beautiful transformation and gardens. Do you have gardeners coming in to take care of it all? We know that a garden doesn’t take care of itself, although it is a labor of love. Congratulations.

    • A-L says:

      Assuming you don’t have gardeners, how much time does it take y’all to keep your garden looking so gorgeous?

      • Maria Killam says:

        I have recently hired a gardner and she comes by for about 4 hours every 2 weeks to do the major weeding and pruning!

  • StagerLinda says:

    Your landscaping is absolutely gorgeous! I have to admit, I was a doubter when you first planted the white gardens. I thought ‘why’ when you are such a color girl and there is so much colorful flora and fauna to chose from. Your vision came to fruition and is lovely!

  • Ange says:

    My favorite before and after is your studio. Love, love, love it! We have had warm weather here in Eastern WA, triple digits!

  • What I really like about this is that you had so many space constraints with the changes you made. The yard is not huge and it already had so many unlovable attributes (trees, shed, etc).

    In my own garden redesign, I found the most difficult part was making each of the different garden “rooms” flow from one to the other. Sort of like building a house. The pictures look like you did that beautifully.


  • karen says:

    Love seeing the pics of before and after Maria. It’s so fabulous and I love seeing all in bloom. Are the hydrangea’s regular Annabelle’s and do you have to tie them at all the stay up.
    Love all the colors in your home.

  • Mary says:

    Simply beautiful, Maria! The whole re-do is impressive, I particularly love the patio and shed areas. 🙂

  • all I can say is Wow! Just beautiful and the befores and afters are amazing.

  • Ellen says:

    Everything is beautiful, what an amazing transformation! I love all of the white!

  • Linda says:

    Love the exterior of your home Maria. Thanks for posting all the amazing before and after. For your teak furniture have you tried They have a golden seal that keeps the color of teak. Apply every year.

  • Kathi says:

    Fantastic Maria, I love everything about it,my favorite thing is that you took an average ranch and made into something spectacular- Kudos to you, your landscape designer and your wife, its truly stunning!

  • Georgene says:

    Simply elegant and so peaceful. Love the shots of the studio before and after – that is some bold wallpaper!

  • Fran says:

    So beautiful! Everything looks so healthy. Do you have automatic underground sprinklers?
    Do you leave the succulent planter out in the winter?

    • Maria Killam says:

      No we don’t and that was the biggest money saving expense that we now regret. I was thinking of putting them in the front next year at least.
      No the succulents don’t last through the winter. You can bring them in but I don’t really have a space for them.

  • tara dillard says:

    Previous owner was content to have everything within the property lines be a storage shed aesthetic.

    Probably didn’t phase them in the least. Fine, that’s their choice. And, hurt their selling price.

    If enough homes in a neighborhood carry thru with the same storage shed aesthetic the entire neighborhood has lower home values. Even the home with pretty exteriors.

    Where is that tipping point?

    Flip side are the strict HOA neighborhoods that have aged decades without updating rules for colors, lighting, over grown shrubbery etc which lower property values. Where is the tipping point?

    Too cute, your irritation with the

    • Barb says:

      Tara, I love your garden design work and read your blog regularly! Next up is tracking down some of your books.

      I agree that it does take a number of owners to “tip” the balance toward nicer landscaping. My next door neighbor and I both bought on our street in the past couple of years and we’ve been steadily working on our houses and gardens. I think it is slowly catching as the neighbors across the street have started re-landscaping and lots of the other neighbors are starting to show interest. Here’s hoping the trend continues ….

      Garden & Be Happy! Barb

  • tara dillard says:

    first round of chairs. And thank you for putting a label on the closed umbrella, lonely.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  • Carol says:

    How are your plants so big when it seems like you just did this? Did you put them in as bigger more mature plants? Also how are you maintaining the lambs ear?

    • Maria Killam says:

      I don’t think they were that big, even MaryAnne is amazed at how large many of them have grown, I think it’s because of all the rain we get here in the rainforest of the West Coast.

      In the Spring when it grows like crazy I just sheared it across the top a couple times, now I just keep plucking the ones that flower as soon as I see them sprouting to keep it low and like ground cover and I’m always picking out the dead lambs ear from in between to keep it looking good. Hope that helps 🙂 Maria

      • Carol says:

        Yes, thank you, it is all so beautiful,I love lambs ear but hate how it grows up I will do this to mine. I live in the South, USA, so we are hot and dry. I love your yard and thanks for your reply. I wanted to tell you how much I love your posts and that you answer back and help people and don’t charge just to give a tip or a paint color. Unlike someone else I follow that won’t even say a word will just refer you to her assistant for a fee. I am glad you are sharing your life with us also, looks like a good one!

  • kelly says:

    Looks so beautiful Maria! Glad you are having a wonderful summer!! xoxo

  • Monique says:

    It’s gorgeous Maria! What a shame about your grass, I hope you find a solution. I agree with you 100% about the umbrella remaining open but I warn you, if the wind picks it up it could be trouble! Trust me, I don’t leave mine open anymore, my last table was shattered by the umbrella! Mind you Manitoba’s weather can be extreme 🙂

    • Maria Killam says:

      Haha, it’s true, that happened once before I screwed it in at the bottom, the concrete holder it’s in is pretty heavy so even though we get wind here it stays.

      • KA says:

        One of my neighbors had hers lifted over her 2 story home and planted in the top of a tree, like a tall tropical drink with a paper umbrella. After hearing about it from her ex husband, I said wow. Even though it’s in a teak table, I’ve come out and seen it and the teak table sort of on its side.

        A couple for whom I did their baths and kitchen and helped choose their paint, their glass table shattered.

        Before I got my teak furniture, all my light weight deck furniture seemed missing one morning when I opened the blinds. I was shocked to see them all piled against the wall. That’s when I said all teak outside.

  • Lucy HAINES says:

    Maria, I second all of the comments made about your landscape makeover and also your interior. The whole package only reflects the beauty inside of you!! Such a fantastic job!

  • Just perfect! And are we ever getting the perfect weather for enjoying summer. Your backyard patio is an oasis in this heat, I’m sure! Grass going dormant in this dry spell is normal I think.

  • mairi says:

    Wow- so inspiring Maria, thanks for sharing.
    Re: the lawn…I have had good results amending soil from above- by spreading compost in a thin layer and raking it into the grass. The roots grow to meet the needed nourishment. It takes patience but is far less disruptive.

  • GaBi says:

    Absolutely beautiful, calm and elegant

  • whitney montenegro says:

    I have followed with interest and joy this transformation and I really love that you determined what you were going to do, set your goal and visualized the funds coming in and they did. I think it’s easy to look at that and say, “she can do it because she can afford it. ” You worked hard to make it come to pass. Nice job. . Inspiring

  • Deb Landy says:

    I can see from the photos that the lawn by your garden beds is a lot greener and lush, which suggests your lawn is lacking nutrients aka: sandy loam.
    Before you replace the entire lawn, you might want to look into a natural fertilizer/soil amendment called milorganite.
    This would be an easy top dress. You could mix it with some good garden loam and spread on top of your existing lawn.

  • Paula Van Hoogen says:

    Maria, this yard ought to be in one of Canada’s major shelter magazines…along with the before pictures!!!!
    So wonderful. My personal goal is to see it in person next spring when I, hopefully, get to come to your spring session in Vancouver :)). For the teak—a light sanding & “Teak Oil” from your local hardware store, should do it!

  • Luanne says:

    Maria I have loved watching this transformation and am so inspired to want to do something with my outside spaces. I really like the simplicity of using greens whites and a pop of yellow in plants and flowers. Great advice from your landscape architect and the flagstone really makes it work.

  • Barb says:

    The transformation is amazing! Also a very good demonstration of how simplicity and repetition is key to good design whether inside a home or outside.

    I love how your house now looks “rooted” in the landscape. Before it just looked like it fell from the sky onto a cement pad. Showing this full set of before/after photos is great inspiration for those of us working on transforming similar looking properties (my house was the land of coarse drainage gravel and dyed red bark mulch…nasty!). While many of your readers may have to take it slower than you did (and perhaps do more DIY) …your home shows that with good design/planning and careful execution it is possible to transform an ordinary yard into something really special. Thanks so much for sharing.

    Re bird feeder – try WildBirds Unlimited. They have several stores in the Vancouver area and I believe they do mail order too.

    Lee Valley Tools is another possibility for nice looking birdfeeders

  • KA says:

    Maria, I think there is a spray can version of water proofing treatment you can use on the x stools. It might be made by Thompson water seal. I think they also might have a uv protective chemical in there, too.

  • Adedayo Adeyemi says:

    This is awesome ,i wish i could design like these

  • Kay says:

    Gorgeous, Maria.

    Talk with a furniture finisher in your area about the teak. I think you can seal it with a clear coat it with UV protection to keep the light color.

    As for the umbrella, just watch out for mildew. Mine here (Puget Sound area) mildewed after I left it out in the rain.

  • barbara collins says:

    omgoodness! where can I get that bird pillow?

  • Deb says:

    Beautiful transformation! I was taught to water succulents when a pencil stuck in a few inches, held there 10 seconds, and withdrawn wasn’t dampened. You touch the wood between the lead and the yellow paint. The slightest amount of water in the wood means not to water yet. Hope that helps. I learned this at Cactus and Tropicals in Salt Lake City.

  • Sandy Fisher says:

    You did such an amazing job! I love it all. Every time I start a new garden I begin with all white and green. Then somehow a little faint pink will find it’s way, followed by a blue….then it’s all over. Purple follows and fuchsia peonies. You stuck to your guns. I LOVE it.

  • Karen says:

    Maria, a absolutely beautiful and inspiring transformation! Shalom!

  • Pamela says:

    Incredibly beautiful!

  • Rosemary says:


  • Betsy OShea says:

    Very nicely done…love all the different varieties of hydrangeas…word if advice; the Pee Gees (cone shaped flowers) need to be severely pruned back in late winter/early spring, otherwise the grow 7-9′ tall. Was wondering, can u ask Maryann what variety of daisy she specified. I hv never seen such tall thick bunches….the ones outside the studio doors. Thanks

  • KJ says:

    Love, love, love! This will be my inspiration when we get ready to re-do our yard. White flowers are really the only ones that will look good with the type of brick we have.

  • Anne says:

    The change is truly amazing!!

  • Anne says:

    What a testimony to excellent design!!

  • Maureen says:

    Maria this is lovely! The daisies, hydrangeas, cosmos and petunias look so lush! Love the sectional and green cushions. Love the trellis, tuteurs, fence and gate. And I loved your white tulips in the spring. Wondering where you found Adirondack chairs that will withstand the elements for forty years?

  • Just stunning! You are giving me major inspiration for my own backyard design. Job well done (again) my dear! Thanks for sharing.

  • franki says:

    A phoenix!!! franki

  • Sue Markley says:

    Is your vegetable garden fence custom built from wood or is it a composite? You have inspired a whole new bigger and better vegetable garden with raised beds. My knees are not fond of crawling around anymore.

    • Maria Killam says:

      My fence is vinyl! Thank goodness. A little power wash and it’s clean! No peeling white paint to deal with ever!

  • Linda Sewell says:

    It all looks great Maria, so fresh and homey……..congratulations!

  • Steve says:

    Wow, such a great transformation! very beautiful!

  • Brenda Hurst says:

    You are truly one of my heroes! What you’ve done with your home inside and out is magic (rooted in talent and hard-earned skills). Thank you for all your inspiration, and I hope to purchase your products, soon, and perhaps sign up as an email client for my home projects.

    All the best,

    Brenda Hurst
    Chesterton, Indiana

  • Elizabeth Peters says:

    Hi, Maria,
    What kind of tree is planted in the planting bed that replaced gravel driveway in the front of your house?

    • Maria Killam says:

      They are Dogwood trees. My landscape designer originally suggested white dogwood but our neighbours said that when it sheds it’s sticky and clogs up the gutters so we went with the Dogwood. Maria

  • Dianne Tolar says:

    Beautiful work!
    What color were the hostas you used?

  • Barbara North says:

    Love visiting botanical gardens when I travel as a peaceful respite from sightseeing. Here is a description of a white garden in Kent, U.K. that I came across in my travel research. It was begun in the 1950’s!

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