March 23, 2017 Kim Cox

Creating Your “Dream” Backyard

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Is your backyard your “dream” backyard?

It’s getting warmer and many of us are looking at our outdoor spaces and thinking of changes we’d like to make to enhance our outdoor experiences.  Whether your desired changes are big or small, now is the time to get moving on them so that you can have a summer of outdoor enjoyment.

Two years ago we undertook a major backyard renovation. Our visitors often ask us about the process, how long it took to build, how did we decide on the design, why we didn’t put in a pool, etc.  I decided to share our “build” with you.  My hope is that you are inspired by our experience and undertake to create your own “dream” backyard.

When we bought the house, the back yard was barren – no landscaping except for two ill placed trees and a shrub or two.  We had pondered for years over putting in a pool, but as the kids got older, the need for a pool became less important. Truth be told, I never wanted a pool.

When we got serious, we made a wish list of what we wanted.  Here’s how we narrowed it down.

  1.  A covered outdoor seating area with a shingled roof, tv, and a fireplace.
  2. A number of cozy seating areas.
  3. Easy to maintain plantings.
  4. A focal point from our living room.
  5. An enlarged patio.
  6. Additional off street parking.
  7. Complete fencing.
  8. Privacy

There were a few other things on the list that didn’t make the final cut, like the outdoor shower, bathroom facilities, water feature, etc.  It’s funny, at the time I thought I couldn’t live without those things, now I don’t even miss them.


Welcome To My Backyard


The entrance from the side of the house.

This was the backyard before the renovation; an expanse of grass, two unmanageable trees, and my cute little dog Scamp.  Our patio was only large enough for a small table of four.   We had two mis-matched fences put up by our neighbors, but no enclosure for the dog.   There was no landscaping, and no visual barrier between the houses. There was nothing at all.




We had worked on the design, on and off, for several years.  We could never decide on a plan that reflected our lifestyle, and more importantly, our budget. When we decided to really do it, we started anew, with a new landscape architect and a somewhat more realistic vision.

We found a designer that came up with a plan that ticked all the boxes.  We took a few passes at the plan before we came up with the final.  The plan was complete, right down to the plantings.  We were ready to start creating our backyard oasis.

Our project was to be completed in 8 weeks – just in time for us to enjoy a few fall nights before the winter freeze set in.


First, we needed to clean the slate.  Gone were the two trees that I would not miss, as well as the patio that was too small to have any functionality. They even took up the grass, which I hadn’t expected.





Our design included an enlarged patio and pathways that connected the three main areas – the patio, the outdoor living room, and an uncovered sitting area.  The focal point was to be a circular section, with mondo grass in the separators.  After drawing out the plan in the dirt, leveling the land to accommodate for proper drainage, the construction began.  Watching the process really made me realize how important it is to hire people who really know what they are doing.


They used pliable pieces of wood to frame out the areas to be concreted. The design included lots of curves and very few right angles.


It took a while to get the concrete work done. We started the project in the fall and it was one of the rainiest falls ever. Then it got prematurely cold. You can’t pour concrete when it’s raining or cold. After many delays, we finally got the concrete down, and the framing of the outdoor living room began.


One of our “splurges” was a real masonry fireplace with a gas starter.  This was an amazing process to watch.  Those guys hand cut and hand placed every one of the stones.


The stones on the ground are the original sizes in which they arrived.  They were custom cut to fit the exact space in which they were inserted.

Once the fireplace was completed, we got a feel for how the cabana was going to look. We wanted a solid back wall and seat walls on the sides, and a real, pitched and shingled roof.   We made sure to include electricity in the cabana, since we wanted to hang a tv and be able to plug in our phones, tablets, etc.  We also included lighting and ceiling fans.


The Finished Product

Although our 8 week project took about 8 months, it was well worth the wait.  We now have a backyard that we enjoy and have the space to share it with others  We spend more time outdoors than we ever imagined.  Our only regret is that our little dog Scamp was too old to really enjoy it and died soon after it was finished.

The Outdoor Living Room/Cabana


The finished cabana is large enough for deep “indoor sized” patio furniture.  We can even fit a table under it for alfresco dining.  We have spent countless early mornings and late nights watching tv outside.  This part of the project was the most expensive, but was money well spent.



The Enlarged Patio


The patio enlargement more than doubled our patio area.  It is now large enough for two tables and several seating areas.



With the enlarged patio, we can now use our backyard for entertaining and we have room for everyone.  The design allows for several separate areas for our guests.



The Focal Point


The circular focal point is multifunctional as well as beautiful. We used dwarf mondo grass, which is easy to maintain.

Cozy Seating Areas

Despite the size, we were still able to include cozy seating areas.

A comfy spot to read or watch tv.

2015-06-20-07-16-20A quiet reading  spot.



A table for two.

Our back yard renovation has really enabled us to enjoy the outdoors.


If you are considering a backyard re-do, go ahead and do it.  You will not only increase your property value, but will also enhance your enjoyment of life.




For other articles on improving your home, check these out.

10 Things Your Decorator Wants You To Know

Do You Smell That? Aromatherapy For Your Home.

Confessions Of A Reluctant Gardener




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