Irvington Back Yard Transformed into Baby Boomers’ Outdoor Paradise
Three years ago we transformed a clunky Irvington back yard into a baby boomers outdoor paradise. I can’t wait to share with you how it has matured and transformed. Lets walk through the success of this back yard design in the Irvington neighborhood of N.E. Portland. I’ll share tips and philosophy about working with small city properties and give you a peek into the process of creating a successful design. Let’s dive in!
Privacy for the Home Office and Comfortable Outdoor Entertaining were the Top Priorities
My baby boomer clients David and Anne had some specific priorities for their back yard design: comfortable seating for entertaining, a fire pit, grassy area for Sonny the dog, and reasonably low-maintenance plantings that would provide year-round color. Additionally, they wanted a peaceful and private view from their large home office windows. And a special place for blueberries and fun summer color plants . They also wanted me to evaluate whether to keep the covered area which was a very big decision.
Clunky Boring Back Yard Needs Integration Flow and Spark
The first photo shows the mature landscape design 3 years after the installation. I love a good before and after. It’s incredible to see the difference a good design and time can make!
Importance of Spatial Planning:
One of the biggest mistakes I see in small city back yard landscapes is skimping on the space needed to walk and move around a sitting area. It’s understandable to think that smaller back yards should get smaller than typical patios, lawn areas and planting beds but this is not helpful. There is a size required for functional sitting areas that includes pulling back the chair to sit and space to move around the furniture easily. This kind of thinking will ensure the back yard gets used because it feels gracious and welcoming.
Shape and Layout of Useable Spaces Must Fit Together
The shape and layout of the different spaces also play crucial roles in the overall design, and careful consideration is necessary to create an integrated and harmonious feel.
Make Sitting Areas Big Enough
I give us top marks for the spacious but cozy natural gas patio and the simple hardscapes materials we used. It’s a 16 foot circle, providing plenty of room for everyone to sit comfortably. To make it even more versatile, we added a custom wood fire pit cover that can be used as a table for drinks on hot days when a fire pit’s warmth is not desired. A crushed rock surface is very affordable when compared to pavers or flagstone but knowing which kind of crushed rock is important for success and a topic of its own. Adding an attractive paver edge gives our patio elegance without costing a lot. We repeated this same paver (Belgard Urbana Victorian) in other areas which helps to tie everything together. This new patio is a very popular and often used outdoor room and was also used for summer book club meetings.
Fixing the Covered Area – Make it Feel Good to Use
When we first started the design process, our clients didn’t like using the covered deck area and were considering removing the columns and the roof and only keeping the shed portion. They instinctively knew something was wrong with this area, didn’t like sitting there but did not know why or how to address it. Mind you there were certain fixed elements, such as the support posts, a deep window well, and the corner of the house that we couldn’t modify and all right on top of each other. Adding complexity, the covered area was the gateway to the kitchen door, to the front yard and the access door to the shed. The previous homeowners had decked the area under the cover which meant we had to step up to use this area and step down to leave it. There was no room to walk around it due to the deep window well.
I wanted to make it feel good to walk into and sit and also comfortable to walk through and around the table and chairs to other daily use areas. Because that is how we fix it, we make it feel good.
Tips to Make an Outdoor Sitting Area Feel Good to Use
- remove the step up and make the covered area level with the rest of the landscape.
- repeat hardscape materials in different areas of the back yard
- integrate the new seating area by adding a few matching flagstone to reach the back porch into the lawn.
- install a flagstone and repeated the fire pit paver trim in our new covered seating area.
- covered the window well with a small removable wood cover which effectively masked the large hole visually and made it safer for occasional walking.
One Level Landscape Makes the Most Powerful Change
All of these adjustments worked seamlessly, creating a relaxed and comfortable all weather environment for our clients. I think creating a one level landscape was the most powerful change. Combined, these changes made a significant difference in how it felt to use the covered sitting area. Now my clients use this area regularly and enjoy the cool shade on hot days. Its also the perfect spot to use for an outdoor office since you can keep your electronics dry. Catching up on e mails over a nice cuppa of joe in a beautiful back yard oasis is very enjoyable for my clients.
Privacy Solution for the Home Office and Materials List (See part 2)
As a landscape designer, seeing our success and the transformation of a property after a few years brings me a deep satisfaction and joy. This back yard landscape design has lived up to its potential and provided our clients with a serene and enjoyable space.
“We loved working with Carol. She created a beautiful design and final product. She is a great collaborator and listener. We now spend time every day enjoying the beautiful spaces.” David and Anne
I was just contacted to design a landscape for their new home. In addition to their testimonial on my web page, knowing they wouldn’t dream of tackling this next landscape without ‘my magic’ says more than words.
If you’re looking to transform your back yard, feel free to reach out to us with our contact form or a phone call. We’d be delighted to bring our expertise to create a landscape design that you’ll love and enjoy for years to come.