Matt Blashaw’s Best Backyard Transformations

Licensed contractor Matt Blashaw has elevated weekend DIY to an art form on Yard Crashers. Have a look at the blank (or, in some cases, cluttered and overgrown) canvases he’s encountered over the years—and the al fresco masterpieces they become. 

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Photo By: Jeff Cotner as Commissioned Photographer

Photo By: Jeff Cotner as Commissioned Photographer

Photo By: Jeff Cotner

Photo By: Jeff Cotner

Photo By: Martin Klimek/Getty Images

Photo By: Martin Klimek/Getty Images

Photo By: Tomas Ovalle / Associated Press

Photo By: Tomas Ovalle / Associated Press

Photo By: Tomas Ovalle / Associated Press

Photo By: Tomas Ovalle / Associated Press

Photo By: Tomas Ovalle / Associated Press

Photo By: Tomas Ovalle / Associated Press

Photo By: Tomas Ovalle / Associated Press

Before: Lonely Lawn

With empty planting beds, an inexplicable patch of—is that AstroTurf?—and a few pieces of outdoor furniture that gaze on little more than their own abandonment, this yard is not only ready but downright anxious for anything.

After: Italian-Inspired Outdoor Room

Stately cypress trees surround a classic pergola with columns made of molded concrete and a tumbled-stone entertainment area that rivals what most homeowners have inside their homes. Guests in this backyard can now curl up for an outdoor movie (thanks to the screen on the back of a rotating wall) with refreshments from a pizza oven and full wet bar.

Before: Scattered Planters and Patchy Grass

It’s hard to blame the family pet that seems to have abandoned the doghouse in this dilapidated space. The trees themselves would probably wander off if they could.

After: Mexican Resort Retreat

Matt and his team give the space a south-of-the-border feel with an expansive stamped concrete patio, a fire pit lined with Saltillo tiles and a cascading water feature punctuated with plantings in jewel-bright terra cotta pots. It’s the perfect spot for the homeowners to relax with margaritas. 

Before: Chain-Link Blues

You know it’s time for an extreme makeover when your outdoor space’s standout feature is the old metal fence separating you from the neighbors.

After: A Proper Patio

Privacy at last! Matt carried a Lake Tahoe theme through this once-sorry yard by creating a faux river-rock water feature and punctuating a new, cozy covered area with artfully stacked wood and Alpine plantings. Trees will fill in the edges of the property to give the new fire pit a space that’s all its own.

Before: Self-Proclaimed Disaster

This yard’s owners long to uncover their grill and entertain guests in style. Right now, they could...ask them to rake leaves? Admire the huge tree that makes a lot of the space unusable?

After: Inviting Fire Pit

Once the awkward tree is gone, this yard opens up like a treasure chest. A curvy deck and extra-large cedar pergola enclose a dining area and a gourmet smoker, and a decomposed flagstone patio creates a focal point around a fire pit with bench seating. The landscaping features native Texas grasses, colorful annuals and edible plants in vibrant pots. (How’s that for an interactive yard?)

Before: Neglected Space

Do furnishings have feelings? This poor little fireplace seems to know it’s unloved.

After: Elegant Dining Area

Tall clumping bamboo provides an architectural backdrop to this chic outdoor dining room, where green pendants looped between cedar posts illuminate a custom-made cedar-and-zinc table. A burbling water feature at the end of the yard layers a whisper of white noise beneath dinner-party conversation.

Before: A Whole Lot of Nothing

On the bright side, there isn’t much to demolish in this yard. That said, there isn’t much, period. 

After: Balinese Beauty

Northern California meets Southeast Asia in this now-tropical retreat, where a winding path leads to a bar of inlaid carved wood surrounded by lush, colorful plantings. 

Before: Overgrown Pool Deck

Native plants can certainly give a yard personality, but this is taking things a bit far.

After: Chic Cabana

With all due respect to the weeds that once blocked the neighbors’ view of this gorgeous pool, Matt’s addition of custom privacy walls (and subtraction of all that overgrowth) is a far more contemporary look. Inspired by Cabo San Lucas, he ornamented the space with a breezy fabric-draped cabana, high-drama fire feature and leggy tropical plants.

Before: Dust Bowl

Tumbleweeds would feel right at home in this exposed, bare-bones yard.

After: Flavor of Fiji

Matt replaced the sad-sack deck with interlocking pavers and gave the homeowners a taste of their island heritage with a thatched palapa and sea-blue loungers that overlook lush landscaping. Palms and bamboo will add an element of privacy to the space along its borders.

Before: Into the Woods

Of course this yard is neglected! If you tried to clear it out, how could you be sure that you’d ever find your way back? 

After: Outdoor Idyll

Matt made full use of this massive space by creating a water feature that spills into an expansive pond ringed with dry creek beds and colorful plants. This is more than eye candy, mind: It also divides the yard into manageable sections.

Before: Uneven Paving

Someone tried to extend the patio space in this patchy southern California yard, but the yard itself didn’t take too kindly to it. 

After: Unified Space

At last, a sense of purpose: This pulled-together entertainment area boasts a two-tiered deck with a barbecue smoker, a wide built-in hammock, a spacious living room and a dining area with a space-saving planting wall. A coat of white paint makes the wall surrounding the property look serene and intentional rather than haphazard.

Before: Ho-Hum Lawn

There’s nothing to complain about in this space, but there’s nothing to write home about, either.

After: Cozy Retreat

You don’t need acres of space to create a stylish seating area, as these chairs and coffee table flanked by dramatic new columns demonstrate. Masonry planter boxes provide pops of color along the lawn and a new stained-concrete patio.

Before: A Palm's Better Than Nothing

This is fine. I mean, what else could fit in such a cramped scrap of yard? 

After: Instant Relaxation

Ah yes: An ingenious water-feature-slash-privacy-wall surrounding a jet spa and lounge chairs on a raised deck could fit. 

Before: In the Weeds

This home’s external air conditioner looks vaguely embarrassed by its surroundings. Understandable.

After: Showstopping Details

It’s hard to know where to look first in this dramatic new space: On a blue paver-stone patio, vibrant plants climb up (and cascade down) metal mesh “living screens,” water bubbles up from a natural stone feature, succulents peek out of the center of a live-edge dining table and a custom planter box transforms into a chaise.

Before: Woebegone Barbecue

The mysterious blue tinge on the patio is this equipment’s only friend.

After: Party Central

The grill now has pride of place in a reclaimed-wood cooking station flanking a custom-made, zinc-topped farmhouse table for 8 and a huge paver patio replaces the spooky blue spot. This is clearly the neighborhood’s new gathering spot.

Before: What'll We Do?

The firefighter who owns this yard longs to host his station crew at his place—but this empty space doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment.

After: Grillmaster's Paradise

Fire-engine-red (of course) Adirondack chairs around a spacious fire pit and a reclaimed-wood outdoor kitchen complete with a gas grill and zinc countertops make this yard the off-duty headquarters its owner dreamed about.

Before: Too Much Gloom

Every outdoor space should offer some shade, but this is taking things a bit far.

After: Electric Blue

This yard sizzles into life when Matt’s team gives the house and outbuilding a bold new look.  Brazilian hardwood pops against the bright blue, and the dark patio and furniture now look dramatic rather than dolorous. 

Before: No Definition

These homeowners are in dire need of some privacy and a safe place for their daughter to play.

After: Plenty of Room for Fun

Matt paid homage to the homeowners’ love of motorcycles with a sculpted metal water feature and a heavy-duty fire pit, then granted them some seclusion with a molded tin wall behind their new pergola and raised redwood deck. A meandering path gives way to a kid-friendly lawn. 

Before: Abandon Shed!

This ill-fitting structure looks like it fell out of the sky and into an otherwise-unremarkable backyard.

After: Modern Zen

A floating deck and reflecting pools give this space a calm and refined feel, and citrus-bright trim ties the once-awkward shed to contemporary accessories scattered throughout the yard.

Before: Kid-Unfriendly Slope

 

The homeowners’ four children don’t have much room to roam in this rocky, hilly backyard.

 

After: Space for the Whole Family


Matt and his team included something for everyone when they reimagined this yard. Wood chips and lush plants replace the hazardous rocks on the slope, and the seating and blankets surrounding the new fire pit (on a raised platform covered with decomposed granite) are perfect for parents and kids.

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