Before: Townhouse RetreatJack Stein and Peter Meccariello practically need a machete to get through the overgrown backyard of their 19th-century townhouse. A recent addition to the back of the house ate up part of the small patio, and the steep steps down from the house make for an awkward entry to the outdoor space.
Plan A: Townhouse RetreatLandscape architect Guy Williams' envisions two entertaining areas — at the near and far ends of the garden. The larger hardscaped area would be a new circular patio adjacent to the house, flanked by circular seating walls and highlighted by a unique, contemporary water feature and raised planting beds.
Plan B: Townhouse RetreatThe design team of David and Christy Boswell present a plan for a dramatic island patio with sheer-descent water features flanking the sides and center. A circular patio would flow towards a bridge and path leading to the far end of the garden.
Plan C: Townhouse RetreatLandscape designer David Lindoerfer's plan removes the awkward steps and replaces them with a redwood deck. A square patio set on an angle would have a fountain and fish pond in the center as a focal point.
After: Townhouse RetreatJack and Peter chose Guy's vision for their yard. The plan transformed the puny patio into a sophisticated space that sweeps from the back of the house in an elegant circle. Edged with a stone seating wall, the space is dominated by a dramatic custom water feature that arches up from the patio border to define the far edge of the patio. Guy reused the flagstones from the original patio, angling them on a grid for more visual interest. Get another view of the fountain.
Before: Wide-Open CountryCarrie and Jim Rowan's property is loaded with natural beauty, but they don't have an outdoor space where they can relax and enjoy it. In fact, their high back porch makes it hard even to climb down to the yard in the first place. Carrie longs for an easy-access patio where they can relax, plus outdoor entertaining space that will let them share this great property with friends.
Plan A: Wide-Open CountryLandscape designer Joanne Kostecky's plan features a new pergola which mimics the architecture of the house. It has a fire pit in the center and a copper roof with a spire. A water feature would sit in the center of the two-level patio, with a waterfall linking the two levels. A set of stairs descends a heavily planted slope with plants like Oregon holly grape to camouflage the oddly placed sump pump and create a lush, colorful setting.
Plan B: Wide-Open CountryDesigner Brian Waltersdorf presents a plan with two terraces. The upper terrace, one step off the back of the house, includes a pergola made of Western red cedar. A second patio would be one step below the first, with a set of stairs that leads to a bridge over a dry stream bed. An adjacent waterfall flows into a pond. A retaining wall corrects the steep change in grade. A mix of informal plantings around the potting shed includes lilacs, hostas and low-maintenance roses.
Plan C: Wide-Open CountryLandscape architect Christian Brown's plan offers a touch of formality to the yard. Three steps below a bluestone dining patio is a casual patio, flanked with two shade trees. To link the three structures on the property, a crushed gravel path would come off the bluestone patio and lead to the garage and potting shed. A simple plant palette — including coral bells, dwarf fountain grass and boxwood hedges — would provide a uniform look. A large pottery vessel would house a water feature. Finally, a small fieldstone patio with a bench overlooks the creek.
After: Wide-Open CountryThe curved, two-tier patio flows from the house as though it were part of the original design, with the blue flagstones coordinating well with the existing architecture. The upper dining patio is a perfect place to relax, and the larger patio gives Carrie and Jim space to entertain dozens of guests comfortably. Christian's design highlights the natural beauty of the site, creating a seamless flow from the house to the yard. See the view from the patio.
Before: New ViewsThe distant view is sensational but the near view isn't. Tara and Doug Blackburn have put a huge effort into renovating their Craftsman-style home in La Jolla, Calif. The only thing standing between them and a true dream home is their nightmare of a backyard: Overgrown brush, dilapidated sheds and debris from old projects make this area an eyesore for them and a hazard for their three sons. Looking at this overgrown area, few people would expect it to become one of the highlights of the property.
Plan A: New ViewsThe design team of Mike Welch and Steve Jones propose a pool with a telescopic fountain that has a geyser in the center. There's a batting cage along the pool, and a gazebo and a garden down below.
Plan B: New ViewsThe design team of Patti Ferner and Paul Kroger propose making the most of the large available space and open up land that was cut off by overgrown brush and steep slopes. A pool, spa, deck, fort and play area would sit on the main level, while a batting cage and oversized outdoor chess set would be located on a terraced level farther down the hill.
Plan C: New ViewsMelanie Mackenzie's design keeps the activity close to the house by putting in a chess set and batting cage next to the pool. At the end of the pool a view deck provides a destination patio, which would extend around the corner of the garage.
After: New ViewsThe design team of Patti Ferner and Paul Kroger gave Tara and Doug's a whole new landscape centered around a fabulous pool incorporating an 8-foot-square spa. Careful earth-moving and masterful stone work added lots of usable play space to the Blackburns' yard, all of it with great views. Tara was especially enthusiastic about this oversized, outdoor chess set.
Get other views of the makeover.