Before: Alley-Like AreaCleve and Megan want the exterior of their recently renovated brownstone to match its modern interior. But their tiny, stark backyard looks more like an alley than a child-friendly garden. The combination of concrete and brick paving is unsteady, and the old wrought-iron fencing atop the crumbling brick wall makes the cramped space feel like a prison. The couple desires a private patio with lush plantings and comfortable outdoor furniture where they can enjoy cups of coffee.
The Plan: Contemporary Classic BackyardAn existing birch tree anchors one corner of the space, providing shade as well as an interesting focal point. Matt proposes building a retaining wall around the birch and along one side of the wall to protect the tree's roots from any damage during construction and planting. Three sleek and modern containers will be placed at the foot of the stairs. Because the fire escape ladder descends to the pavement, the patio needs to be clear of any obstacles, so Matt opts for simple garden furniture that isn't too bulky for the space. The paving will be laid at a 45-degree angle to give the illusion of a larger space.
After: Sophisticated SpaceA once dark and uninviting courtyard has been turned into a modern, but child-friendly, private sanctuary. Matt's original design called for a trellis system along the main brick wall, but it was replaced with teak planter boxes after they discovered the old brick wall wouldn't support the trellis anchors. The boxes, planted with boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), create a natural evergreen privacy screen. The new brick retaining wall contains a variety of shade-loving perennials, including anemone, hosta, ivy and ferns, with climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea petiolaris) ready to climb up the wall. The existing birch has been uplighted so Cleve and Megan can enjoy the tree’s architecture and their new garden into the evening hours.
teak planters - Chelsea Garden Center
granite pavers - Extech Industries
reclaimed brick - Moon River Chattel
30" round folding table and folding side chairs - Teak, Wicker & More
skyscraper planters - Simply Planters
lighting - Intermatic