Genevieve's Design Tips: The Longest Yard

In episode seven, the Design Stars work as a team to make over a 10,000-square-foot backyard. See what Genevieve says they did right, did wrong and how she could have done it better.
Backyard With Dining Table

Backyard for Outdoor Dining

According to designer Genevieve Gorder, this space is nice but could be even better. "Adding scale with the size of plantings and using planters would create a lot more visual variety and really give the perimeter of the space the power that it deserves."

From: HGTV Design Star
and HGTV Design Star

First off, can I say: What an undertaking! Not only are these four designers not landscaping professionals, but we're also asking them to design and execute an enormous backyard in very little time. Bravo to each and every one of them. This was not an easy task in the slightest.

The overall space is such a dramatic improvement over what they started with, I don't know what homeowner would not be delighted. Now let's open it up and look at it from a purely design perspective. What was improved? What remained the same? What didn't work?

The feature that catches my eye first is actually the brand-new fencing that they installed (oh, my god, big job!): the wood tone contrasts so beautifully with the new sod and the stone water feature.

In room terms, the wall color and the flooring are excellent. I think the plantings were executed fairly; however, one should think of the living things in a backyard like paint in an interior space. Here is where you can make perimeters and borders of color, adding drama and life to any space. This was a giant missed opportunity. Adding scale with the size of plantings and using planters would have created a lot more visual variety and really have given the perimeter of the space the power that it deserved. I'm so happy they left the brick patio but wish they could've saved the brick around the pool as well: I think it is much more attractive and textural than the concrete the team replaced it with. Adding more brick around the pool area and connecting the two spaces would've been my first choice.

The children's play area is beautiful and gives a large area of the backyard a defined role to play. While this works on every level, the portico on the other side of the yard doesn't. I get the romanticism, the pop of white, the fantasy; however, this portico looks like it was air-dropped and landed at the wrong address. With a piece that powerful, you want it to add a strong function to the space, yet the portico has two stiff and uncomfortable benches sitting on a curtainless stage. I would much prefer to sit anywhere else in the yard. Adding fuller curtains around the entire piece, weaving some fabric across and adding lower, loungy daybeds with low tables would woo me: it would be an oasis of shade in a sunny space.

Tall planters defining one area from the next would have been really helpful and dramatic. Along the border, where the grass meets the concrete, would have been the perfect place to display this — defined borders help give space a purpose, much like an area rug.

Once again, a huge bravo to each of the designers; this design must've been overwhelming. I think the moral of the story is to really treat your outdoor space with the same design head you would use to address your interior space. Just think through different mediums.

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