Our backyard project: the plan and inspiration

7 April 2017

John and I could not be more excited about our backyard project being underway! It’s still sometimes hard to believe it’s actually happening, because we’ve been talking about it for so long with no action!! But it’s real, it’s happening, and sooner than not the landscape folks will have packed up and we’ll be enjoying an entirely new backyard. I thought I’d share a little about our plans and inspiration, if you’re curious!

We had many months to plan and dream about what we’d like to include in our backyard, and here’s the wish list we came up with:

— more privacy
— more usable, flat lawn space
— L-shaped stairs leading down from the house, good for perching
— a pergola
— a flagstone patio with space for a dining table and fire pit
— string lights!

We are happily getting all of this, and we are so grateful! Here’s a little more detail about the major components of our plan:

— Remove the deck. In addition to liking the look of a patio more than a deck, we felt that dropping our seating area down three feet, to ground level, would help with privacy – because instead of having our heads above fence-level when seated, they would be below, so we wouldn’t constantly be looking into our neighbors’ yards.
— Remove two trees and level/grade the lawn. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE trees. Probably more than most people. Just ask John – I’m always grumbling about how the builders around here clear cut for new neighborhoods. But, in order to grade our lawn and maximize the small amount of space we have to work with, the trees had to go. Grading will also really help with privacy.
— Build a retaining wall. To deal with the differential created by grading our lawn, we’ll build a curving retaining wall along our back fence. Eventually it will be planted with lovely flowers and shrubs, but those will probably be added in over time as the budget allows.
— Add a patio. The deck will be replaced with a natural flagstone patio with space for dining, our grill, and a small fire pit. We were told flagstone was out of our budget by many landscaping companies, and I’m so grateful that we finally found the company we eventually hired!
— Add stairs and a walkway. Though we could have gone with simple wooden stairs down from the two doors leading to our backyard, I really wanted to make the stairs a focal point. They’ll also be made from flagstone, and should be an inviting place for people to perch. I can imagine friends lounging on them while hot dogs are grilling nearby and kids are playing on the lawn, which makes me so happy! A walkway will lead from the patio to our gate.
— Build a pergola. As a final privacy measure, we’ll be adding an airy, wooden screen on one side of the patio on which we can grow jasmine or climbing roses. It will also give us something to string lights to and from, a major priority! :)

And now, for a few inspiration pictures…

These images all helped inspire my vision for our stairs. I love how wide and welcoming they each are! And that Lucy Cuneo porch photo, top right… that’s the dream right there. Hoping to add lots of potted plants to our steps, too!

I had to include the backyard of our friends Meredith and Michael (middle right) – it’s always been one of my favorites!

I’m sure our backyard will not look nearly as good as any of these lovely spots, especially before our plants grow in, but these images all inspired me in some way – either the size of the lawn, or the materials used, or the shape of the space. Many of these have much larger pergolas than we’ll have, but I do love that look!

Over time, we hope to add lots of plantings for a lush, green look. I would love to include hostas, Confederate jasmine, climbing roses (maybe “Super Fairy”), David Austen roses, mock orange, and hydrangea! We’re also keeping our vegetable garden, and I’d love to find a spot to add more blueberry bushes.

So that’s our plan! So far, the deck and trees have been removed, the yard is partially graded, and the steps are partially constructed. We have our fingers crossed everything will be finished by the end of April, which would give us a few weeks to enjoy before it gets super hot out, haha!

Would y’all be interested in seeing in-progress shots, or should the next post be the reveal? Let me know what you think! :)

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April 7, 2017 9:56 am

These inspiration images are STUNNING! Seriously, Emily, what a beautiful vision you have. Living in metro DC means I can only dream of having a backyard like this one day, so I look forward to soaking up your after photos! Progress shots are always welcome, too. :)

April 7, 2017 10:30 am

What a surprise to be included in such a lovely round-up of inspirational images, Em! Your plans sound amazing and I’m so impressed that you will have a lot of it completed by the end of the month – so fast!! Keep the progress shots coming if you find the time, it’s always fun to see the process. Looking forward to seeing the final (beautiful!) results in person one day!

April 7, 2017 10:45 am

Ahh!!! I can’t wait to see how it turns out! We have been making slow but steady progress in our backyard which was essentially less than a blank slate when we moved in), adding a few things every year. May I suggest Limelight Hydrangeas for your yard? I am no gardener, but we planted 5 from gallon pots ($25 each) around our deck two years ago and they grew so fast and look gorgeous from April-October (in Virginia). In the first year they must have grown 3 feet. All I do is water them and clip off the spend blooms in the fall. I actually just ordered three David Austin rose shrubs (Claire Austins!) because I feel so proud of those hydrangeas- we’ll see how that goes since I hear roses are a bit more high maintenance!

April 7, 2017 2:13 pm

OMG!!!! This is so exciting – and this inspiration is amazing!
I cannot wait to see your new yard x

April 7, 2017 3:04 pm

In progress shots, please! So excited for y’all to create this beautiful space!

April 7, 2017 9:46 pm

We have been working on a similar but smaller scale project with our back garden, which is really just a weed garden right now. We hope to turn it into an extended deck for container gardening and a special space for the kiddos (with string lights and a new home there for the grill!). What I love most about your plan is the forethought with the steps. This space sounds so cozy and welcoming. And as a kid I remember loving the flagstone steps off the back of our home. They were a favorite spot to perch and play!

April 9, 2017 10:39 pm

Yes to progress shots and ahhh!! Your inspiration images are so beautiful!! Can’t wait to see the final result!! :)

April 12, 2017 10:10 am

I remember you telling us about this project when you visited last summer. I’ve been enjoying following along via Instagram and it’s awesome to see your inspiration. Also, so cool to spy my family and their lovely pergola and yard. This is going to be beautiful and I can’t wait to see it in person some day! xo

April 12, 2017 11:07 am

I love this! We’re dreaming up something very similar for our backyard – we have some of the same photos on our inspiration boards! Can’t wait to see your grand reveal. :-)

September 5, 2021 12:16 am

Wow, that’s a great-looking yard. All the improvements really add up. The patio, the plants, the retaining walls, the stone steps, it all looks amazing! Thanks for sharing