Our new backyard!

27 July 2018

Happy Friday, friends! We are counting down the days until baby brother’s arrival, so thank you for your patience as I’ve navigated these last few weeks!

Today, I am SO excited to share with you our new backyard!! This was definitely one of those “reveals” where it’s tempting to just wait one more month and then another month, after we’d finished this or that was blooming, but the truth is that a landscape project is ALWAYS evolving and changing – after all, it’s a project that’s literally growing! At this point, the major elements are all in place, and I’d love to have the chance to share it with you!

For those friends just joining us, this is a project that was many years in the making. As two people who grew up with expansive yards (that’s just how we do it in New England), our yard was a pretty big disappointment when we moved in. Not only was it tiny, but it just wasn’t very usable. The previous owners had done literally nothing with it – no plantings, no hardscaping, etc. Accordingly, we spent zero time back there our first few years in the house. A few before photos:

backyard before

backyard before

backyard before

Deteriorating deck, sad grass, old stumps, barren wasteland of a lower right corner: check, check, check, check.

With an interior that only needed furnishing, we knew we’d eventually want to invest some money in improving the backyard. June’s impending arrival lit a fire under us, though it still took us until after her first birthday to break ground.

I’ll be honest – this was NOT an inexpensive project. In fact, it cost more than my first car (!!!). We used a big chunk of savings we had set aside, and we were also so grateful to be able to put some money from my grandmother towards it. Naturally, spending such a large amount of money was challenging and a bit nerve-wracking for us.

Having had a year to live with the improvements, however, I can confidently say that I am SO happy we chose to spend the money in this way. It transformed a part of our house that was a negative into a major positive, and changed our daily habits in wonderful ways. Not only does our backyard now look beautiful, but it’s already served as the backdrop to so many family and friend memories. That is the kind of consumption I’m happy to take part in.

Ready to take a peek? Here we go!!

The first major changes were to remove two trees, the deck, and a concrete stair pad. The tree removal was necessary to grade the lawn and create more usable space, two of our main goals, but it was still painful for this tree lover.

tree removal

grading the lawn

Grading the lawn came next, then building the stairs, setting the patio, and constructing the retaining wall. Our contractors also built the arbor and laid new sod.

retaining wall

flagstone path

From there, it was up to us! Over the last year, we’ve added a few plantings, rebuilt our veggie bed, strung string lights, and added patio furniture and a fire pit to move closer to our vision for this space.

backyard with retaining wall

Ahh, much better!! To recap, our priorities were: 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; and string lights! I’m so happy to say we got all of these things and more!

veggie garden

Let’s talk about the furniture for a minute. It’s all from World Market, and while I’m happy with how it looks (and with the price!), I do not expect it to last forever. The table surface is already showing wear after one year, so I expect we will likely only get 3-4 years out of it. But that’s okay – we weren’t able to invest more last summer, and we wanted to be able to use the space right away! I am prone to holding off on purchases forever, waiting for the perfect piece I’ll have for the rest of my life, and while generally I think this is a good approach, sometimes it’s more important to just choose something and get on with it!

World Market patio furniture

fire pit

So far in the back bed we have a Golden Celebration rose in honor of our kitty Jack, two gardenias, and two hydrangeas. (The hydrangeas might need to move, as they hate getting blasted by the afternoon sun.) We also have a thriving elephant ear in the corner that somehow survived our whole backyard getting torn up (we planted it several years before this project and did not expect it to survive!). We also planted two teeny jasmine plants on either side of the pergola/privacy fence, and with the way jasmine grows, I am eagerly anticipating them exploding into a gloriously-smelling arch sometime next summer! Next year, we hope to fill in the back bed with even more plants, and eventually add more potted plants on the steps like my inspiration photos.


pink hydrangea

green grass

One of our main goals with this project was to increase how private our backyard felt (we were starting from basically zero, so it was only onwards and upwards from there!). I’m so happy that we accomplished that thanks to a few changes. The most significant was replacing our deck with a patio, so that we were no longer up on a platform when we were eating outside, but beneath the level of the fence. The pergola and plantings also help.

elephant ear

raised bed

Of course, our biggest and most important goal was to create a space where we all loved spending time, especially June. Throughout the last year, we’ve seen that dream come to life, and we are so grateful!!

fall in the backyard

backyard fire pit

watering plants

There you have it, friends! I hope the tour was worth the wait! :)

I’m curious to hear, if you live in a space with a yard: has the outside or inside of your house been more of a priority? We held off for five years on this work, but are so glad we took the plunge when we did!

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Kelly Strawberry
July 27, 2018 9:50 am

I’d say our inside renovations have overall been more of a priority, but we also have done a lot of landscaping. One of the best things we did was invest in a landscape designer/artist. She drew up prints to-scale of our entire house and yard, all of her ideas, which plants to buy, etc. She was INCREDIBLE and it was money well spent. Of course, we’d have to win the lottery in order to make it all happen, but it helps that we have an “grand plan” and can do tackle it in phases.

Kelly Strawberry
July 27, 2018 9:51 am

ps – love your backyard so much! Yall did a great job!

July 27, 2018 10:26 am

Your yard is beautiful, yay grass!! This yard will be perfect for baby’s summer bday parties :). Thanks for sharing.

Janice Leehan
July 27, 2018 1:18 pm

Beautiful outside area. A nice place to enjoy your maternity leave and once baby comes, a nice place to spend time with your new baby and family! Enjoy!!

July 27, 2018 5:30 pm

Ahhh, it looks amazing! Historically we have put landscaping on the back burner when we renovate but prioritized it this go around and have enjoyed it so much more! Love your selections – it looks like you had a good contractor, too!

July 27, 2018 9:54 pm

Amazing transformation! I think living in the south where you’re likely to be outside more year round it’s important to invest in your yard. This coming from a non home-owner. But I grew up with great yards, one quite expansive (New England) and one small (Florida). But mighty. We lived on our patio for dinners and swimming and had a covered area to sit and watch it storm like it does in florida. Our living room and family room both opened up to the porch so it was like it expanded the square footage dramatically. Definitely something I’ll be looking at when it comes time to own a home.

July 28, 2018 6:55 am

I absolutely love how your new back yard turned out! Oh, and let‘s talk about tiny for a second :-) Ours is probably a third of the size of yours and it‘s not even so tiny compared to some other ones here in Germany (especially in German cities!). But having a bigger back yard when we move to the States (hopefully! most likely!) is definitely something we‘re excited about! It’s just such fun and easy „entertainment“ for children (and parents :-)).

July 28, 2018 9:20 pm

Wow wow wow I absolutely LOVE the transformation! My husband and I recently purchased our first home and, much to my dismay, the yard has zero trees! I’ve been trying to brainstorm how I’d like to landscape! This just gave me so many ideas!!! Luckily, the previous owners put in very basic landscaping and a sprinkler system (a huge bonus), but our yard is definitely lacking in character! I am so excited to work on some ideas so that we can enjoy our yard next spring and summer!

July 31, 2018 12:58 pm

This is absolutely BEAUTIFUL, Em! I’m so happy for you guys. What a stunning space. Cannot wait to visit soon! Xo

August 3, 2018 3:39 pm

Holy moly the transformation is incredible!! What a gorgeous space to enjoy with your sweet family – it’s perfect!!