The conversation area, fire pit, and views through the cable rails draws the family and visitors into the previously uninviting yard.

A Small Yard Now Big on Entertaining

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The conversation area, fire pit, and views through the cable rails draws the family and visitors into the previously uninviting yard.
The conversation area, fire pit, and views through the cable rails draws the family and visitors into the previously uninviting yard.

My client, in the heart of Takoma Park, Maryland, lamented that they rarely ventured in to the yard and only occasionally ate on the deck.   With judicial use of existing elements and few bold strokes, they now have spaces that they use and entertain in almost daily.

To keep the budget in check, we drew from the existing elements — an existing deck, stairs to the yard, and a relatively flat, unformed space.  We kept the deck and the deck posts but replaced the barrier-forming pressure-treating railings with cable rails.  We did the same on the stairs.  The deck — a full story up from the yard — felt completely detached.  By closing in the yawning dark hole with earth-toned fiber cement boards we helped ground the structure.  A raised planting bed that morphs into an L-shaped raised concrete bench, further ties the deck to the yard.  Unexpected angles and strong focal points, further integrates the spaces.

L-Shaped Concrete Benches Morph Into a Concrete Walled Planting Bed
L-Shaped Concrete Benches Morph Into a Concrete Walled Planting Bed
Backyard entertaining
As you enter from a driveway that leads to the back of the house, the new entertaining area is slowly revealed. (see before picture, below)
Making the Most of a Small Yard
The patio, planting beds, and cable-railed deck make the most of a small backyard — providing multiple conversation and activity areas.

The L-shaped concrete planters and cable rails contrast nicely with the informality of the irregular flagstone patio and the casual plantings.  Plump, relaxed all-weather cushions add comfort.  The large wood-burning fire bowl adds a focal point.

The family now regularly enjoys the yard with their friends, neighbors and relatives.

Irregular Flagstones on the Patio Floor help Soften the Hard Angles of the Benches
Irregular Flagstones on the Patio Floor help Soften the Hard Angles of the Benches
A Large Fire Bowl Forms the Centerpiece
A Large Fire Bowl Forms the Centerpiece
Plump outdoor cushions soften the concrete benches
Plump outdoor cushions soften the concrete benches and provide extreme flexibility for gatherings.
Plump outdoor cushions are comfortable and flexible.
Cladding the open area under the deck in earth-toned fiber cement boards and the large planter formed, in part, by the back wall of one of the L-shaped concrete benches both help to tie the deck to the yard.
Eventually, the plantings will drape over the tops of the benches and will provide an even greater sense of intimacy.
Eventually, the plantings will drape over the tops of the benches and will provide an even greater sense of intimacy.
The cable rails provide an almost jewelry-like accent to the deck.
The cable rails provide an almost jewelry-like accent to the deck.
Instead of blocking views, Cable Rails provide views through and help integrate the spaces.
Instead of blocking views, Cable Rails provide views through and help integrate the spaces.
Angles enhanced off-season
The angles are enhanced off-season without the cushions.
Angles enhanced off-season
Angles enhanced off-season
Low Maintenance Plantings
This mix of young and adolescent plantings will fill this shady space within about 5 years and will require little maintenance after established.
Concrete Walled Planting Bed
This raised planting bed of mixed greens will look good year round. The variegated Winter Daphne will perfume the whole year in late February / early March.

BEFORE PICTURES:

The Backyard was a Blank Slate
Pressure -Treated Railings Blocked views and felt heavy
The small deck was just enough for alfresco dining. But it felt disconnected from the yard.

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