Backyard Retreat


Our client recently purchased a newly-constructed home in order to downsize and have a low- maintenance home and yard. The existing side yard/back yard was undeveloped by the builder, leaving the homeowner with the huge challenge of creating a great outdoor entertaining space for family and friends, while creating privacy and overcoming the over 8-foot steep drop from the existing back porch down to the alley.

The grade was the largest challenge because the space was so narrow with such a large fall from existing porch to the property line. The second largest challenge is that this residence is located in a semi-private community where HOA approval of plans and materials is difficult, as all the residences here share a similar look and feel with a very clean and contemporary aesthetic.

We had to precisely shoot grades to know what kinds of retaining walls would need to be constructed along with how much backfill soil and dirt movement would need to be done. After that the design had to carefully consider the space with maximum functionality for outdoor entertainment with newly constructed walls to ensure it would last for many years to come. All of this was done with multiple meetings with the homeowners who are a retired engineer and active architect themselves. Once a design was settled upon, then submission to the HOA board of approval had to be completed and signed off on with all questions and concerns answered for the community by-laws.

The two biggest difficulties within the construction phase were that the neighbor next to the back yard had a large retaining wall not properly backfilled up to the property line. That neighbor wouldn’t allow us proper access and control to help alleviate the issues, so we had to skillfully work around this to ensure what we constructed would last, despite their property not being properly addressed. We also had to go through multiple shipments from the manufacturer due to large variances in the material’s appearance on the steps and another shipment that was broken during shipping. These two things delayed the project we were working to complete before the spring so the homeowner could have the maximum use of the space this year.

Topping off this challenging construction was a beautiful palette of native grasses, rosemary, groundcover, granite walkways, and synthetic grass to ensure year-round, practically effortless beauty.

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