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  • Writer's pictureAshley Harrison

Backyard Tour

Product selections in a backyard renovation can be challenging and overwhelming. Here I'll share the materials we chose, the reasons we selected them, and how I feel about those selections now.

Developing a design for our backyard space was tough. We spent months meeting with companies, going over drawings, negotiating, and walking the yard. I spent a lot of time doing the same thing in our interior spaces, but the backyard was much more difficult to envision. When designing a room inside the house there is at least a starting point. Staring off into an empty backyard, at a blank slate, takes a lot more of my imagination.

This was the first backyard I'd ever worked on, from beginning to end. I learned a lot through the process, but if I had to give one suggestion on designing an outdoor space, it would be this;

Do NOT focus all of your efforts on the aesthetics of a space, but focus instead on how you will LIVE in the space.

Functionality is so important and the one area you could experience regret. If you are unable to live easily in the space you've created, you won't maximize your time there. We created a covered patio, an outdoor kitchen, a poorhouse, a putting green, and added a pool. The area needed to flow together, but it also had to work well with the functionality of the house.

Here are a few questions we asked ourselves during the process:

1. How far is the outdoor kitchen from the indoor kitchen? Will we be annoyed and frustrated to run back and forth between those spaces? 2. Where are the best locations for steps? We have children running around this area, how do we make sure we have the fewest amount of steps possible?

3. Can I see the pool from standing inside the house?

4. What will the view be like from the interior looking out?

5. How much light will we lose by adding a covered patio?

6. Can we see the outdoor TV from the pool and hot tub? (this was my husband, he is a huge STL Cardinals fan, so missing a game is NOT an option).

Every home is different, so your list won't be the same as ours, but think outside of the product selections and more about how these new outdoor spaces will intertwine with what you currently have. Pay attention to how the people in your family will live in these new areas, and design around how things need to function.

Getting Started

We started the process by selecting a contractor and working with an architect. The architect combined our ideas and his own into visual renderings. The renderings really helped us decide on a particular design. I would highly recommend using a company that offers visual renderings, especially if you are having a hard time envisioning the finished product.

Selecting a contractor was tough, but in the end we went with the company that offered us one-stop-shop services, and made us feel the most comfortable. If you are local, I would highly recommend Luna Builds STL. They paid attention to detail, cared about what we wanted and the finished product, and simply took pride in their work from beginning to end.

Making Selections

This part of the process can be overwhelming for many. I started by researching pools at historic homes. Unfortunately, there is not a standard, and not a ton of pictures out there of "Historic Italianates with old pools". I decided to combine ideas I did see and like, with materials that were the most native to our property. I would recommend doing the same for your home. Research pools for the style of the home you live in. If you live in a newer home, or a home with some rustic flair you could add a pool that is free form, that has rock formations, or rock waterfalls, etc. If your home is modern, clean lines, sleek fountains, and the newest technology work perfectly. If you are somewhere in between look for materials that flow with what you've already designed to create a seamless feel from inside to outside.

The Pool

We have a 20x40 gunite pool with a 6 foot tanning ledge on one end and a 10x10 spa on the other end. The pool has a max depth of 7 1/2 feet. The interior finish is QuartzScape in Grenadine Gray. The tile is from AquaBlu Mosaics in the color Malachite. We went with a natural stone for the pool deck and coping. This stone is called Coastal Blue from Mason Made Stone. We selected a bonded pattern and the stone pieces are 18x24.

The Covered Patio

We added an attached covered patio to the back of the house to soften the new addition. With French doors and transoms to work around, the exterior ceiling height is roughly 12 feet tall. We used reclaimed bricks for the steps out of the doors and as a border around the patio. The patio is the same natural stone as the pool decking, Coastal Blue. The black iron chandeliers are oversized for this space, and I have two tables pushed together, giving me seating for 10 and a 12 foot table. A hutch rounds out the space for now, and serves as a drink station for those enjoying the upper patio. We still have a good amount of extra space up here, so I anticipate adding another cute seating area and some nice full planters for color and warmth. Gotta find plants that are easy to keep alive, because I kill everything I plant.

Pergola/Outdoor Kitchen

The pergola area serves as our comfy seating space, with a TV, fireplace and the outdoor kitchen. We spend a great deal of time over here enjoying baseball games on the TV, cooking meals, and grabbing beverages. The flooring is again the Coastal Blue with a reclaimed brick border. The fireplace is made of multi size limestone, chosen to coordinate with the existing foundation of the 1800s outbuilding. The mantel is a reclaimed piece of wood. The patio sectional, table and rug are all from Pottery Barn, and the pillows are a mix of finds from Target and TJ Maxx. The bar stools are from Overstock, with cushions from Target.

The outdoor kitchen features several different appliances, all linked below. The countertop is made of Phenix Limestone, again from Mason Made Stone, in a honed finish.

To finish off the space we hung string lights from Costco.

Putting Green

This was my husbands baby, so I'm not well-versed in the specs. All I know is that we have 4 holes, and the fringe is much thicker than the putting surface. We hired professionals from our area for this, and they were great. You can visit their website HERE.

Backyard entry

We chose reclaimed brick for all the brickwork, retaining walls and columns on this project. The reclaimed brick brings a feel that no other brick can truly provide. This means the bricks aren't perfect, there are spots of erosion, but I LOVE THAT! In a house of this age, I thought it was important for all the new additions to not be flawless, and to have feeling. The brick totally helped with that.

We went with a steel fence instead of aluminum, per the recommendation of our fencing company. They said, with so many kids coming in and out, the steel fencing would provide more stability and last longer. THIS is the fencing we selected.

Pool Deck Furniture

Two tables with umbrellas flank the spa area. I'm fairly certain the umbrellas are currently sold out, but the tables are still in stock and you can find the cushions at Target.

The pool lounge chairs are from Overstock and they are sold out as well. I didn't want to link similar chairs, because I can't guarantee those are as good as the ones I purchased. The chairs I purchased came with cushions, have a wheel on one end to make moving around the pool deck simple, and I was able to put them together myself.

Final Thoughts

We feel confident that the finished product is high quality, well-built, and exactly what we asked for. I've had a great experience with all of the furniture we purchased, as well as all of the appliances. I would highly recommend all of it. The pool decking turned out gorgeous, and I think it was the right fit for this space. That said, it is far more porous than I anticipated. We tend to do a lot of power washing and natural spots have started appearing in the stone. Many of the spots look like rust, but they are natural deposits coming to the surface. It's really OK, but not something I anticipated would happen. I would still choose it again, but knowing this ahead of time would have saved me a couple "freak out" moments.

My last two selection reviews are this...

-Natural stone pool decking DOES get HOT in the sun. If you want something cool on the feet, I'm convinced Kool Decking is your best option.

-Synthetic artificial turf is also like FIRE on your feet. You'll want your flip flops to walk comfortably around these areas in the blazing sun.

Happy Backyarding!

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Dec 03, 2020

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