Categories: Home+Garden

Two Homeowners Convert Their Backyards into Downtime Destinations

written by Melissa Dalton

Come August, what’s more pressing than the need to unwind with a cool drink and enjoy the summer idle? These smart backyard remodels show us how to create outdoor living spaces that are ready for the season’s laziest days.

Washington County: Space Challenges

photo by Darcy Daniels

Shortly after moving into her contemporary American Craftsman style home in the Garden Home neighborhood in 2011, JJ Turner started noticing problems with the backyard.

The house is situated on a slope, so water drained onto her lot and pooled behind the back door. During the house’s construction in 2010, the builder installed boulders to hold the slope but the rocks monopolized the narrow footprint. Clay soil neither absorbed runoff nor allowed plants to thrive. Not only that, windows along the back of the house overlooked the whole soggy tableau. “We were staring at an ugly backyard,” Turner said. She began searching online for remodel inspiration and found Portland garden designer Darcy Daniels of Bloomtown Gardens. At their first meeting, Turner knew her old yard had met its match. “Where I saw challenge,” Turner said, “Darcy saw potential.”

photo by Darcy Daniels

To start, Daniels suggested a clever new layout. “This garden, as it’s designed, is about adapting to the changes in grade in this narrow space, and doing so in a more artful way,” Daniels said. She suggested replacing the boulders with thinner steel and concrete walls, which retain the grade without hogging space, and incorporating an improved drainage system.

Thanks to a smooth install from Tryon Creek Landscape, a dining area now graces the yard’s uppermost corner. Concrete steps and silver TimberTech decking lead to a lower living room, defined by a paver patio, comfortable furniture and modern fire pit from Bentintoshape. Lush plantings soften the perimeter, chosen for their color palette and adaptability to the difficult Northern light. Daniels also centered a sleek water feature on the living room window to create a focal point that can be appreciated from indoors.

The overhaul transformed a dark, uninviting and sodden yard into a destination for relaxing, entertaining and hanging out. “Before, we couldn’t do anything with it,” Turner said. “Now, we love having people over and just being out there.”

Eugene: Framing Better Views

It’s not every house that comes with its very own blueberry grove. That was the bounty Jeremy Block inherited in 2008, when he and wife, Shari, bought their 1960s ranch in Eugene’s River Road neighborhood. The decades-old copse comprised nine plants total, producing roughly 200 gallons of fruit every season. Yet when the couple moved in, the shrubs were hidden from sight by a large, decrepit shed. That shed, along with a large swath of planting bed, divided the backyard into small, inaccessible sections. “It really didn’t flow very well,” Block said.

After six years of living with the fragmentation, the couple was ready for a refresh, for which they enlisted landscape designer Lytton Reid of Rainbow Valley Design & Construction.

“The layout was inspired by Jeremy,” Reid said. “He put his hands up in front of his face and said, ‘I’m imagining a long corridor that looks out on the blueberries.’” Now, that corridor anchors one side of the yard. There a covered breezeway with a tongue-and-groove pine ceiling protects a relaxed lounge area and cook space. e latter’s natural stone island is outfitted with two grill stations, a durable Silestone counter and a sink that captures gray water for blueberry plant irrigation. A few steps away, a cedar pergola wrapped in Wisteria encloses a dining table and chairs. Reid built all of the structures with an eye towards framing pleasing views across the lot’s expanse.

These days the Block family uses the improved yard, no matter the season. “It feels like we added about four hundred square feet of living space,” Block said. “We really, truly expanded the size of our home.” Now they have room to accommodate the many friends who stop by for the harvest. “Believe me, we have an open door policy when it comes to the blueberries,” Block said.

Published by

Recent Posts

Spring Whiskey Events Around Oregon

MARCH 25 Distillery Startup Workshop Mon, Mar 25 – Fri, Mar 29 Corvallis Corvallis, OR MARCH 28 The Eastburn’s Whiskey…

4 weeks ago

Women and Whiskey at Freeland Spirits

Freeland Spirits sets out to do distilling differently written by Sheila Miller Freeland Spirits started with a Texas grandma, a…

4 weeks ago

Gravel Riding Calendar 2019

WASHINGTON Cascadia Super Gravel (Olympia) — March 30 Vicious Cycle's Gran Fondo Series Ephrata — March 17 Goldendale…

1 month ago

Gravel Ride the PNW

Get off the pavement and into backcountry on gravel roads across the Pacific Northwest by Kevin Max I climbed the…

1 month ago

Northwest Destination: Spokane Rising

Spokane is the right jumping-off point for outdoor adventure and sophisticated city life written by Cara Strickland If you’re looking…

1 month ago

Trip Planner: Redmond

Central Oregon’s oft-overlooked city is getting cool before our eyes written by Sheila Miller Not so long ago, downtown Redmond…

1 month ago