Over this past year our back yard went from this:
We knew when purchasing the house that we would have to invest time and money into fixing up the back yard. There was a stagnant pool of water under the low deck, which was a very happy breeding ground for mosquitoes, and it had a slight smell. The yard needed a lot of cleaning up and the deck was in poor condition.
We took the before pics during our home inspection. It was in much the same condition when we moved in.
The process kicked off in the summer of 2009 by having three trees removed from the yard. We risked foundation damage from the roots of one of the maples closest to the house, branches falling from a bradford pear that was next to the maple, and the third maple in the middle of the yard blocked too much light from entering our kitchen. We had a fourth maple removed from our front yard at the same time as these trees, also to allow more light to enter the house. We like a nice, bright house!
We met with lots of contractors to determine the best way to fix the water problem and repair or replace the deck. No two contractors had the same suggestions. Some said we could keep the deck, most said we should rip out the deck, some said we should build a retaining wall, others said no wall was needed, some said we should do a paver patio, some said we should do a concrete base patio, some said to do a french drain, others said not to.
We talked to companies all through the summer of 2009 and still had not decided. This turned out to be a good move because we ended up talking to a contractor in the fall of 2009 that offered us a really good deal on a 400 sq. ft. flagstone patio with a concrete base plus a drainage system. The fall is their slow period, so they gave us a better deal than had we talked to them in the spring. Their solution included a drainage system which would use the patio as a way to collect the water coming down the hill and funnel it to drains which would then take the water through underground PVC pipes ending at the sidewalk in front of our house. We liked the mortared flagstone option because it is low maintenance and tends to last over time. We felt comfortable going with this company because they have a great reputation in our area, were licensed and insured, and offered a good warranty on the work. The plan was to have this company do the work in the fall of 2009, but then we got hit with unseasonably cold temperatures and early, heavy snowfall, so we ended up waiting until the spring so the ground could thaw out.
In April 2010 we were finally able to have the patio and drainage system installed. Before the work started, Marty and I were able to go out to their stone yard and pick the pallets of flagstone that we liked. We chose pallets that had a mix of blues and red-oranges. It took the contractors about a week to do everything which included tearing out our old deck, installing the drainage system, pouring a concrete base, and cutting, laying, and mortaring the flagstone.
Once the patio was in, Marty and I came up with a landscaping design to enclose the patio. We planted hydrangeas, azaleas, and Shenandoah grass. You might have noticed our azaleas have a few blooms. These are Encore azaleas and bloom twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. We were nearing the end of their blooming cycle when I took these pics.
Since we had those trees removed in 2009, we had huge bare patches of dirt in the yard, so a couple weeks ago we laid sod in those bare areas. We talked about seeding rather than sod, but since we are on a hill we were worried that the seed would just come running down the hill with the first rain. Plus, the instant gratification of sod is kind of nice! It turned out to be the perfect time to plant grass because we had a tropical depression hit us last week which resulted in lots and lots of rain. Good for the grass and good for our water bill.
Once the patio was done, we began the search for furniture. I hunted around for deals and ended up mixing and matching from Sears, Home Depot, Ballard Designs, and my favorite purchase – Restoration Hardware pillows that I got for $10 each! (posted about here)
Our goal in buying furniture was to get something low maintenance, comfortable, nice looking, and a good value. We like to hang out on the patio for long periods of time, so comfortable cushioned dining chairs were a must. We liked the mesh lounge chairs because they are easy to keep clean and are surprisingly comfortable.
Since we purchased the dining set, I think we have had dinner on the patio every nice evening possible. I wake up before Marty most weekends, and I have been enjoying my Saturday and Sunday morning latte and Google Reader blog fix out there. We have lots of other inhabitants that hang out with us, particularly in the mornings. There are tons of chipmunks, birds, rabbits, and even a couple groundhogs that run through our yard. Supposedly groundhogs are considered a nuisance (I think they are kind of cute!), but they don’t live in our yard, and by the time we say, “ooh look the groundhog!” he is off and running through another neighbor’s yard. We get the occasional deer, though I have never spotted one, but they did munch on our hydrangeas once.
It’s our little private oasis back there, and we are so happy with how it turned out!
The decor details:
Dining table and chairs- Garden Oasis sold at Sears
Lounge chairs – Martha Stewart from Home Depot
Umbrellas – Home Depot (not sure of the brand)
Faux stone umbrella stand/table – Ballard Designs
Lounge chair pillows – Restoration Hardware
Also, don’t forget to check out our inspiration galleries! They include LOTS of home decor images submitted by readers like you! Browse by room type, room color and check out the gallery of painted and refinished furniture, or you can search by paint color, room type, blog name, or any combo of these. Make sure to check out the image descriptions – many include the name of the paint color and a link back to the owner’s blog where you can see more details about their rooms.