Outdoor Living: Design Your Dream Backyard Retreat
Jun 08

Crafting an Oasis of Serenity: My Journey with Victoria

Not long ago, I had the pleasure of embarking on a captivating journey with Victoria, a client who had just purchased a corner property in the city and was eager to transform her backyard into an outdoor living dream. Our collaboration began with a simple phone call, and it was as if we’d known each other forever. The excitement was palpable, and we had to stop ourselves from diving right into the design process – we needed to get our ducks in a row first.

After careful consideration, we decided that a “Landscape Design in a Day” process would work best for Victoria’s vision. Her focus was solely on the backyard, and she had plenty of ideas to share. Let me tell you, there would be no room for a traditional lawn in this sanctuary!

Embracing the Outdoor Living Retreat

Victoria’s theme was clear: an outdoor living backyard. She envisioned multiple sitting areas, a dining space, and a cozy lounging spot for entertaining guests. Screening out the neighbors’ odd garage was a must, but we had to find a way to work around it without compromising the overall design.

As we delved deeper into the plan, Victoria’s wish list included a wide array of features. She wanted to incorporate edible plants, such as blueberry bushes, alongside colorful flowers, climbing roses, and flowering vines. Unique and nostalgic plant material was a must, with a focus on perennials and pollinator-friendly options. And, of course, the design had to be dog-friendly, as Victoria’s furry companions would be spending plenty of time in this oasis.

Tackling the Challenges: Privacy and Grading

One of the biggest challenges we faced was the issue of privacy and grading. The backyard was the larger portion of the city lot, which was a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, we had ample space to work with, but on the other, the varying grades posed a significant design obstacle.

The backyard sloped in multiple directions – toward the house, the side property line, and then up to the back fence. The area next to the existing shed didn’t match any of these grades, making it a tricky problem to solve. Navigating these different slopes was not just a practical necessity but also an opportunity to add some spice to the design.

Another pressing issue was the unattractive view of the neighbors’ extra-tall garage. Typical screening solutions, like a tall tree or hedge, would have created too much shade for the colorful plants and edibles that Victoria craved.

Innovative Solutions: Pergolas, Paths, and Retaining Walls

To address the privacy and grading challenges, we came up with some innovative solutions. One of the key elements was a long pergola adorned with Victoria’s favorite climbing roses, “Joseph’s Coat.” This not only solved the issue of the unsightly garage view but also created a beautiful, inviting focal point for the backyard.

The different grade changes were tackled with a combination of paths and retaining walls. We decided to make the patio the new low point of the yard, using a curved stone wall to retain the highest grade on the back side. This not only created a distinct “room” for the patio but also seamlessly connected the various levels.

Collaborating with Professionals for a Cohesive Design

Throughout the design process, I collaborated closely with a licensed landscape contractor, Donna Burdick of D & J Landscape Contractors. Donna’s expertise was invaluable in translating my conceptual plan into a final, cohesive design. She made the necessary adjustments to the grades and determined the appropriate drainage solutions.

I also enlisted the help of a certified arborist to address the existing large tree. The arborist lifted selected branches to allow for better light penetration in the edibles area and created a path that wound from the edibles to the tree, making maintenance and access easier.

Choosing Materials and Plants for Optimal Functionality and Aesthetics

The material selections for the hardscaping elements were carefully considered to enhance the overall design. We opted for decomposed granite instead of standard crushed rock for the patio, giving it an attractive, cream-colored surface. The rock walls, which Victoria especially loved, were constructed using Camas basalt, and the paths were made from variegated lavender-blue flagstone.

The planting plan was a true collaboration between Victoria and myself. She had a deep love for colorful plants and pottery, and we incorporated her bearded iris collection into the design. To balance the vibrant hues, I selected some tough, dog-friendly plants, including Northwest native species like huckleberry and sword fern.

One of the standout ground cover selections was the hardy geranium, Geranium x cantabrigiense. Not only is it a gorgeous, fragrant plant, but its cedar-scented leaves also tend to keep dogs off the delicate areas, guiding them onto the designated paths.

Other notable additions included blueberry plants, a variegated evergreen shrub (Pieris japonica ‘Little Heath’), and a variety of flowering perennials and annuals, such as lavender, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and hummingbird mint.

Outdoor Living Elevated: The Gas Firepit

No backyard retreat is complete without a cozy spot to gather around on cool evenings. Victoria’s dream included a gas firepit, and I couldn’t agree more. With just the flick of a switch, you can instantly enjoy the warmth and ambiance of a crackling fire, creating a truly immersive outdoor living experience.

The Final Outcome: A Harmonious Blend of Form and Function

The end result was a stunning outdoor oasis that seamlessly blended form and function. Victoria’s initial vision had been refined and elevated through our collaborative efforts, and the final design reflected her personal style and preferences.

As I look back on this project, I’m reminded of the power of teamwork and the importance of listening to the client’s needs. Victoria’s enthusiasm and willingness to explore new ideas were instrumental in creating a space that truly captured her dream of an outdoor living retreat.

And the story doesn’t end there. During the installation process, Victoria found a wonderful friend and partner, and they even added chickens and started keeping bees to their growing backyard sanctuary. This just goes to show that the journey of creating an outdoor living space can be full of surprises and unexpected delights.

If you’re inspired by Victoria’s story and are looking to transform your own backyard into a dream retreat, I encourage you to visit Sofas Spectacular. Our team of designers and landscape professionals would be thrilled to collaborate with you in bringing your outdoor living vision to life. Who knows, your story might just be the next one I get to share!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.