Wooded Backyard Retreat

This special client reached out to us because their backyard consisted of a large slope that was unusable, and they wanted to create a space for outdoor entertaining and living. Both the husband and wife worked in high stress jobs and they wanted to be able to come home and unwind after work, along with enjoying time with their children and grandchildren when they came to visit.

Their requirements were that they wanted covered space so they could enjoy the area rain or shine, they wanted a wood burning fireplace, they wanted storage for patio furniture and accessories, as well as a grill. Due to the distance from the house to the patio, there needed to be kitchen storage and refrigeration in the grill area as well. Due to the proximity of the woods and trees behind the house, the client wanted to feel like they were sitting among the trees, while still having creature comforts like lights, refrigeration and a gas grill.

The existing site consisted of a very steep hill which started immediately after the existing deck and patio ended. Access was very limited as well because the property line was only 10’ from the side of the house, and all materials and equipment had to be moved through that 10’ wide corridor, which was also on a hill. The homeowner hired a tree company to remove several large trees prior to the project beginning, however the tree company did not remove the stumps. We had to bring in an mini excavator along with a team of laborers to remove the 30” DBH tree stump.  Before the stump could be removed, the first tier of a retaining wall had to be built downhill of the stump to provide a workspace that was level enough to safely operate equipment which was used to remove the stump.

The design had to incorporate a retaining wall in order to create a level pad for the cabana and patio space. After that first wall was built and the stump was removed, concrete footers could be excavated and poured for the fireplace, bluestone patios and cabana structure. The order of operations was critical to the success of this project because each piece hinged on the accuracy and stability of the piece before it. If the retaining wall wasn’t correct, the concrete footers and slab would be off. If the footers were off, the fireplace would be askew, which would then impact the cabana roof. Every step had to be carefully laid out and triple checked in the field for accuracy before the team could move on.

The limited access for equipment (and humans) meant that the pace of work was slowed down significantly. Only one piece of equipment could be brought in at a time, and due to property line constraints, the size of that equipment was reduced as well. The project was completed over the summer months, so the weather was helpful (it was not a rainy year) but even with mother nature on our side, it took a dedicated team of employees nearly 16 weeks to complete the project. In order to create privacy and screening for the new backyard, mature evergreen trees were brought in and planted on both sides of the property to block the views of neighbors. These trees had to be dug by the nursery with reduced size root balls because of the limited size of the equipment that could access the site. They had to be root pruned and hardened off by the nursery for an extended period of time before being brought to the site. This meant extra care and attention had to be paid to the planting and staking of these trees to ensure their success. The project was completed in 2016 and as of 2019, all 12 evergreen trees are thriving in their new home.

This customer has come back to us 3 years after the project was completed to thank us for creating a “backyard sanctuary” as they call it. The patio and cabana space is used on an almost daily basis, and its their grandchildren’s favorite spot on the whole property when they come and visit.

The fireplace has a mantle that was created by salvaging a hand hewn hickory beam from the landscape contractor’s family farm in northern Maryland. This beam became a great conversation piece during the construction and installation, and it has created a special bond between contractor and client. The client loves to tell guests the story of how the contractor brought this wood beam from his own family’s barn and turned it into a special accent for a beautiful project that brings friends and families together around the fireplace.