Backyard Escape: Award-winning patio, garden offer inspiration
When balmy temps beckon you outdoors, look no further than your own patio, porch, deck or yard for a welcoming, tranquil oasis for relaxing and lounging.
For inspiration, take a peek into Sharon and Rich Orr’s beautiful backyard wonderland. Their Mission Hills patio and garden was a collaborative project with architect Rick McDermott, principal, RDM Architecture. The firm won the “Best Of Remodeling” 2012 award by Houzz, an online platform for residential remodeling and design, for the project.
Extensive remodeling on the interior of the home helped shape ideas for the outdoor space, and together architect and homeowner created a master plan. Top of the list? Making the patio area an extension of the inside of the home.
“Relating the interior to the exterior is really an important part of our whole philosophy,” McDermott says. “Using the outdoors expands your living space.”
And because the backyard is small, Sharon said that was a top priority.
“The patio ‘room’ gives us more room and good flow from the inside to the outside and back,” she says. The space can accommodate a sit-down dinner for 24 or an intimate garden-side chat. “My husband and I like to sit out on the patio at night and talk over the day.”
The home forms a U-shape around the narrow backyard, with the master bedroom addition at one end and a free-standing screened pavilion at the other. Radiant floor heating and made-to-fit Plexiglas panels that pop over the screened portions turn the pavilion into a three-season porch. In the middle sits a modular paver stone patio, anchored by four ornamental trees, ample outdoor seating and a bubbling rock fountain. The entire setting is surrounded by many meandering brick, limestone or pebble paths and a multitude of lush, colorful plants and flowers.
“It’s a feast for the eyes, nose and ears,” Sharon says.
When creating usable outdoor space, McDermott advises that you determine how you first want to use the space. The Orrs knew they needed plenty of room for entertaining. Second, look at the big picture and use what exists, then build around it. McDermott chose to incorporate the more than a dozen existing trees into the new design.
“You’re under the canopy of all these large trees, and that helps give it this amazing magical quality,” he explains. “We wanted to do that same thing on the patio, so we created this four-tree patio area to sort of miniaturize the whole context.”
The Orrs stone patio measures roughly 30-by-36 feet, with the gardens twisting and winding beyond. If you don’t have that kind of space, McDermott says you can still achieve a serene setting. “You can pick and choose what you want based on your budget,” he says. “Use creativity for certain elements if you don’t have the money.”
Can’t afford a massive patio? Consider a retaining wall for extra seating. Don’t have the patience for a natural flora “screen” to grow? Try hog wire stretched over rebar with vines sprawling across. Love the sound of a waterfall? Bury a galvanized stock tank in the ground, surround it with rocks and put in a recirculating pump. Or simply plop two comfy outdoor chairs in a corner of your yard.
Adding an arbor is another great way of connecting spaces and providing a level of protection. For the Orrs, McDermott created one that lines two sides of the patio and provides plenty of dappled shade and a charming architectural touch to the area.
Don’t despair if you aren’t an expert gardener like Sharon, McDermott says. He recommends consulting an expert, like a landscape architect, to help plan your outdoor room. Sharon offers this advice: patience. “Gardens take time, some trial and error, and should take the observer on a journey — one where you want to see what is around the next corner.”
Photo provided by RDM Architecture