With the days getting longer and the weather (finally) getting warmer, we have been finalizing plans for our major project of the year – a backyard overhaul! When we bought this house just under a year ago, we loved that it had a larger backyard than is often found in the ‘burbs but oh my, was it ever a hot mess! We were a little late to the game to get the work underway when we moved in (when I say “hot mess”, I actually mean a giant mess in the thick of Ottawa’s hot and humid summer weather) so we opted to put a cheap’ish patio set on the existing deck and make do for the timebeing. In the end, we still had just about every meal out there – a true testament to just how much we love to be outside!
The backyard is one of two major exterior projects we had planned for 2017; the first being a new roof. Try as I might, I just couldn’t get excited about the roof…not even when they came with shingle samples for me to decide on the color. That said, it’s a necessary evil and we opted to get this done early in the Spring so that all the garbage and materials we had heard would be left behind would be dealt with before or as part of our backyard renovation, instead of finding those pesky nails in what I imagine will be gorgeous, lush green grass that I intend to walk in barefoot!
With the roof out of the way, we were ready to start the more exciting of the two projects – creating a backyard oasis that we love!
Let’s start by looking at the backyard in it’s current, jungle-like state:
Disastrous. Don’t let the green fool you – it’s not grass, it’s weeds (with a healthy dose of dandelions and a very weird, very large patch of hard, scratchy mulch). Those “trees” in the back? Insanely overgrown shrubs. And the real gem, the patio stones – not so strategically graded toward the house. Now here’s the really unbelievable part – we bought this house from a professional landscaper! For realz! I think there is a saying about a cobbler’s children having terrible shoes…perhaps the same is said for landscapers and their own backyards.
Each night last summer, when we would be sitting out on the deck, we would brainstorm what our ideal backyard looked like. Number one on both our lists was having two distinct spaces – one for dining and one for lounging. We knew that we wanted to get rid of whatever those crazy shrubs are at the back, but we wanted to maintain our privacy. We also wanted proper grass that we could walk on in our bare feet. And we had to replace the deck stairs for something less steep and narrow. We realized we were missing window wells for the basement windows, and needed to ensure the grading was away from the house, not toward it. Once Winter hit, my husband added to the plans, with the decision to build a roof over the deck so that he wouldn’t be shovelling all the snow for our dog and could prolong our BBQing season. So with all that in mind, I got out my son’s smelly markers and started sketching.
We generally like to do as much of the work in and around our home ourselves as we can, but once you get into digging up an entire backyard (including removing what’s bound to be some pretty deeply imbedded roots), it’s best to call in the professionals. We enlisted the help of a local general contractor and divided up the work. As it turns out, my delightfully scented sketch didn’t impress him all that much, but I stand by it and by the end of the conversation, we had everything finalized. We decided that we would tackle the deck ourselves, and our contractor would look after the rest. It definitely adds a layer of complexity when you are doing a mix of DIY and outsourced work as we need to strategically sequence everything, but it will allow us to save some money without tackling jobs that are outside our skill set.
With the logistics out of the way, I was able to start planning the décor – my favorite part! We love to entertain and I can’t wait to create spaces around the yard where the adults can lounge or dine, with lots of space for the kids to play! In order to create spaces that were distinct but complementary, I created a mood board to guide my shopping.
And now, it’s almost time to get started! The lumber for the new deck has been delivered and as soon as we can get a stretch of days without rain, we will be breaking ground on this project! Stay tuned for updates and the final reveal!