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Landscape Design Richmond:–A Modern Makeover in Midlothian, Virginia

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Introducing the Project

One of our favorite parts of our job is that we never design the same backyard twice. No property is the same, no clients are the same, and no project requires exactly the same solution. This changing landscape in the surrounding communities of Richmond, Virginia has informed the architecture of the homes built within them.

Due to its topography, many homes in Midlothian, VA are built with walkout basements, and feature stairs descending from the main level providing access into the backyard. In our landscape design for this Midlothian, Virginia home, our challenge was designing a space that was not only beautiful and functional, but resolved these notable elevation differences in the architecture of the home and grading of the property.

2D Renderings

In any project we take on, our first step is to sit down and walk through the space with our clients. We make sure to have a thorough conversation to understand what exactly our clients need, how they will use the space, and their general design preferences. Then, we hit the drawing table and come back to present a first round of 2D designs.

Once we talk through the design, we create two separate design concepts for the space. We feel that presenting initial 2D renderings instead of skipping immediately to 3D images helps give our clients breathing room to think through the design.

Instead of feeling a sense of finality, they are better able to see where designs can flex or change. This is valuable to us because it creates an effective feedback loop and gives homeowners a real sense of control over the direction of their space. Collaboration is key to a successful end design. From initial designs to final renderings, we make sure our clients’ thoughts and opinions are never an afterthought.

Concept A

Concept A

In the above rendering, you can see our first design concept. Immediately apparent is the unique shape of the lot. Our clients wanted a modern space that fit the yard, and included a pool, auxiliary patio space, playground, and plenty of room to relax.

Directly off the basement walk out of the home you see a paver patio bordered by a retaining wall. Above this, a tiered stair system accounts for the change in elevation between the main level and the ground level of the home. Stepping off these stairs, you can continue around onto brand new decking, bordered with strategic planting, or around and down onto the brand new paver patio.

Continuing into the center of the space, you see the new pool.

A closer look at the changing elevations surrounding the pool installation.

In this design, the pool is surrounded by varying grades of hardscaping. The right side of the pool’s coping is completely level with the new deck. As you move towards the left hand side, and the elevation of the yard drops, the walls of the pool become visible. This not only adds texture and visual interest to the design, but is a great way to add a custom, elevated feel to a prefabricated pool.

Finally, to the left of the living space is a fire feature, bordered on one side by an elevated planter box, and on the other by a mulched playset area for the kids. The entire space is finished with careful lighting and landscaping, leaving plenty of room around the perimeter of the design for lawn and space for kids to run.

Concept B

Concept B

In the second design concept we presented, we decided to really play into the unique slant of the backyard space. While all of the design elements of the previous space are present in this design, they have been moved to run in a series of parallel, diagonal lines.

Immediately off of the home, you see the same stair system leading you down from the main floor of the home into the yard. The initial patio also remains unchanged. However, stepping off into the rest of the space, things begin to change.

A closer look at the diagonally placed pool and new pergola.

The pool, which ran parallel to the home in Concept A, now is set at a diagonal. A pergola set at the same angle, runs the length of the far side of the pool. The pool in this design is similar, and the perimeter is once again set against changing elevations. As in Concept A, one end of the coping is level with the new decking, while the other walls remain exposed to the patio and lawn.

The fire feature is still set to the left side of the patio, but the mulched playset space has moved to the right hand side of the yard. This creates additional separation between the central outdoor living space, and the space dedicated to kids.

Concept C

As mentioned, starting with 2D designs gives us the best opportunity to get meaningful feedback from our clients. After presenting both directions, the homeowners really liked the layout and modern, clean lines of the second design.

However, they still had a desire to see an option that utilized curves and organic shapes. We were happy to show them a different direction. After all, sometimes it is hard to know for sure what you want until you see all of your options.

Concept C

As you can see, the final design we presented utilized soft edges and curves in both the pool, and surrounding hardscaping. The deck, paver patio, and even mulched play area all feature rounded edges, directly contrasting the sharp angles of the home and the perimeter of the lot.

After seeing this final design, the clients realized that they really did love the straighter, more modern lines of the previous designs. They ultimately decided they would like to proceed with expanding on Concept B.

Still, we believe this exploration of a different design was worth the effort. What a client doesn’t want can be equally as important as what they do want. At the end of the day, we would have rather explored all options with a client than leave them wondering, “What if?”.

3D Renderings

After we got the green light to continue with Concept B, we proceeded to create a series of 3D renderings. The 3D design stage is always exciting, as clients get to watch hypothetical designs come to life in full color.

A look at the tiered stairs and decking, resolving the change in elevation between the main level and the backyard living space.

In the above rendering, you can see the elevation challenge described earlier. The main floor is graded above the backyard, while a walk out basement is level with the living space. To connect these two floors to the design, a series of stairs has been created to guide the homeowners out of the main floor of their home and into their new backyard.

Looking over the yard from the left hand side of the space, you can see the diagonal set of the pool and pergola. You can also see the varied grading in the perimeter of the pool. The decking is flush with the coping, while the paver patio sits lower, exposing the remaining exterior pool walls.

A look at the diagonal set and unique grading of the pool. The deck runs flush to the coping, while the remaining perimeter walls become exposed at varying degrees. Also visible is the proposed fire feature and planting beds.

It is always important to us to take landscape design challenges and spin them into design opportunities. This concept is really on display in this Richmond backyard. The lot, which slopes away from the house, created an opportunity for us to play into the concept of a tiered design, as seen in the below rendering.

Each level of the design opens up into a new space. The homeowner first descends the flights of stairs onto the deck. They can then descend again into the pool, or again onto the patio. Even further, they can continue into the sloping lawn space to enjoy some nature and greenery.

Another look at the tiered landscaping design in this Midlothian backyard. Different levels of design turn this sloped backyard into a beautiful, functional outdoor living space.

We were determined not to waste any usable space in this design. Tucked under the main level landing, and positioned directly off the walk out basement is an outdoor kitchen. The homeowners can use this space without feeling disconnected from guests hanging out around the firepit, or cut off from kids or friends using the pool. Each space in the design contains an eyeline to the next, keeping each area distinct without making them feel disjointed.

A look out towards the patio and pool from the outdoor kitchen.

An aerial rendering of the design concept showcasing the diagonal set of the pool, and auxiliary spaces.

Discover What's Possible in Your Outdoor Living Space

At the end of the day, the journey from 2D concepts to complete 3D renderings is a collaborative and rewarding experience. Sometimes, a client loves the very first design presented. Other times, they may be interested in exploring several different design avenues. Either way, Water and Earth is excited to show you all that is possible in your own backyard.

Whether you’re in Richmond or a surrounding area, we are here to offer creative, modern, forward thinking design solutions. Start the journey towards your dream outdoor living space and reach out for a personal consultation today.

Interested in seeing more of our work? Check out our blog, or give us a follow on Instagram.

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