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Richmond Landscape Design–Bringing a Small Backyard to Life

While we do a lot of work on homes in the surrounding neighborhoods of Richmond, VA, it's always fun to work within the city limits. In today's landscape design challenge, we'll take a look at one of our in-progress designs right here in Richmond. Sitting on a smaller property, these homeowners were looking to make the most of their limited square footage.


Introducing The Space

Taking a look at the initial space, you can see that a small amount of work had been done previously, though the larger portion of the backyard remains undeveloped. The perimeter of the backyard is enclosed by a wood fence, and large trees deliver shade to large portions of the yard.

At the back of the property, a small auxiliary structure is nestled beneath a tree. The surrounding space remains undeveloped, and large patch of dirt backs up to the property line, extending behind the red brick structure

Looking back toward the home, you see the staircase that carries the homeowners out of their main back door and into the backyard space. You see the existing paver patio, which is large enough to contain a dining table, but not much else. Around the side of the home, a paver path takes clients around toward the front of the home.

There was so much potential in this property. The historic charm of the window arches, red brick, and classic Richmond feel anchored the home in the space. However, the clients were looking to bring their backyard into the modern age with a sleek, functional design that would make their home shine. After discussing their wishlist, we hit the drawing board and came back with two design concepts for the client's consideration.


Concept A

The first design concept, seen below, makes the most of the small space, fitting in a custom pool, fire pit, seating space, lawn, and more.

Stepping out of their home, the clients descend two staircases and step onto a new, geometric paver patio. This initial open area has plenty of space for seating or even lounge chairs, which would overlook their new custom pool complete with a Baja shelf, water feature wall, and in-pool seating. Directly behind the pool is a new, sunken fire pit space accessible from the main patio, or a series of concrete steppers along the perimeter of the space.


Stepping out of the fire pit, you find your self in the new outdoor kitchen, nestled beneath string lights. If you step out of the sunken space onto the concrete steppers, you follow them along the fence and onto an auxiliary patio space complete with an L-shaped floating bench.


Not wanting to compromise lawn space, the adjacent side of the yard remains largely undeveloped and devoted to greenery, turf, and raised planting beds. Along the perimeter of the property are privacy plantings and lush landscaping that disguises the property line adds color and texture to the backyard living space.


Concept B


The second concept, Concept B, is seen above, While many of the same elements of the initial design can be seen here, such as the auxiliary corner seating area and initial patio space, the configuration of the pool, fire pit, and dining area have been reimagined.


Instead of running parallel to the property line, the new pool has been set parallel to the home. Inside, the features remain largely unchanged. A water feature wall, in-pool stool seating, and a Baja shelf all finish the custom design. Nestled in an L-shape around the pool's far corner is a larger sunken patio space. Stepping down into it from the upper paver patio, you find yourself in the new outdoor kitchen and dining area. Around the back of the dropped space is a cozy fire pit where friends and family can gather using the surround seating wall.


Upon seeing both designs, the homeowners were thrilled. They loved the direction of Concept B, however they wanted to see some revisions in order to make the space perfect for their family. At Water and Earth, this is exactly the kind of collaboration that we value most. Upon hearing their feedback, we came back with revised design based on their requested changes.


Concept B, Revised

In the revised version of Concept B, seen below, you note how the design has been flipped across the space in almost a mirror image. The pool is still the central figure, however the sunken patio is situated along the other side of the yard. In it's place is now the home's green lawn space, reimagined as a dog run.


Also noted in this design revision is the new raised deck that meets the back entrance. Instead of stepping out onto stairs, the homeowners now step out onto the deck, and follow a staircase down onto the main paver patio.

After reviewing this revised design, the homeowners were thrilled. From there, we moved onto 3D renderings, where their dream space really came to life.


Final 3D Renderings

Not everything goes exactly as planned. When it came to rendering these designs, the homeowners realized that the 2D plans that they agreed to didn't directly reflect what they wanted when push came to shove. Again, Water and Earth values our clients input and ideas. We will never proceed or push through a design without the whole hearted approval and excitement of the homeowners. Thus, we decided to take our time and ensure that we took all of the steps necessary to make sure these clients would get the perfect backyard living space for their individual lifestyle.


After playing around with a few iterations of the design in rendering software, we finally arriving at a space that these clients were excited to sign off on. These designs feature many changes to the initial 2D concept, so let's jump into the final images.

In the image above, you see the bulk of the space from an aerial view. Here, you immediately note the changes to the layout and functional design of the space. Stepping out of the back of the home, the clients walk onto a small raised deck landing, and descend a simply staircase onto the large paver patio. However, instead of a sunken living area, this geometric paver patio is level with the grade of the home. In it's place, a large covered living structure shelters a brand new outdoor kitchen and dining space.


In the center of the space is a sunken fire pit, which is anchored to the back of the property by the familiar custom pool design. Behind the sunken space, however, is a brand new design element. In place of a more lawn space, a raised tanning deck has been added.


Below, you can see a closer look at the main paver patio. The intricate brick paver patio is laid in a textured, geometric pattern to elevate the brick of the home. From it, a pergola style structure features recessed lighting and an outdoor fan. Below this cover, the new outdoor kitchen and island provides room to host the summer barbecue of your dreams.

While the 2D designs featured a larger sunken patio space, the homeowners retaining some of this funky concept in the final renderings. In the image below, you see the new sunken space, smaller, but still cozy and cool. Bordered on one edge by the pool, and on the other by a raised planter, this space feels private without becoming disconnected from the rest of the yard.

Moving to the far corner of the lot, behind the pool, you see the new raised deck overlooking the sunken fire pit space. Around the entire property, lush landscaping, trees, flowers, shrubbery, and grasses add color, texture, and height to the design.

Below, you get a closer look at the custom pool. Glass waterline tile adds a pop of color, while the concrete pavers form the coping, and create the buffer between the deck and patio space. In the foreground of the image, in-pool lounge chairs are settled atop the pool's custom Baja shelf.

Looking from the other side of the yard, you see the newly positioned lawn space. Retaining this grass area gave the client's room for pets or kids to play, while still allowing most of the space to be devoted to functional outdoor living.

At the end of the day, not all designs come together seamlessly. Sometimes, the path to your perfect outdoor space is full of revisions, changing visions, and problem solving. At Water and Earth, we're happy to work with our clients through this process, from the first conversation, to the final set of renderings. The result are spaces like the one above, which we are thrilled to begin constructing.


For more design inspiration like this, visit our blog. To keep us with us day to day, follow Water and Earth Landscape Design on Instagram!

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