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Landscape Design Richmond:–How To Design For A Small Backyard

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

At Water and Earth, no two landscape design projects are the same. From varying wishlists, to a wide range of challenges, each project is different. This means no two designs we create are going to be the same. Even when clients have a similar wishlist, the design is informed by their unique lifestyle and their specific property.

In this Richmond, Virginia backyard, we were faced with the challenge of creating a design with big impact in a smaller city space.

Introducing the Project


The initial property. The garage can be seen here, built at an angle to the home.

When it comes to designing outdoor spaces within the Richmond city limits, we often have to get creative. Items such backyard car pads, garages, and smaller square footage all present design challenges that impact the final design.

In this backyard, the homeowners needed to maintain both existing car pads for off street parking, as well as a garage structure. Uniquely, this garage was not built at a parallel line to the home. This can be seen in the concept photos below.

Our designs needed to address this discrepancy without impacting the function of the space, while incorporating all of the options on our client’s wishlist.

These homeowners were eager to have some covered seating and functional dining space, as well as a pool. After talking through the backyard with our clients, we began the design process.

2D Designs

The first step in all of our design processes is to take the feedback and information gathered from talking with our clients and presenting two separate 2D designs. While some companies may move to do 3D renderings off the bat, we feel there is a lot to gain by not rushing the process.

2D allows our clients to see what is possible without making them feel cornered into a single design concept. Overall, we feel we get better feedback when we present with 2D designs before moving forward with 3D designs.

In this space, we presented the homeowners with two options–Concept A and Concept B.

Concept A

Concept A

The first concept, seen above, moves to prioritize functional space by creating a larger amount of hardscaping. Immediately off the home, you see a brand new, L-shaped deck design. This deck is flanked on the right side of the yard by lawn space. In the corner of the L is a modular pool.

A modular pool is a pool made of fiberglass which is prefabricated and lowered into place. This means the shape and size of the pool is predetermined before being put in the ground. Some may think this creates less of a window for unique design concepts, but we have fun finding ways to put a unique spin onto mod pool installations.

In this case, the pool is lined on one edge with an arbor. This arbor not only elevates the line of the eye, but provides an anchoring structure for aesthetic string lights. Moving around to the far edge of the pool are a series of concrete steppers that lead you further into the space and onto an auxiliary paver patio.

A closer look at the angle of the garage, disguised by carefully placed OUTDECO panels.

From here, the homeowners can step off the paver patio, and continue to their parking area and a new, hidden utility area. Finally, the angle of the garage is disguised by a series of OUTDECO panels, up lit and set carefully parallel to the line of the home.

Concept B

Concept B

In the above concept, Concept B, we moved from one end of the spectrum, which emphasized hardscaping, and leaned into a softer design. Immediately off the home, you step out onto the same deck, with a similar lawn space running parallel to the right hand side of the yard.

However, instead of stepping off the deck directly into the pool, homeowners in this design would step down onto a series of concrete steppers, running parallel to that same modular pool. There is a paver patio to the right of the space featuring a gas fireplace, and concrete steppers running to the parking pad. However, the rest of the design is filled with green space.

Lawn takes the place of the auxiliary patio from Concept A.

Lawn replaces the auxiliary patio, leaving plenty of room for kids, dogs, or future gardening or landscaping opportunities.

Revised 2D Rendering

After presenting both designs to our clients, they were excited about the direction, but wanted to see an additional, revised design option. In this design, which we’ll call Concept C, hardscaping once again takes center stage, albeit in a slightly different layout than initially proposed.

Concept C

Again, the homeowners step out of their home onto an elevated deck. This time, however, the deck wraps around the right hand side of the modular pool. Along the right edge of the property, a strip of lawn offers kids and pets a place to play.

From the deck, the clients step down along either side of the pool onto a paver patio. The far side of this patio remains uncovered, while the fire feature and seating area are covered by a slatted pergola.

A closer look at the deck, wrapping around the modular pool and leading down onto the opposite paver patio.

The same OUTDECO panels remain present in this design, along with the larger stretch of lawn seen initially in Concept B. As in both of the initial designs, long concrete steppers lead the homeowners out of the yard towards their parking pad and utility and hidden trash can storage.

Ultimately, this was the design our clients were most excited about. After getting the green light, we moved forward into the 3D rendering process.

3D Renderings

An overview of the entire space, rendered in 3D. An elevated deck leads down onto a paver patio. A pergola-covered seating area is visible in the frame.

The renderings of this project bring to life the design proposed in Concept C. In the above rendering you see a wide view of the entire layout. Off the home, the elevated deck runs in parallel lines to the house, surrounding the right side of the modular swimming pool.

Also visible are the proposed pergola and covered seating area, which also features the gas fireplace and outdoor kitchen. At the back of the frame is the lawn space and pavers, as well as the OUTDECO panels which realign the garage with the line of the main home.

A closer look at the fully covered outdoor living space and gas fireplace, rendered in a nighttime view to showcase a thoughtful lighting plan.

Above, you see a closer look at the materiality of both the paver patio and the pergola. Arrowhead shaped pavers create movement and draw the eye, while a steel coated frame supports the proposed pergola cover. The fireplace is rendered here with modern paneling.

A look from beneath the pergola, back toward the home. Privacy plantings line the property.

Looking from back towards the home from beneath the covered seating area, you see the elevation of the new deck, as well as a line of privacy plantings. Turning toward the back of the lot you can see the lawn space, lined by concrete steppers which lead you to the fenced in utility area.

From this view, you can see the raised planting bed and OUTDECO panels that line the existing garage, evening out the lines of the space.

Another look from beneath the pergola, toward the garage and fenced in utility space.

Modern Solutions for Any Richmond, VA Outdoor Living Space

Not two backyards are the same, and all offer a unique set of elements that help to guide the design process. At Water and Earth, we are invested in creating your own unique outdoor living space, no matter the square footage or existing challenges. That means a commitment to collaboration, working one on one with you, our client, to create a space that works for your family.

Whether you’re in Richmond or a surrounding area, we are here to offer creative, modern, forward thinking landscape 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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