the sparkly life: You're Going to LOVE This Backyard Makeover

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

You're Going to LOVE This Backyard Makeover

tree house
I'm excited to finally show photos of our backyard renovation! This overhaul has been a long time coming--and quite the ordeal. Part of the reason it took us so long to tackle it is that we actually felt guilty even doing it. See, we didn't have a "bad" backyard. We had a pretty awesome one. In fact, when we bought our house five years ago, part of the reason we fell in love with it was the backyard. It was gorgeous! See this photo below taken by the previous owners. (Note: It never looked remotely this good when we lived here!)

english garden

But soon after we moved in, we realized it just didn't make sense for our family. Neither my husband nor I are big gardeners (to say the least) and this type of yard requires a lot of upkeep. Without the constant pruning and care, it constantly looked overgrown and "jungle-y" back there. And though the fountain was beautiful, it was huge--bigger than it looks in the photo--so it took up a major portion of the backyard. (We also never used it. We turned it on once. At my son's 1st birthday party--four and half years ago.) It just wasn't functional for us. We really wanted to be able to use our backyard for entertaining and for the kids to be able to play, but the fountain and large planting areas meant that we really couldn't use it for either one of those things. It was the perfect space for people who just wanted to sit outside and quietly enjoy their plants, and that just wasn't us. But it was beautiful. So we let it sit there, neglected, for years. 

But this year, we finally got the nerve to get rid of the fountain and we haven't looked back since. We gutted the entire backyard (well, we didn't--we had a contractor and designer!), and basically created an entirely new space. We laid new brick designed to look old (but not as old as the crumbly existing brick. We had tried to save that, but we were talked out of it. Huge, extra, unexpected expense. Ugh). We stained the fence gray (a little thing that made a huge difference), built an outdoor kitchen and a fire pit, constructed a treehouse (!), and created three separate, distinct entertaining zones: a dining area, an upper lounge area, and a lower lounge space around the fire.

restoration hardware outdoor furniture
restoration hardware provence dining chairs
outdoor space

backyard kitchen
The upper level

Our backyard consists of two levels: The main, upper area, which takes up most of the space, and a smaller, lower area. Up top we did the dining area (we got this Belgian Trestle table and the Provence chairs from Restoration Hardware), a lounge-y area (with the Provence Luxe sofa and these Santa Monica lounge chairs from Restoration Hardware, plus these pillows from RH and this big embroidered one from Serena and Lily). I love how--even though nearly everything ended up being from one retailer--we mixed furniture from different collections, so it didn't feel too matchy-matchy. (BTW, none of this was sponsored. I freaking wish.)

And of course, the kitchen! The kitchen is definitely larger/longer than I had originally imagined, but it has been awesome. It has a grill, my husband's beloved Big Green Egg, a fridge, storage drawers, a built-in trash can (this has been a gamechanger), and a fridge. Plus all of that counter space is awesome for serving at parties. 

And everyone asks about that brick wall/big barn door! No, it is not a garage. (I wish.) Or a guesthouse. (Again, wish.) The brick wall actually isn't even ours. It belongs to our rear neighbors and it is the backside of their turn-of-the-century carriage house! And that barn door is actually a faux door; it doesn't lead to anything or even open! The previous owners of our home had the brilliant idea of having that door made to add interest to the wall. I love it so much and am so glad they did it, because I never would have thought of the idea in a million years. 

Oh and if you're wondering why we don't have any grass back here, here's why: First, upkeep. We got spoiled by the ease of having an all-brick yard with no grass to mow. We live in a city where storage is at a premium and there is literally no place in our home to store a lawn mower. Second, we get no sunlight in our backyard. Zero. So real grass wasn't even an option. We could have done fake grass back there (and we considered it--it actually looks and feels surprisingly real), but at the end of the day, we just preferred the look of the brick. It feels like a little courtyard back there (between our home and our--hee, hee--garage) and I love it. 

outdoor fire pit
The lower patio

We went back and forth over what to do with this lower space. We briefly thought about lining it in faux grass, so it could be a little playspace for the kids, but it's really too tiny for that. (Maybe when they were babies/small toddlers, but that ship has sailed.) At first it seemed crazy to do a second lounge area, but I'm so glad we did. When we had a big party a few months back, it was a great option for more seating. And we have actually used it a ton as a family when we want to make s'mores over the fire.

We also decided to give it a totally different vibe for the furniture, and I'm so glad we did. I like how the blue cushions tie in to the blue pillows above, but that the space just has a totally different look and feel. These chairs (the Mustique Aluminum chairs from Restoration Hardware) were a stretch for me; I'm usually way more classic/traditional with furniture. But now, they might just be my favorite thing in the space: so cool-looking, super deep, and SO comfortable. 

Also, if I could do it again, I probably would have got darker cushions (maybe charcoal?) for the upper level, too. The blue is so much better at hiding stains. The upper level is a light gray (that, really, looks off-white), and I swear, every speck of dirt or fallen leaf leaves a mark on them.

cedar shingles tree house

The treehouse

This was kind of decided on a whim. The kids have space to play in our new yard, but it's definitely more focused on being a space for entertaining than on being a place to play soccer or something. We wanted to give the kids some more space to play, so we had been toying with the idea of a treehouse for a long time. We have this huge magnolia tree that sort of had this very defined center with four large branches jutting off from it. We imagined a very simple, open platform, accessible by a little ladder. We explained that to the designer, who basically said, "Yeah, we could do a simple platform and a ladder. Or we could do...THIS!" Once we saw the plans for a true house with a freaking deck, we knew we had to do it. 

So we went for it and then ended up going for the Rolls Royce version where we added the cedar shingles, because we were realizing that a huge plywood box kind of looked like an eyesore. I love how it looks like a little Hamptons house! It's the first thing that every kid who comes over wants to see, it's a definite conversation piece--and my kids had better play in it until they are at least 18.

We love our new backyard, and are so glad we finally pulled the trigger. Unfortunately it didn't get completed until the end of July (and then we were off on this vacation), so the time we had to enjoy it was limited. But get ready for lots of outdoor-space content coming in 2019! The outdoor fridge is already stocked with rosé--and I'm pretty much going to live out there. 

So...what do you guys think?!


candy said...

Small space but you have used it to the max. Love that outdoor kitchen and seating area. Kids would love the little house. Done very well.

AiringMyLaundry said...

I just love how this turned out! We need to re-do our backyard. It looks pretty sad right now. My daughter would LOVE a treehouse.

Jeannette said...

Oh my gosh this looks absolutely gorgeous! Can you come and do my backyard? My backyard is a complete blank slate and it needs help LOL! said...

What a fabulous backyard makeover! It's stylish, well-designed, and makes the most of every inch of space. Congratulations on your gorgeous backyard living space!

Tomi C said...

You were right, we are definitely loving this backyard makeover. Those Mustique Aluminum chairs are beautiful.

Happy Gardening, Kim said...

Well, you had me at the first photo. What an awesome job you all did with this. Congrats.

SimplyTasheena said...

I wish this was my backyard! I love every detail of this backyard makeover. Everything is so beautiful.

Sarah Bailey said...

Yup you have it down I LOVE that make over I would be thrilled if it was my own back garden. Such amazing things done with the space.

Anonymous said...

I really love what you did here. The pillows add a nice, elegant touch of color.

Ashley @Irishred02 said...

Wow this looks amazing. Can you do this in my backyard?!

Rachel said...

That is absolutely gorgeous! those doors!! My husband would love that grill area! Really competently stunning.

Pam said...

Wow, your backyard looks amazing. That treehouse is such a fun, whimsical touch for sure.

Emily said...

This is beautiful! The tree house is amazing and I love all of the seating options. It makes for great relaxing and entertaining!

Jona Shares said...

Holy Cow! I would really really love to own something like this. The tree house and everything looks so amazing!

Tabitha Blue said...

It's such a stunning backyard and great for families while still being able to entertain. Fabulous job with it!

Ellen Seidman said...

This is absolutely spectacular and I now have serious backyard envy! Great job!

Gervin Khan said...

Wow, this is such a wonderful backyard transformation. Honestly, I am so speechless seeing these photos it's beyond the meaning of the word beautiful. Great job!

Bohemian Babushka said...

Wow and Woah. The backyard was pretty before but now it's bella AND functional for your familia. Congrats on the new living space.

Kita Bryant said...

Wow!! The entire family has reason to make the back yard their hang out spot. What a great job!!

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