See how a small backyard became a series of outdoor rooms, maximized for comfort and fun
Written byJohanna SilverMay 21, 2013
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Before: A small, sloped backyard
Landscape designer Scot Eckley had high hopes for his small, sloped Seattle backyard. He wanted a series of rooms and spaces to invite people to eat, drink, and relax in the garden. From his original yard, he created a dining room, a kitchen garden, a lawn (for future children), a sunken lounge, a utility area, a shaded seating area, and a dog run.
A fireplace keeps guests cozy in this intimate outdoor living room. The room is sunken—you have to walk down a few steps to get there—so it feels like a den once you’ve arrived. The patio is on the same plane as the house’s basement, and the long-term goal is to install French doors and connect the inside with the outdoors. Eckley loves this space. “This is usually where we end up at the end of the night,” he says. Lush plantings also help enclose the area: Boston ivy climbs on either side of the fireplace, a climbing hydrangea scales the house, Sacracoca is hedged beneath the fireplace, and two boulevard cypresses frame the stairs.
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Eckley reduced the size of the lawn and laid down a wide border of crushed stone. On a typical Seattle foggy day, the golden color brightens up the garden, especially when looking onto it from indoors. On wet days, the border allows visitors to hang out on the furniture and experience the garden without tromping over wet grass. In the wintertime, Eckley replaces the furniture with three terra-cotta pots planted with boxwood spheres. “They become a really simple, elegant focal point,” says Eckley.
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It’s always nice to have a destination at the end of a path. Here, Eckley placed a distressed urn at the end of a corridor. Its yellow hue is another bright element—something else to assuage the gloom of Seattle’s weather.
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Eckley believes that furniture should come first when designing outdoor rooms. “You have to think about what you want out of the space. Is it a table for four? A lounge?” This outdoor dining room is the go-to for larger dinner parties. The Janus et Cie table steals the scene. But the space has flexibility—a stone bench and a bistro table also make for more intimate, casual dinners. www.shopjanusetcie.com
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Space for edibles
Designer Scot Eckley is practical when it comes to having a kitchen garden. “People have these big ambitions to do giant kitchen gardens,” he says, “but the reality is that they don't always have time to maintain them.” His solution was to build four square raised beds out of bluestone, each bed measuring 4 feet by 4 feet. This way, he says, “Even in the dead of winter, if nothing is planted out there, we still have the frame of the beautiful bluestone.”
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A wine barrel hooks up to a downspout for rainwater harvesting. Also tucked away on the side of the house is a small potting table and a pullout clothes-drying rack (Eckley’s wife special-ordered a product designed for motor homes). “We just wanted a little space where we could do the dirtier parts of gardening or dry clothes and still look cute,” he says.