Story by Justin Foote
Photography by Jamie Cobeldick
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An under-utilized back yard is transformed into an outdoor living and entertaining area the whole family enjoys
Just as we make changes to our homes to better suit the requirements of a growing family, so we adapt our gardens and outdoor living spaces to the same purpose.
The owners of this house, Deborah and Ken Healy, found that their existing outdoor area and back lawn was no longer meeting the needs of their teenage family.
"Our outdoor area was very closed in with unsuitable planting and this tended to separate the back yard from the house. Also, the children didn't use the lawn, which was sloping and always wet in winter," says Deborah Healy.
"To bring the back yard back into our daily lives, we decided to remove everything and start with a clean slate."
The Healys approached Jan Hart and Craig Steiner of Strass Landscape Design to inject much-needed functionality into the back yard.
"The first factor in making the yard a more accessible space was to address the slope of the site," says Hart. "A rear lawn was always a requirement. To make this an additional entertaining area, we incorporated a retaining feature, which gave us a level lawn – a usable space that also lifts the overall aesthetic."
Full-length steps transition from one level to the next and provide additional seating during larger gatherings.
With the yard level, the focus turned to adding entertaining elements to the scheme. A swimming pool was installed alongside the boundary, and an existing portable spa was sited here too, creating a contained wet area.
"When we're incorporating a swimming pool into a landscape, we like to site it a little further from the house," says Steiner. "This has the benefit of segmenting the design into distinct zones. That way each area can be used independently of the others. We believe it is important for each zone to have a character of its own, and we've found that our clients prefer this arrangement too."
As well as improving the functionality of the back yard, Hart and Steiner also improved the connection between the indoors and out. Substantial plantings were incorporated throughout, providing vignettes when viewed from within the house that open up as one moves outside.
"A particularly successful element of the design is the use of louvered screens," says Hart. "These allow for a variable level of engagement with the gardens and can be adjusted to suit, providing even greater flexibility for the family and their guests."
"The improvement is marked," says Healy. "The planting incorporates greenery at different levels, as well as a variety of color all through the year. Overall, the functionality has improved for all the family, who now make regular use of the whole site."
First published date: 26 April 2011
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