When a couple with two young kids stepped into the backyard of their home in Denver, there wasn’t much enticing them to stay outside. “It was just a yard with one long deck across the whole back of the house, and there were no defined spaces,” says landscape designer Ashley Stevens.
Landscape design and construction firm Evoke worked with the homeowners for months to create the ideal outdoor retreat for their family and loved ones, which included adding new covered dining and lounge patios, raised vegetable beds, festive outdoor lighting and a stunning monolithic stone water feature.
Photos by Greg Muntz of Muntz Studios
Yard at a Glance
Size: 5,720 square feet (531 square meters); 65 by 88 feet
Designers and builders: Ashley Stevens and Jonathan Stevens of Evoke
A dining area and outdoor lounge, separated by a small grill area, sit off the back of the house. “Outdoor living was really important to them,” says Ashley Stevens, principal at Evoke. “They’re big entertainers and they liked the idea of having two spaces: a defined dining area and a hanging out lounge.”
Six-inch-thick pieces of buffed sandstone stepping stones connect the dining patio to the outdoor lounge. The homeowners’ existing patio furniture fills the 19-by-21-foot outdoor living room, sheltered by a new steel shade structure to block the blazing sun.
Evoke created two custom steel arbors with fabric canopies (one for each patio area). The pergola awnings, sourced through Denver Awning, were crafted from durable fabric meant to block the sun’s rays while also withstanding rain and wind. “They feel really airy and cozy when you’re underneath either of them,” Stevens says. “You have to take them off in the winter, because you don’t want snow sitting on top of them, and then put them back on in the spring.”
Inspired by the work of Italian landscape designer Luciano Giubbilei, one of the homeowners sent Stevens a picture of the kind of water feature she wanted. “They also wanted the water feature to activate the space with sound. We tried to create something similar, but using materials in Colorado,” Stevens says.
A quarry in the nearby town of Lyons cut a huge slab of Colorado buff sandstone for the monolithic stone water feature, which sits between the dining and lounge areas. “Then we had a custom steel water weir made that we chiseled into the stone and set, and then we core-drilled the monolithic stone so we could run the pipe up through it to feed the weir,” Stevens says. “And then we poured a custom water basin. This feature is central to the whole design, and the space just feels incredible when you’re in it.”
Stevens planted low-maintenance dwarf fountain grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) around the water feature.
As avid gardeners, the homeowners wanted four 42-by-84-inch custom-made, steel-edged raised vegetable beds so they could grow edibles, including blueberries, tomatoes, basil, chives and other herbs.
“The homeowner was really worried about the squirrels and bunnies eating her plants, and she wanted us to cover the boxes,” Stevens says. Encircling the top part of the beds, the crew installed a fine mesh that not only keeps out the critters but also makes a commanding focal point.
Other than an existing mature linden tree, the Evoke team put in all new landscaping, including hedges, maples, hillside junipers and ‘Cheyenne’ privet (Ligustrum vulgare ‘Cheyenne’) hedges.
“That’s what makes the space feel really neat when you’re in it — it’s completely private,” Stevens says. “The whole perimeter of the property is covered with large plantings, which creates a complete oasis where you can’t see any of the neighbors.”