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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.

Stylish Zoned Backyard With Ambiance

Photos by Greg Muntz of Muntz Studios

Yard at a Glance
Location: Denver
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.”

For the 19-by-12-foot dining patio and adjacent lounge area, Stevens’ crew used sand-exposed concrete paving, adding a release agent after pouring it to reveal the fine aggregate on the surface. “This way, it’s not that bright white; it has a more earthy feel to it,” she says of the concrete.

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.

For the kid-friendly flex space in the far corner of the backyard, Evoke installed a small galvanized steel aboveground pool for the kids. “It’s a stock tank you can buy from a farm supply, and it has a little pump and a filtration system,” Stevens says.

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.

The crew also created a path to the beds with poured-in-place concrete slabs surrounded by granite chips.
Nestled across the lawn from the dining patio in a field of ‘Annabelle’ wild hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’) and Ivory Halo dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Bailhalo’), Evoke installed a poured-in-place concrete bench with black painted wood slats, which provides a quiet space to enjoy the garden.

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.”

Throughout the space, Evoke integrated lighting and audio speakers. “The cafe lights we installed for them kind of zigzag across the whole property — they cover the lawn and go back and forth over the whole space, which is really nice when [the homeowners] have parties,” Stevens says.
Stevens charred the existing cedar fencing to add depth and contrast along the perimeter of the yard.
It’s a great place to hang watering cans too.

Before Photo
Before: Here’s the backyard before the renovation. The yard was already pretty flat in the back, so Evoke didn’t have to grade the property before beginning the build. “We did build a concrete wall and installed junipers and stairs beside the dining area leading up to the alley. We had to retain that alley in order to have the backyard be completely flat back there,” Stevens says.
“We collaborated with the homeowner on everything; she had really great taste and this was a fun project,” Stevens says. “We did the backyard in the first phase, then we did a semi-remodel of their front yard, including a new driveway and pathway.” The homeowners who originally commissioned this project recently moved out, and Evoke hopes to be designing their new outdoor space within the next year.
Source: Houzz.com

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