We basically have two big projects we have to finish before this baby gets here (in about a month!): the girls’ bathroom, which we feel confident we can get done now (latest update on that here), and the side yard–something we’ve only talked about briefly, so let’s dive into that a little more.
Our property is an unusual shape. The “backyard” as a whole is made up of essentially three triangles. The smallest triangle is in the back of the house–which we converted to a large deck.
And then there are two side yards that are much larger triangles. One side has a grove of 4 mature trees (we have a hammock on that side) and the other, more used side, is this embarrassing mess:
You can see this side out the the kitchen windows and the deck leads right to it (I’m standing on the deck stairs taking this photo) so we knew we wanted to turn it into a kids’ play paradise from the beginning. Not only for our own girls, but for all the neighborhood kids that seem to end up at our place on the daily. This terrible before includes a gravel pad where our old shed used to sit (with piles of railroad ties and weeds taking it up), a concrete basketball pad (and hoop! that’s never seen a basketball). Our tiny trampoline and a few small play toys.
We knew we needed to bring in someone to help us get the concrete out and lay sod and then we were just going to put a playset on the grass and call it good. We called a few local landscapers to get bids. The first one gave us a bid on the concrete removal and sod and left. The second one (Spruce It Up, for you locals) asked us a lot of questions, including, “what are your plans for this space?” When we told him we were going to add a playset, they gave us a lot of advice and solutions, including the main point being, “Your yard is not level.” “You’re going to have to move some sprinklers” and “Putting a playset on grass will eventually give you a big muddy spot under the swings.” They walked us through some possibilities, talked to us about “fall ratings” of different bark and mulch (we eventually decided on a rubber mulch that is soft and rates the highest for fall ratings) took measurements and told us they’d send us some ideas.
The truth is, landscape design is something we are not very comfortable with or knowledgeable about. Chris and I both felt so much more confident having them on this project than the other landscapers that came by. When they left, we felt excited about what this yard could be. And maybe they are just really good at their jobs (they are), but we even felt good about handing over a little more money than we were originally going to to get this part of the yard looking top notch the first time, before the baby comes, especially if it meant we didn’t have to do all the work ourselves.
A couple days later, we had a plan in our inbox:
This includes a full-sized, in ground trampoline (!) and the playset, with some decorative and functional boulders that will help get the play set level. A pretty flagstone path along the side. A much smaller slab of concrete for trash cans and our tool trailer. And even some plant ideas. We love it! We were hoping there would be room for a tree on the right side of the play set, more for privacy and a little shade from the street view, but we decided we’d just plant a tree or two in front of the fence, so there’s still a nice border of grass around the perimeter in back.
This whole process has taught us a valuable lesson about the importance of knowing when to bring in a professional. We love to DIY more than the average person, but in this case, we had so little knowledge of what needed to be done in our yard and what the potential could be that it was 100% worth it to us to get some advice. Even if you aren’t going to hire someone to do the work for you, many landscape designers will charge a small fee to just draw up some ideas that you can then implement yourselves.
We hope to have it all done in the next few weeks as a big gift for Greta and Faye as they become big sisters (and, honestly, mask the fact that they are getting a little less attention those first several sleep-deprived weeks). I can’t even imagine how wonderful it will be to have a beautiful place for them to play right out the kitchen window–I can barely wait. While we’re handing over the big work to Spruce It Up, I’m focusing my efforts on how to make this play set from Wayfair we have coming a little more chic with a paint job.
I’m thinking a warm gray with white trim and a black roof to match our home, and keeping some of the wood, too! And since I’ve never seen our kids play with those tic tac toe things on any playground, ever–swapping it out for a chalkboard? My mind is racing with possibilities.
Can’t wait to share this project with you as it unfolds!