Our REVISED Backyard Landscape Plans

November 9, 2021

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Chris and I have been busy finalizing the plans for our backyard landscaping, including our pool! The plan is to do the pool and other updates over the winter months and have it usable by next summer. A few months back we compared the pros and cons of hiring a local landscape designer vs. working with an online exterior design service — Yardzen. We ultimately decided to work with Yardzen because we felt like their initial design was really aligned with what we envisioned, and they had good connections with local contractors in our area, saving us time and money. They really got us. Since then, we went through another round of editing and revisions to finalize the backyard landscaping plans, and we’re so happy to share them with you!

As a reminder, here’s what the same angle looked like when we first moved in.


And another angle…


It’s tricky to tell how far back our property line actually is because the courtyard is only one portion of it. Our entire property sits on an acre, with about half in the front and half in the back. But beyond the courtyard gates is a whole wooded area, including a little putting green. Because of the brick wall and fence that’s currently in place, our yard feels really tight and you can’t see beyond the wall very well making it not ideal for kids playing or maximizing the incredible yard we have. The plan is to tear out the courtyard as well as some of the trees to make room for a pool and expand the usable area.

We’ve had a lot of chats about the depth of the pool and I think we decided the deepest the pool will get is seven feet. In Idaho, we had an above-ground pool, and it was maybe 3 1/2 ft deep. The girls were in it from sun up to sun down. One of my takeaways from attending the Triangle Parade of Homes is that I confirmed that I definitely wanted the hot-tub seamlessly set in the pool. I think it’s such a clean look. And! This will allow us to have an automatic cover to go over the whole thing. (We can uncover the hot tub portion at time. No worries)

We’re definitely keeping some wooded area too and will be adding a few hammocks. I hope someday our girls have memories of laying in the hammock, looking up at the tips of the trees.



The outdoor dining will actually be beneath this pergola area, which extends from our dining room. The grill is currently right outside the dining room but we are moving it a few feet over the where the guest house sits to expand and maximize this area. Name of the game!

We did contemplate making this all screened in, but ultimately decided not to because it would block out a lot of the natural light coming inside. One other edit we made to the original design was bringing a play area with trampoline and playset inside a fenced area beyond the fire pit. It gets me so excited to hang out here as a family.

The fire pit is a must for us. There was actually a double-sided fireplace in Yardzen’s first design draft. We decided against the fireplace because it felt repetitive with the fire pit. Plus we’re actually not even sure if the fireplace is staying there in our living room. More and more, we’d love to open up that window and move the fireplace to the other wall.

Sound familiar? If we can move the fireplace to a different wall, then why wouldn’t we put the window in? That room could use the extra light and it would be nice to be able to see the pool-front view. If it can’t be moved, we’ll have to determine which is more important to us.

Overall, we want this outdoor area to provide little moments for gathering, entertaining, and playing. Extending our fence to the whole perimeter of our property line will put the playground area in view, which is important to us. Right now we don’t let the girls go beyond the courtyard without supervision because we can’t keep our eyes on them. As intimate as the courtyard feels, we’re so excited to expand and really utilize our property.

What’s Next?

After Yardzen finished this second round of designs (which we love), they set us up with a local landscape architect that they vetted thoroughly. We hired the local company, and they’ve submitted a permit to the city. We also submitted a request to the HOA design board. Assuming the HOA approves the design, then the landscapers will start demo 3 to 4 weeks from the time the permit was submitted. We’re projected to finish just in time for summer. Fingers crossed!! Can’t wait!

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What do you think?

  1. Rose says:

    With so much open apace already available I do think it’s a shame to kill more trees.

  2. Isabella says:

    Beautiful transformation!!! I am really intending to put faux grass in may yard because of you guys 😁

  3. Carrie says:

    Hooray for a new backyard! There is a company based here in Alabama called Firerock that makes a paver product that might work great for you guys. I just used it on a pool project that gets ALL the afternoon sun and it is beautiful, durable and stays cool!

  4. Brenda says:

    Have you thought about retractable screens for that space. I’m not sure if they’d work with the pergola structure but might be worth a look – you’d get the best of both worlds.

  5. Karla says:

    Would it be possible to have have a retractable/mechanical bug screen that it is built into the structure of the pergola? That way you won’t see it when it is not in use, but can have it go down if the bugs ever get worse?

  6. Marie says:

    It looks nice but I don’t know – it looks too modern compared to the house. Plus it seems like a lot of hardscape – would want more greenery

  7. Cathy says:

    This would have been my dream backyard as a kid. You nailed it, as always! although, I do love a screened-in porch bc I like to eat without the risk of bugs flying around my food or mosquitos nipping at my ankles. however, I understand that the natural light would be blocked with screens. its a catch 22 for me!

  8. Amanda says:

    I really really love the courtyard as it is (it was my favorite feature of your house when you first showed it), but I do see how this will work better for visibility with the girls our back and the Yardzen design is beautiful too. I’ve thought about using Yardzen for my backyard spaces. I’m super team I hope you don’t move the fireplace though.

  9. Georgia says:

    Holy moly! These plans are STUNNING. Your yard will be absolute perfection

  10. Kim says:

    Ever considered not having a fireplace in your living room? If you install a large window where the fireplace is now (which would be amazing!) then you have your focal point. I live in Charlotte and we hardly ever use our fireplace. I’d MUCH rather have that wall space for additional windows and better furniture placement. Just a thought…

  11. Rachel says:

    Love the layout, pergola, space design in general just feel like the rendered paving is fighting with the brick. The original tone of pavers blended so well and felt more charming.

  12. Cecelia says:

    This is lovely! Did you find a local company to install the pool and Yardzen for landscaping or does Yardzen do both the pool and landscaping?

  13. JL says:

    Love the changes Julia; it feels so open! You’ll now have a nice space to move the dining table under the pergola if you get a little rain shower (not sure if you’re considering a retractable pergola roof or motorized louvres). Would appreciate a future post on the landscape lighting you have planned – light posts, wall lanterns, string lights, spotlights, etc. Also, would love to have your thoughts on potential access points to/from the pool; e.g. from the primary bathroom and what is now the laundry room.

  14. Jackie says:

    We did something verrry similar to our yard 2 years ago (sunken hot tub in pool included), and I can confirm it was the best decision we made! As lovely as the trees and landscaping were, it didn’t function for our family with small kids. This will be wonderful for your family and looks great!

  15. Katie says:

    It’s beautiful! Not sure what material they are suggesting for the patio, but the rendering looks like bluestone – which gets burning hot in the sun. Makes it impossible to walk around with bare feet. Just a suggestion if there are alternative materials to consider, or only use bluestone for part.

  16. kate says:

    We wanted a screen porch but didn’t want to block sunlight so we did a screened in pergola. (Its just on the sides, not the roof) and we used screen curtains. I imagine motorized would also work well for this. I don’t see this many places but it works really wells for us. Certainly something you could add later to your pergola along the one side if it made sense. We find most of the time the mosquitos are dumb and don’t go over the top. When the mosquitos are REALLY REALLY bad we do get some that make their way in, but it was a good compromise for us.

  17. Chari Knueppel says:

    I don’t recall ever seeing a picture of your pool in Idaho! Can you share?

  18. KLJ says:

    Hi C & J! As another former resident of the South, I can attest to what others on here are recommending with the importance of a screened in porch. There are some summers where the mosquitos aren’t as aggressive and you can be outside fairly unbothered, and others where it is completely unbearable without some kind of barrier. It all depends on the temp and rainfall of that year. They also love to breed in standing water. Your chlorinated pool won’t be an issue but your potted plants will be a party for them. As with everything, you learn as you go and I’m sure you’ll figure out the best solution for you and your family.
    Bravo on the design and thanks always for sharing <3

  19. Katie says:

    Yes!! Love Yardzen. Please keep up posted on the project. Can’t wait to see the final results.

  20. mimi says:

    As someone who grew up with a pool in Calif. and I’m considerably shorter than you, Julia and Chris, a pool of 8 feet deep was great for when we did front dives and back dives and sometimes jumped off the roof to the pool. I worry that 7 feet deep will injure someone. Teenagers can be a little reckless sometimes….I was. Also I don’t know the latest pool terminology today but I grew up with a “cool” deck even though it was cement– it was never hot on our bare feet or our bum when on the “cool” deck. The “cool” deck is made of cement somehow and texturized. Don’t know if this type of deck is available today. The deck is over 50 years old now. Have you seen this ? Fun backyard in New England. Also would you consider putting a tab at the top with Chris’ recipes? It would be easier for me to find them, in time for Thanksgiving. Thank you for all you do!

    • RC says:

      Pools in my area of the South are usually even shorter – 6 ft. There are just no diving boards or diving recommended at those depths, you can shallow dive off the side of the pool.

  21. Olivia says:

    looks so goood!! also I say yes yo the big window (I mean who am I to talk about your decisions) but if you put a proper chimney fireplace the other wall you might have a fireplace in the bathroom. 😅😍 I am sucker for it even tho probably never gonna have it.

  22. Haley says:

    My dad recently rebuilt my family’s pergola and one thing he did was put some sort of clear material on as a roof. I can ask what if you want. It was thin and flat ans he built the pergola roof to slope away from the house for drainage etc. My parents love it SO much more that before because they can still enjoy the space even if it’s rainy and it’s an outdoor spot to have thinks like a little drink station, etc, that they don’t have to worry about protecting from rain. Just something to consider!

  23. Lisa says:

    This is looking great! I love the intentionality of it all. And the hammocks. And YESSSSS to the big window!!!

  24. Lisa says:

    It is beautiful! You know how your family lives better than anyone, you know how you like to gather etc. The girls are going to love it. Love how you fenced in the whole area. I like to believe that nothing is carved in stone, if you want to change something later down the road, do it!

  25. Em Kay says:

    It looks beautiful. I know you’ve (for now) nixed the idea of a screen in area. As a 30+ year resident (plus more growing up here), we put on a screen porch about 6 years ago and it is a game changer (we kick ourselves for not doing it sooner). We probably spend from late March – Oct out there. With the bugs and heat, you can’t eat outside much in the summer (July-August), except for maybe a couple of months in spring and then again in fall. We eat outside on our porch almost every night until the temps reach into the 90’s along with the humidity. Even with a fan, it’s unbearable. Just a thought and something you might want to think about as you design to make it compatible with a screened in area later is you decide to go in that direction.

    • Thanks for your expertise! We moved here in June and ate outside almost every night without a screen. Maybe we’ll adjust but it just felt so wonderful!

      • Tarynkay says:

        Do you know if the previous residents had sprayed the yard for mosquitoes? Many people around here do. There are loads of companies that do this. The spray
        works incredibly well but unfortunately kills pollinators as well as mosquitoes. Because of this, we are planning a screened in porch so that we can enjoy more time outside.
        Mosquitoes do not bite me. I don’t know why, but this runs in my family. However, my husband and older son get eaten alive by mosquitoes. Some portion of the population does not get bitten and my theory is that these are the folks who will tell you that fans keep the mosquitoes away or that a citronella candle will do the

      • I am one of those that doesn’t get mosquito bites either!

  26. Ariel says:

    As someone who grew up out west but has now lived in the South for 20 years, I would like to suggest that you consider some 100% covered area in your backyard, especially if you plan to dine outdoors and use your grill year-round like we do. It rains a lot down here! Plans look beautiful and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.

  27. Donna says:

    Absolutely beautiful, as expected! Pick a gunite color that will add warmth to the pool depending on how sunny/shaded it will be. Helps with the heating bill! You’ll never want to leave home!

  28. Sarah says:

    How gorgeous !!!!! What an oasis it will be with lots of opportunity to create memories with friends and family.

  29. Amy C says:

    Living here in North Carolina I can attest to the hoards of mosquitoes during the summer months. I get you in the fact that you don’t want to screen in the porch due to light. However, have you thought about motorized screens? We have them at our house and love that we can keep them up and for the most part not noticeable and then down for the evening hours when we want to just chat and lounge outside without getting eaten. Just a thought!

  30. Laurie says:

    the design is stunnung and thank you for shas ring that you decided to go with an online company. that has always terrified me but seeing you trusting in it is encouraging. Would you mind sharing some tips on how you vetted them, red flags to look out for etc?

  31. Karen says:

    Very nice design, I like how you were able to spread out your outdoor rooms and utilize more of the yard. It currently feels cramped and I wouldn’t have thought the yard was so large.

    Which direction does the back of the house face? I’m trying to see how shadows will fall as the day progresses.

    Will you have fans in the pergola area? It helps with mosquitoes in an unscreened area.

  32. This all looks so incredible, Julia!! Can’t wait to see!

  33. Hana says:

    What kind of patio material have they suggested? Thank you!

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We believe we should all love where we live.

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