Outdoor Spaces Then and Now

June 16, 2022

We believe we should all love where we live.

We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 




We're Chris + Julia

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Befores, afters, mood boards, plans, failures, wins. We’ve done a lot of projects, and they’re all here. 

We have a long-standing relationship with DIY, and love rolling our sleeves up and making it happen. 

Even when you don’t want to rip down a wall, you can make that space in your home better. Right now.

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Any day now we’re going to be jumping into that backyard pool, I just know it. It’s been a wild ride getting to this point but already it feels so worth it. When we moved in, the backyard space was limited to just a small little courtyard barely big enough for patio furniture. While overflowing with mature shrubs and plants, we were only using about 1/3rd of what the yard really is. And if we learned anything from our last house, it’s how much we love having all this extra space to enjoy. In anticipation of the outdoor space getting finished, I can’t help but compare it to all our past yards. What things are the same, and what’s different??

Modern Colonial Outdoor

Obviously the pool here in NC is something we could really only dream of in Idaho. In our Modern Cottage, we did have an above ground pool we would fill up for those short summer months, and so we’re getting quite the upgrade! Above ground pools will always be a great option for homes in colder climates.

There’s also this little pocket in our backyard next to the house pictured below. To think, this brick wall didn’t even exist before, and somehow it looks like it has always been here. You may remember from the outdoor shower ideas post that our contractor talked us into using this space for an outdoor shower since we already have a water line plumbed there. Coming from Idaho, this is something we would never have known to even think of, but we’re looking forward to rinsing off in the shower before dipping into the pool.

Another big difference from our past outdoor living spaces is the amount of hardscaping. The bluestone diamond pavers with artificial turf actually finished getting installed this week (keep scrolling for a sneak peak)! My goal was to break up all of the hardscape and the finished project turned out even better than I imagined! I am so excited to share more about the design install details for this project next week in the blog.

There’s also going to be a nice grassy area over by the trampoline and I have a feeling that between the diamond pavers and turf, it’s going to feel really cohesive.

Trampoline Update

Speaking of the trampoline, we had an in-ground trampoline in our last two houses and it’s just something our girls love so much so we did it again! Last week they dug, assembled, and installed the trampoline and the girls took it for a little test jump. Polly’s laugh could be heard from miles away ;). I know some of you were worried about an in-ground trampoline being a snake breeding fest, but the landscapers went above and beyond to make it extremely snake resistant so rest-assured.

Also a repeat from our last house is the fire pit! One thing we have learned now that we’ve lived here through all 4 seasons, is that we can enjoy our outdoor space almost year round! The few winter months can be cold but fire pits can be so cozy in fall and spring.

Each home exterior has taken on a life of its own and I have taken parts from all of those yards and honed in on what is really nice to have, what is a negotiable, and what could have been better. Now, let’s take a walk down memory lane at all of our home exteriors as I point out what I loved most about each yard and what we took from the others to incorporate into our current home exterior.

Modern Cottage

Our last yard was the epitome of “wide open spaces.” While beautiful and spacious, 3-1/2 acres was a lot of work and money to maintain. We quickly realized that the cost to maintain it was as much as another mortgage payment. Between two water features (one always getting clogged), constant weeding and watering (Idaho is so so dry), plus all the unexpected things it was just too much. We did actually hire my dad, because if anybody can keep our grass green and dandelion free it’s him, which felt totally worth it!

Adirondack Chairs

Along with a spacious patio perfect for entertaining (3 months out of the year when it’s warm enough), we had a fire pit, playground, trampoline, sport court, vegetable garden, and plenty of space to run around playing frisbee or capture the flag. We made the best memories in that yard, but also it was just too much to maintain, not to mention too cold to really enjoy year round.

Lessons we learned with this yard is that a trampoline is fun for kids AND adults, this is too much space for us, and don’t take mature landscaping for granted. Also in regards to the playground… we’ve officially nixed that idea. I remember our girls started to outgrow it and really only played in the sandpit and here in NC it would just be too buggy. Plus we’ll have a pool and a trampoline which is certainly enough.

First Idaho House

Sofa | Similar Coffee Table

Going even further back, our first Idaho house was the perfect example of making the most out of an awkward shaped property. It was triangle shape! The biggest, boldest change we made was filling our entire backyard with the deck. Some might even say controversial, but it really cozied-up our outdoor space. We DIY-ed that fireplace and I’ve always loved the look and feel of an upright, outdoor fireplace. Talk about extending your outdoor living space!

The side yard was home to the trampoline and playground which we put in right before Polly was born. Giving the girls a space of their own to entertain themselves when I was busy with a newborn made all the difference. It was also so so nice when we entertained because the adults would gather on the deck while the kids played freely in fenced-in area–close enough to keep an eye on them, but separated enough for the adults to enjoy themselves a bit.

Utah House

In our first home we were total newbs and left the outside pretty untouched until our last year of living there. The only gathering space we really had was a concrete patio and remember stained concrete? Well yeah, we stained our patio and tried to make the most of what we had. We also built some raised garden boxes which my mom said looked like coffins so that’s that. Times have changed!

Other outdoor spaces we’ve done are the Fullmer’s backyard, and more recently, the Knuth’s screened-in porch!

We’ve learned so much over the years through these outdoor spaces. The biggest ones being…
1. Don’t wait. Your outdoor space can and should be an extension of your house.
2. Mature greenery and trees take years and years to grow. We kept all the front-yard plants and kept as much as the backyard trees as we could. This is another reason why we’re doing the backyard right away so we can get things planted and grow up with them.
3. Having space is nice, but for us too much space is overrated.

Here’s the sneak peak I promised. See you next week where I’ll be sharing all the details on the artificial turf from designing to installation.

Other Outside Posts

Outdoor Kitchen Plans

Inspiration for the Outdoor Shower

An Overdue Backyard Update

Pool Progress + Mood Board

How Much Is the Pool Costing Us?

Our Revised Backyard Landscaping Plans

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Local Landscape Designer Vs. a Flat Fee Online Design Service

Our Small Courtyard

What do you think?

  1. Nicolette says:

    As someone who has lived with nothing but dirt for the past 7 years, this is so inspirational. We have been working hard on a whole house remodel and addition and now finally get to focus on the outside! I can’t wait to hear all the details about the paver and turf install. No detail is too small to share!

  2. Teri says:

    It’s sneak “peek”!

  3. Krystal says:

    I’ve loved seeing all your outdoor space evolutions in all my years following your adventures! They’ve been really inspirational. I’m curious about the artificial turf on those diamond pavers. While it looks beautiful and I’ve always loved the look of low ground cover between stones … how does it feel when walking on it? I imagine lots of bare feet out in that space with the pool so close, and I’ve yet to experience an artificial turf that didn’t just feel like pokey plastic.

    • Sunny says:

      We have artificial turf in our backyard and it is fine to walk on, just fyi.

      Whole heartedly agree that getting the backyard done is a game changer to the home. We did a complete renovation on ours last year and wish we would have done it a decade sooner. We spend so much more time in our “outside living room” than we ever expected.

      The sneak peek photo looks awesome and my OCD is just anxious about that corner of the patio on the lower left hand side. Can’t wait to see how that gets finished!

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We’re a couple of homebodies, working to uncover the home our home wants to be. And we’re so happy to have you here. 

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