The conversation began when the owners of this 1930’s colonial home approached us about options for their simple, suburban rear yard. The yard was small and located on a busy corner. Our clients wished to create a quiet, comfortable, outdoor space where they could entertain and escape to with their friends on weekends. They also wanted a comfortable area for enjoying dinner with just the immediate family as well.
From the onset there were a host of factors which effected our design approach. First, a number of large oak trees were located directly in the middle of the yard (some three and a half feet in diameter), and structurally top heavy. Because the trees were quite mature, we brought our arborist in to assess their health before moving forward and incorporating them into our design. As it turns out two of the three trees had large, hollow sections high in their trunks and the third,(due to it’s proximity to the other larger trees), had grown out over the roof of the house making it a safety concern for the owners.
This property was one of the lowest (topographically) in the area, and this created a condition where storm runoff from properties uphill would collect on the property. One of the top priorities for the design team was to design a drainage system that would move water off the property as efficiently as possible during and after a rainstorm.
Lastly, the property was located at a busy corner, and recent attempts to screen the street visually by using evergreens and miscellaneous tall shrubs had produced results that were less than stellar. The fact that the rear yard was small created a situation where the existing screening material was uncomfortably close to the developed area, and needed to be re-designed to compliment the new elements being introduced into the yard.
Removing the 3 large trees was a relatively simple process, but because we were developing the area where the trees were located, we needed to remove the root systems as well. The root systems on these trees were massive, and once removed left large cavities which requiring careful back filling to prevent future settling. Once the ground was stabilized, we installed a drainage system designed to accommodate the high volume of runoff entering the property during a heavy rainstorm.
The Cross River studio came up with a design concept that separated the yards outdoor space into separate individual rooms – each serving a different function. The area closest to the house (and therefore the kitchen), can accommodate a small dining table with access to the grill counter, which also included a sink, cabinets, drawers and bar. The second room shared access to the grill counter, and consists of a bluestone terrace with a long dining table for entertaining large groups. Just beyond lies another space where an outdoor sofa and lounge chairs encircle a contemporary fire pit. This space is bordered on all sides by fragrant flowers and lush vegetation.
These individual rooms not only make the outdoor space dramatically more interesting, but their configuration creates the illusion that the yard is bigger than it really is. The plantings adorning each outdoor room, double as a screening element and serve to replace the existing vegetative border from the busy street with a more subtle application which appears as if it was there all along.