For some people, hosting is a chore. Inviting people over involves cleaning and dishes and a fair degree of hassle. For others, it is a lifestyle. Friends and families coming together is a beautiful thing we could all use a bit more of. A while back, we had a client in the latter camp. A performing musician and his wife approached our designer Lauren Yelen, asking for help redesigning their outdoor space in a way that could accommodate their large groups of friends, outdoor performances, and many social gatherings.
Our client's backyard is in combination with their driveway to the garage. They needed a place to turn their cars around without taking away the beauty and inviting-ness of the entertainment space. To expand the driveway without it looking like we expanded the driveway, we created a mulched turnaround that also served as a flex space for musical performances. Drainage was also a problem. Water pooled around the yard and on the driveway and dangerously close to the house. We were able to fix the drainage problem and make improvements to the driveway so the space functioned a little more than it should. We reduced the amount of impermeable surface in the driveway and installed a drainable aggregate strip down the middle. We were able to complete this while working around a large spruce tree, which the client wanted to save.
The best gatherings happen when people have a space to gather. Keeping that in mind, we designed a space that would offer plenty of flexibility for functions. We removed the grass and replaced it with shade plants like hosta, ferns, coral bells, sedges, and Japanese forest grass. This created a lot of diverse, functional space around which people could gather. We featured a number of larger plants like oakleaf hydrangea and sun king aralia to make the space pop and come alive and centered it all around a specimen Japanese Maple. Tucked away in the back of the property, we created a beautiful informal irregular patio from bluestone. This secluded little area gives groups the opportunity to form naturally and encourages conversation.