Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Let's Take It Outside, Shall We?

The inside of our new house currently looks like this...


... yeah, that. But that new electrical and central air system will be worth it in the long run and I *think* this is as bad as it's going to get. In here.

While I'm trying my best not to focus (read: utterly freak out) on all the things that need to get done in the next few days before the flooring guys come in to sand and stain -- effectively driving out all the other trades until after we've actually moved in -- I have been able to calm myself down by watching the backyard work unfold. When we closed, the back yard looked like this...


Not bad but it felt really small, the grass was in bad shape, everything was overgrown and most importantly, there was no direct access to the backyard.


You had to walk out the side entrance, head down the driveway and turn into it. Not exactly child-friendly (especially for those of us with an *ahem* escape artist for a 2-year-old).

We knew that we wanted to make several changes including:
  • Adding french doors in the dining room so we could access the backyard more easily
  • Add a patio so that we had some "finished" outdoor space
  • Build a retaining wall along the back edge of our yard so there was more useable space
  • Add a fence to keep in the little people and our squirrel-obsessed dog
  • Remove some trees/thin the canopy to increase the amount of sunlight coming into the yard to help grass grow more easily
We wanted a patio large enough for a couple of comfy chairs and a dining table but not something that was too large for our relatively small backyard. We also wanted an organic shape and we wanted a product that looked like aged cobblestone. And we wanted something easy to maintain; one thing we've learned is that clean is better when you're away most weekends during the height of the growth season.  Basically, we wanted a simplified compilation of these two spaces:

We hired MJ Nicholls to do the work. We used him several years ago to redo the backyard at our current house and we were amazed. If you've ever worked with contractors, you know that scheduling, budget and craftsmanship issues arise pretty frequently. But not with this guy (or his guys). I've passed his name along to a bunch of people and I can honestly say that I don't know anyone who hasn't done a slow clap after he's finished. If you're looking for a landscaper, definitely give him a call.

His crew started on Monday morning. When I arrived on site at 8 AM, they already had the backyard looking like this...



... and by Tuesday afternoon, it was looking like this (excuse the blurry pictures)...



Can you see how much further back the yard now goes from that lone tree in the foreground?  We're actually going to have that tree cut down as well as a few others on the hill. There are so many back there that we still need to take another 5-6 out to get enough sunlight for the grass. And we'll still have a really nice sense of privacy -- the houses backing up to ours are on a hill with a stone fence dividing the properties ... it feels as if there isn't anyone back there. This afternoon they'll be ready to cut the pavers and then they'll start work on the retaining wall. It's all going so fast!

Meanwhile, the french doors are on order and our carpenter's just about to start the landing and steps that we designed so pretty soon there's going to be a much better view than this...


... from the dining room. Can't wait to see this come together; already planning late summer nights eating al fresco!

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