Living in northern Illinois, which is in my opinion is geographically challenged; a change in the terrain can create opportunity not available on a flat piece of land. People ski, climb, and hike areas that out in Colorado might be dismissed as a bump in the road. My kids and I are excited to feel the rush of sledding down a hill by our school. And three seconds later we are climbing up the hill again.
I feel the same way when I design a project with a terrain change. It is an opportunity to create interest. Taking into consideration the desire of the client, style of the house, and scale of the space all help to determine how to solve the terrain change. This backyard had a 5-6’ grade drop from the back door of the house to the lower part of the yard. The grade was established to allow water from their backyard, as well as other properties, flow around the house to the street in front. Two small patios were installed when the house was built to allow for a sitting and grilling area. With a growing family and a wish to entertain larger numbers of guests, my client needed more space. But what about the 5-6’ drop?
The interest was the 5-6’ drop. My idea was to create a terraced patio around half way up from the lowest point of the backyard and the existing patios by the house. Two walls needed to be built. The first to support the new patio and the second to support the existing landscape. Flagstone, in three different forms, was used to build the new walls and steps. The entire new terraced area was filled with compactable gravel which serves as the base for the new patio. A brick paver was picked to provide color and still allow the architectural style and color of the house to be the focal.
Care was taken to maintain all of the existing plantings, low voltage lighting, and irrigation system. New plants were planted to blend the new planting beds with the existing ones. Additional lights were added to the low voltage lighting system as well as repositioning the existing fixtures.
The new patio gave the homeowners over 700 sq. ft. of outdoor living space in an area of the backyard that was not used before. Now they have three distinct elevations with the lowest being a large grass play area, a middle large patio for entertaining, and the upper level for grilling and small gatherings.
Too much slope? Not in Illinois.
Next Case Study