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Small Yard Landscape Design

Get tips on how to fit multiple landscape elements into a small backyard

A video transcript featuring Joseph Huettl, Huettl Landscape Architecture

This particular property is not very large, and often the landscape architect is presented with a situation where it's a regular tract house that doesn't have a lot of architectural detail to follow. With landscape design, it gives you the opportunity to break away without clashing with a home's style, and the owners of this particular property were willing and ready to go more modern than the suburban tract house they had. In this case they had a small space, and they wanted to maximize it for outdoor living. They liked a lot of the things we have done before, including water features and arbors. So this project had the opportunity to create a composition of spaces that would utilize the entire yard and maximize their yard for outdoor living.

Project layout
On a small project, such as this, the layout is very critical. We usually try to approach it as a composition of spaces, and you want to utilize the entire yard. So often in landscape design, you see the typical patio door, patio, lawn, and perimeter plantings. In this case, you want to shake that up and have a destination towards the corners, places to go. In this particular yard, one of the early concepts was the use of the three parallel walls that would organize the yard into spaces without completely obscuring the entire yard. So we utilize low walls of about two to three feet in height, and that gives you a psychological separation from the main patio living area versus the more rustic vegetable garden, and it provides a strong concept for the rest of the layout of the yard. On the ground plane we used a combination of basically squares and rectangles, and repeating elements, and repeating materials to create a cohesive composition of spaces.

This particular material palette on this project was due to a combination of a modern aesthetic and practical considerations for budget. In our initial design, we did have slate and stone, and due to budget constraints those were reduced to (and I actually prefer it) a nice, simple sandwash-finish concrete with an integral color. And then the three parallel walls, which were so important here, were done with a steel-trowel-smoothed stucco in a southern moss color. The steel arbor we really didn't want to compromise back to wood, so that was one place where we kept the budget with the steel arbor.

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