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Helping Empty nesters reclaim their backyard

Empty nesters Krista and Grant have a ‘classic’ backward, with a driveway that runs down the side and a large garage as the focal point in their backyard. On a positive note, they have a very large space measuring 196’x43’,which their children have happily taken advantage of for years. Now the kids have outgrown their outdoor activities and its time for mom and dad to make the yard meet their needs.



The challenge when parents leave the backyard to the kids is in understanding how to use it once the children have moved on. The backyard hasn’t been an area for the adults up until this point. It’s almost like discovery another room in a house that you didn’t know you had and trying to decide how to best use it.

Krista and Grant want to link the garage to the newly built deck with stairs and better accessibility. They want to create a space for entertaining and incorporate plants and vegetables to make the area feel more welcoming.

 Carson’s opinion – Let’s deal with the bad news first; the new deck at 8’x12’ isn’t going to work for your family needs and the entertaining that you want to do. That said, I don’t want you to feel that you’ve wasted the money. The right solution is to expand on the current useable space and add more to make an area you can really use.

Carson’s Solution 


The garage location and the large trees are positives as they create a natural pocket in the yard. The design for this area naturally lends itself to an outdoor room. I would create a patio in that entire area. Keep the dining on the deck but consider adding a feature like a fireplace on the lower level as a spot for entertaining. I also want you to raise the level of the patio so that you are able to remove and replace a major portion of that railing on the deck with stairs in order to open up the space.

As for adding plants, a flowerbed with some height between the new patio and the remainder of the yard will complete the feeling of a private oasis and help enclose the area, making it more intimate. Add a decorative detail like an arch or an arbour to link the lawn to the seating area. This archway is a classic landscaping technique of unifying two separate areas while still maintaining that they have different purposes. Vegetables are great for feeding families, but the list of decorative ones is pretty small. All of the extra space behind the new patio is a perfect spot to have a veggie garden because it is hidden by the flowerbed beside the patio.

 About the author: Carson Arthur is an outdoor design and lifestyle expert.


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