How We Turned This Blank Canvas Into a Complete Outdoor Experience

This backyard was a blank canvas. As you can see from the before shots below, it was more or less nothing but dirt. While it wasn’t much to start with, the lack of pre-existing elements gave the homeowner freedom to dream up and create his ideal outdoor space with us, and that’s just what we did. 

He had a list of must-haves and he even came up with a few of his own sketches and ideas using a pergola or a gazebo. Well, those ideas changed quite a bit once we started sharing pictures of other spaces we’ve built. He started to get inspired and began dreaming up a bit of a different setup. But he still had that list of must-haves, and we wanted to make sure we checked all of those off as we created this space.

Must Haves:

      1. Better access to the hot tub
      2. A nice fire pit
      3. A place to grill
      4. To hear the sound of water
      5. For the space to be an extension of nature


I could tell this homeowner had a vision, so instead of starting with a design in a computer program, I grabbed a can of spray paint, and a tape measure, and we started putting little lines all over the yard so we could lay out this space. This is the fun part about some of these projects, we aren’t just designing an outdoor space for our clients, we get to dream it up and design it with them. 


The first thing we wanted to tackle was access to their hot tub. I don’t know about you, but when I’m ready to get into my hot tub, I want as few steps as possible. To make this happen we got a little bit creative with the placement. We built a landing right off of the back deck that would raise the hot tub enough to meet Virginia regulations so that the railing could come off. Now, not only can they access the hot tub from below, but they can walk out of their back door and step right in from their deck. Isn’t that the dream?

From there we started talking about the fire pit. To give the space some definition, we used the inlay to create a hard line around the space. We also designed it so that this fire pit area would be a dead end, a place people are going to, not just walking through. I mean, when you’re sitting there enjoying the fire, cold drink in hand, you don’t want people walking in and out through the space, right? We wanted this fire pit area to be defined, its own sort of destination.

The next part of this space that ended up growing quite a bit was the cooking area. Originally this homeowner thought he simply wanted a small area to put his grill, right off to the side of the back steps. But as we kept messing around with the layout, we realized it just didn’t work with the flow of their space. What we ended up designing was an incredible bar with built-in grills, space to lay out and serve food, and room for bar stools on both sides. Now the cooking area is right in the middle of all of the action – there’s space for people to sit, you can still see what’s going on at the fire pit, and you even have a nice view of the beautiful water feature…

The water feature is really just the pivotal moment for this space. This is what ties everything together. No matter where you are in the space, whether you’re relaxing in the hot tub, grilling at the bar, or sitting by the fire, your eyes (and ears!) are drawn to that water feature. And we aren’t the only ones who were drawn to the water. Remember how one of the must-haves was for this area to be an extension of nature? One of the specific things the homeowner mentioned was that there are a lot of deer in the area, and he hoped that they would interact with the new outdoor space. And that is just what they did! He sent us this picture and shared that the deer had been walking all over the place, drinking out of the waterfall, and interacting with this beautiful new outdoor space. Mission accomplished!

From the moment we pulled out that can of spray paint and started making plans, I knew this was going to be a really cool space. Check out the video to watch the full transformation of how we turned this blank backyard into a complete outdoor experience!