4 Garden Design Ideas for Better Outdoor Living


After photo 1

In our before/after story, we’re sharing four ideas you can use in your own garden design to transform your experience of living outdoors.

A little-used pool occupied too much space at the home of this suburban family. Instead of swimming, they wanted easier access to their property and the opportunity to use it for large-scale entertaining. To redesign their property we focused on four strategies:



The original landscape design on the terrace was created to screen views of the pool and deck, which occupied 75% (or more!) of the back yard space. Removing it meant reconsidering how that space could be lived in.

clarify views 1

clarify views 2



Tointroduce a sense of spaciousness and make the most of available real estate, we removed the large hedges at both levels of the terrace, keeping the width of the stairs proportionate to the door. This creates a welcoming invitation into the landscape. Now, access to the house when entertaining is easier, whether it’s an intimate dinner for a few friends on the patio or a large event that requires a tent on the lawn.


After-terrace levels


To make the property feel both larger and more elegant, we replaced a series of overgrown, diseased evergreens that were creating a feeling of tight enclosure. The new vista from the terrace is more open to the sky and ‘borrows’ a view of the neighbor’s treeline. This simple change creates an illusion of more distance yet preserves privacy.


After - View from terrace



Garden destinations entice you out into your property and offer new views of it. Before, destinations other than the pool were limited.


before-lower terrace


Now, a well-defined stair links the upper and lower terraces and turns alfresco dining on the lower terrace into a clear destination. Eating here offers views of both garden and home. Temporary landscape elements – such as the play equipment – are tucked away as places to be discovered. A new screened loggia gives the family transitional indoor/outdoor space.


after-lower terrace






One way to impose order on a larger space without too much formality is to clearly define spaces. Before, significant portions of the upper terrace were dedicated to passive space.


before-define spaces


Now, the upper terrace identifies more active areas for chaise lounges and morning coffee as well as longer views to the property’s border. Crisp definitions of the terrace, lawn, and garden fence give borders to each landscape element and make the property feel neat and well-ordered.


after-define space 1


after-define space 2


after-define space 3


after-define space 4



Consider every landscape material in relationship to the whole property; the eye likes continuity. Several simple design changes make this overall property feel both lighter and unified: white paint better-defines the second story of the house while bluestone on the terrace ‘lifts’ its lower level. The essential planting design is simple and formal: a green and white palette of evergreen and hydrangea. Blue accents throughout the seasons combine with blue and white to remain serene and formal throughout the growing season.



after-palette 3

after-palette 4



We’re thankful to our team members on this project:

Architect: Northworks Architects and Planners
Masonry: G. Fontana & Sons Construction
Construction: A.C. Bittner Construction

For a garden with a very different style, see this post about a Midwestern native garden.

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