04/23 Inspiring Spaces / Our House

Our Backyard Inspiration

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The difference between this post and posts from prior years about backyard inspiration is that now we actually have a backyard that we want to design and this is a sort of rough and preliminary mood board of our vision for it, including the house exterior!! Originally we wanted to start working on it this Spring and have at least a first phase done by the end of this summer, which is now looking like that timeline is not going to happen because of the pandemic. Still, I’m sitting at home daydreaming about the “one day” and spending some of this time planning for things like our finished backyard. So in a way, it feels like this is all too soon to share, but that’s all this is: a rough cut rambling on our initial thoughts on things we’d like to do for our backyard and exterior.

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More than anything else, I’ve been considering landscaping. One of the features I love about our house is how there was already a lot of vegetation that provides great privacy and looks lush, which is a look I want to keep but refine a little. We’ve had to do some small things so far like remove hedges and vines that were growing on the house, which our inspector advised us to remove because in the long term that kind of thing will degrade the exterior of the house. I’m also really glad we did it because a lot of it was looking out of control and I like that we can see more of our actual house now. Some of that left us with some blank spots we need to fill, and in my pre-pandemic regular visits to local nurseries and current late night Pinterest crusades, I’ve noted a couple things I’d like to plant.

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Mexican feather grass keeps catching my eye. Excuse me for potentially saying the wrong name or variation of plant, so if you’re confused at any point just look at what’s in the photo and know that’s what I’m going for. We have a small pathway in the back of the house with a patch of soil that has become overgrown with weeds while we wait to make progress on it, but I think a row of these low tufts would look really nice there. We also have built in brick planters on certain parts of the house that these would look good in too.

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This variation of fountain grass I love too. Has a more desert feel and goes so beautifully with this clay textured exterior, which I also love.

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This is such a horrible quality photo but surprisingly one of the better of the few I could find of this plant in a context similar to what we would be doing. It’s pittosporum tenuifolium, also known as silver sheen kohuhu, and I love that it looks wispy but still provides coverage, like a softer looking hedge. I could see us planting these in the blank spaces between our trees, or again along that path I mentioned that’s at the back of the house. Also can see us using this to replace some of the plants and trees that are already here that I’m not in love with, though I ‘m still battling with feeling like I don’t have the heart to rip out healthy trees and plants. I think I’d be happy if all we had was just a perimeter of these.

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Speaking of perimeters, this would be the dream. Looks like it could be a corrugated black metal, which I would guess is not cheap to install, and it’s also impractical to completely replace what we already have which looks to be cinder blocks extended with a wood lattice. The wood lattice looks like it’s deteriorating and would be best to replace, and the cinder blocks could certainly be covered with a black mineral paint that would achieve the same look for a lot less. The point here is that I LOVE the way plants look against black and that is the ultimate goal.

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This source noted that this black fencing was made with timber battens nailed to board sheets which is absolutely what I’d want to do if we were starting from scratch. For our house, this will serve as inspiration for potentially refacing small areas of wood fencing that we have closer to the front of the house.

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For a long time I resolved that our future house would be black, and photos like this confirm why I was always so sure of it. That, mixed with the natural teak wood and concrete is what I’ve always envisioned. What I’ve quickly come to also agree with is doing what feels right for the house and what it already is, and not always trying to transform it into the vastly different picture in your head. Considering the white windows and the red brick our house has, the black didn’t feel right this time (and Oleg also said he didn’t like that idea), so the plan for color is…

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White. You knew it. With the black perimeter fulfilling my need for black, I can feel good about going white with the house which will complement the black nicely as always. What kind of white is what I still need to play around with and test out samples for.

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Our house exterior is mostly stucco but again I have an attraction to this clay texture which can be achieve with lime wash paint. Not sure how that turns out on stucco, and Oleg has already expressed he dislikes this organic finish because to him it looks “dirty”, but aside from that I just really like this putty color and would like to test out a sample similar in color.

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For the red brick, we’re likely going to lime wash it, and the front running idea is a neutral beige color like this to make it look more like a natural stone. The other idea is to keep the red brick, which is Oleg’s vote, but I think what we’ll do is paint the house first and then see how we feel about the brick after.

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If we could achieve this kind of color variation though that would be best.

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Also considering painting the brick along with the rest of the house in the same color. This would be the sure fire option if our brick was a more continuous part of the exterior like this, but because the brick is more of an accent like for steps and planting containers attached to the base of the walls, I like the idea of keeping it looking somewhat different.

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And then this makes me back pedal and think maybe we can make the black house work, ha! Especially with this backyard layout being so similar to ours with the sliding doors to our living room in the center and the french doors to our family room on the right, it makes it easier to envision our home looking like this. I’d be more inclined to do this if our windows were black- just a specific preference I have for black houses!

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Last and also last on our list is building a pergola. I say that it’s last on our list because we got a rough quote on this shortly after we moved in and it’s pretty expensive. We also have a tricky situation with how the addition on the house (the family room) is lowered and slightly doesn’t line up in height with the rest of the house, which will require extra attention to making the attached pergola look more seamless.

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Something free standing could work too, though I prefer the more closely spaced slats of the attached pergola in the previous photo, but this wide spacing would be nice for hanging up canopies for shade. That would be the purpose at the end of the day, but at the moment not a high priority in light of our other plans!

3 comments on “Our Backyard Inspiration”

  1. Amy, as usual, your research and attention to detail is impeccable. So much fun for you and Oleg to dream, imagine and plan your outdoor living space which has always been my favorite part of homemaking. As a 60+ year old, I have a lot of experience in developing outdoor ‘rooms’. Two things I think that are important are using plants that have movement such as the different grasses you highlighted. Also, think carefully about the trees and shrubs you are considering taking out. Maybe a nice tree trim and cutting back some of the shrubbery would suffice. You want to ultimately have the look of a well established landscape that only comes with mature trees and shrubs.

  2. Have you considered sand blasting the cinder blocks to expose the rough aggregate? It creates a really beautiful texture that contrasts well with the minimalist wood look that you and I both like. Also charred wood (Chou Sugi ban) may be worth looking into as a long lasting low maintenance alternative to black metal that looks timeless.

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