Dawson – Prelim, explained (1)

Here’s the preliminary design again, to refresh your memory.

Dawson Preliminary Design title 2

This design was so much fun to devise! Because I hadn’t met with J&E in person yet, I took their ideas and their expansive backyard and threw in two fistfuls of European garden elements. Shall we begin the breakdown?

Dawson Preliminary Design crop 2

In the front yard, to address the elevation change, E had found a picture of what she had in mind. In it, the large front lawn was completely flat, until it neared the sidewalk, where it then sloped downward all at once (see arrow 1). The walkway had steps at the entrance off the sidewalk, with two sets of columns flanking it – the first set (nearest the sidewalk) about 3′ tall, and the ones behind being shorter as the lawn leveled out. So that’s exactly what I drew in for her (see arrow 2).

Arrow 3 is actually pointing to that entire pathway that goes from the driveway across the front of the house leading to the backyard. J&E love the old-world look of European gardens, so I thought they might like W-block pavers, like the ones in this picture I took in Walsheim, Germany.

ZZZ 689 arrow

W-block pavers look great in any pattern, by the way. I particularly love them in a herringbone pattern. Also, using tumbled pavers really gives you a more authentic, well-loved, rustic look.

If you follow arrow 4 up just a bit, you’ll see there’s a narrow entry into the courtyard. It’s not hidden in any way, but it definitely feels secondary. For that reason, an informal gravel path leads from the W-block paver path to that doorway. Once inside the courtyard, you’re greeted by a vine-covered wall (arrow 5) flanking a fountain. This idea is slightly different than the architect’s rendering (below) because J&E sent a picture of, specifically, a wall fountain they liked in a courtyard.

And what’s a courtyard without a place to sit and enjoy it? Hence the bench at arrow 7.

Now let’s take that horizontal path that leads to the backyard.

Dawson Preliminary Design crop 3From the driveway to the expanded walkway/patio on the side yard, there’s a lot of movement in that path, which really breaks up the length and the potential monotony of walking a straight line from point A to point B. One thing that I was pretty exited about was the privacy I gave the side yard. The zig-zag nature of the path allowed me to put in a planting area (arrow 1) in front of that part of the walk. Not only would that provide privacy for the side yard, it also makes that side yard so intriguing and inviting. You can’t see it from the street or from the front of the house, and that makes you want to explore!

Arrow 2 points to the expanded walkway/patio made with concrete or stone slabs with gravel in between. Like a combination of these two photos.


Fireproofed & lawnless
via sunset.com

Along the expanded walkway, there’s a curved planter for flowers with a 6′ high wall behind it for plants to climb (arrow 2, again). It would mimic the look of some kind of centuries-old fountain with a trough that has since been taken over by lush plants.

To get into the back yard, you leave the formal underfooting and step onto a gravel path leading to a wrought iron gate. The gate is set between a 4′ tall stacked-stone fence, like so often seen throughout the countryside in the UK and Ireland.

ZZZ 993

Here’s an almost perfect example of the fence and gate:

via sheffieldautogates.co.uk

On the driveway/garage side of the house, arrow 4 is pointing to two things: a side exit with stairs and a planting area opposite. The planting area there serves two purposes: it creates a little privacy when leaving through that door, and it softens the driveway edge. Since zero concrete had been poured while I was working on the design, all I could see was that there was a doorway several feet off the ground. So I tried to figure out a good depth for the landing and how many stairs would be needed to span the gap from door to ground level. I should point out the longer set of stairs perpendicular to the others, near arrow 5. They go down to the basement with a low wall along the driveway, which you can see in this picture.

20140624_201528 with arrow

When I drafted in the stairs at arrow 4, they extended beyond that low wall, which looked odd. So at arrow 5, you can see I put in a planting bed to make sense of the extended stairs and to soften and beautify the edge of that wall.

Arrow 6 points to another wrought iron gate, but this time with a taller (8′) stacked stone fence for even more privacy, especially because most people use that driveway extension for RV’s or boats, which you don’t really want to see from your beautiful, formal, relaxing backyard.

At arrow 7, I included another privacy planting area between them and their neighbors. And in case you’re wondering, the driveway may look narrow for two cars, but it actually has enough room for two cars with 3-4′ on either side and in between when they’re parked next to each other.

Because this is a large yard with lots of detail in the design, I’m going to break up the explanation into two parts. You can read about the backyard here.


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