Michaelis – Prelim, explained

aRemember this front and backyard?

front -f (blurred)

back -b

Wonderful! Good memory! And even though I’m sure you remember this too, here’s the full design again.

Michaelis preliminary design

Lots going on, huh! Don’t worry – I’ll break it down for you, starting with the front.

Michaelis prelim crop 1

You may recall, they wanted a bench swing in the front, so it’ll go in on top of a paver patio that will match their current paver walkway. Off the back of the patio will be a little flagstone path leading to the fence gate so they have an invitation to use that side of yard. Surrounding the bench are shrubs that only get about 3 feet tall, so they’ll be able to see their kids playing. And at the corner of the house will be a weeping Lavender Twist Redbud that they’ll be able to enjoy from the bench and from their bay window.

Michaelis prelim crop 2

In the design, I extended the front planter bed in order to fit in another little path leading from the front porch to the bench patio.

Kusari doi probably isn’t a term most people are familiar with. It’s the Japanese name for a rain chain, an alternative to a rain gutter, usually made from copper, with a basin or French drain at the bottom to catch the water. D&T already have rain chains on either side of their porch, but there were several issues.

front -k with arrows

You can probably tell that the chain isn’t long enough. For aesthetic reasons, it’s a good idea to have it anchored into the ground or bowl or at least long enough for the chain to pool at the bottom. That also creates more weight for it to stay relatively in place. The other issue is the flower pot underneath it. Because of the torrents of water coming down from the chain, the pot is really unusable for flowers – they just get flooded and drown. So the pot is a currently just a place holder slash mud bath. With a longer chain and a catch basin or a French drain, their kusari doi will be more functional and look a lot better.

Michaelis prelim crop 4

Above, you can see I’ve planned for a new walkway from the sidewalk to the front porch. For any home, it’s a good idea to have a walkway from the sidewalk to the front door, so that when guests park along the street, they don’t have to walk up the driveway squeezing past parked cars or across the grass to get to the door. A front walk is welcoming and makes the front door more of a focal point.

To the right of the garage, D&T wanted some greenery against the fence by the gate. So I created a narrow planting area and added some Sky Rocket Junipers (narrow evergreen trees) for year-round interest. Below that in the planter area, I added a bunch of shrubs – again, to add year-round interest since some are evergreens and to act as a backdrop for the perennials and annuals at the edges.

On to the back!

Let’s look at the pathway to the left that leads from the bench swing to the backyard.

Michaelis prelim crop 6.5

Currently, that side of the yard has some railroad ties and weeds. Since it’s not a main through-way, I designed concrete steps (arrow 1) to gently traverse the mild slope. Along the sides will be some low-maintenance plantings to make the walk a green, pleasant one and not just concrete below, house on one side, and fence on the other. If you take that path to the back, it leads you to the top of a 4-5′ retaining wall, but no clear way of getting to the rest of the yard, except to jump! Enter: a small landing and stairs in the corner (arrow 2). Those stairs will provide access to a new patio, that will be lower than the current concrete pad. Why? Check out this quandry.

back -j 2

The door opens up six inches below the rest of the patio, so there’s about a 5-6′ long rectangular cut-out for the door area. They’ll essentially take out all that section, plus some, and lay a new patio made of flagstone or something else decorative that’ll be level with the door. That new patio will need a little retaining edge around it, though, because the lawn is flush with the current, higher patio.

At arrow 3, there will be a narrow planting bed with low-lying shrubs, before another retaining edges steps up onto the rest of the existing concrete pad. And at arrow 4, larger shrubs will fill in the space between the large retaining wall and the fence. (Notice the shed in that right picture below? That gets moved to the next section of the design.)

Michaelis Back

Next section!

Michaelis prelim crop 7

Let’s start from where we enter from the front yard. Arrow 1 is pointing to a new concrete pad. D&T have already started on installing parts of the design (exciting!!), so the fence that was formerly close to the back of the garage…

front -b

…has now been moved forward to be flush with the front of the garage. The ground there was sloped, but they wanted to move the shed (that was on the back patio) to that side of the house, so they’ve already removed the old sloped section and poured new, level concrete. In the design, I left a section to the right of the shed unpoured. That’s the setback (an ordinance that says you can’t have any structures on that section), where the utility lines also happen to run. The pea gravel there was in case any major utility word needs to be done, they wouldn’t have to rip out and then repour the concrete. But I think D&T just filled the whole area with concrete. (No biggie, though. Chances are they’ll never run into any problems with it.) With the setback, the shed fit with just enough room for the doors to swing open all the way. It may look like a tight squeeze in the design, but that’s with both 4′ doors open at a 90 degree angle. In reality, there’s over 4′ of room to walk past and it looks and feels a-okay. As you pass the shed and head into the yard, you’ll walk down a gently sloped path, past several fruit trees, leading to the swing set and the main part of the yard.

From the kitchen slash dining room of the house, you can access the back yard via the deck (arrow 3). During the design process, D&T were diy’ing a huge (something like 9 or 11 feet long) outdoor table and bench chairs that would live on that deck. I wanted to create functional space for everything that would take place there – grilling, eating, and as a through-way from kitchen to lawn. That table though! So big! In order to not break up the passageway so much, the table will go in the corner of the deck. Creating a 6″ raised platform for the eating area with a pergola and some sort of drapery/awning will really enhance the ambiance of the deck. It also leaves enough space for the grill, some outdoor cabinetry, and a casual seating spot, all the while keeping a direct route from house to lawn open. Phew!

Down the deck stairs, there will be a landing (arrow group 4) made out of the same material as the new, lowered patio. The landing is important. It gives you the feeling that you’re welcome to access the entire yard, as opposed to the otherwise forward momentum of continuing straight ahead off the stairs. Like this current situation:

back -b

The landing gives you a chance to pause and see the rest of the yard and then decide where you want to go – to the garden, the fire pit, or the swing set. And then if you so choose, you can take a little path of stepping stones or flagstones through a lovely flowerbed to the new patio.

The very back of the yard will have some seriously cool stuff happening.

Michaelis prelim crop 9

Just beyond the play set is the fire pit patio, also from the same material as the landing and large patio. And if that weren’t cool enough on its own, between the play set and the fire pit (arrow 1) is a Camperdown Elm. Check out the awesomeness of this weeping tree.

Camperdown_Elm_Prospect_Park_Brooklyn
via Wikimedia.org

They’re all over Thanksgiving Point Gardens, but most of them aren’t full-size yet. With this tree, D&T will be able to prune out a passageway between the swing set and the fire pit, and it creates a secret, cozy nook for the kids to play under. It also looks crazy cool in the winter with its awesome branching pattern. One might say it’s in my top five favorite trees list.

Behind the fire pit are some evergreens that’ll provide winter interest as well as the feeling of privacy. Along the back fence line, I left their two flowering pears and added another and then included some flowering deciduous and some evergreen shrubs.

Arrow 2 indicates an arbor with flowering vines of their choice (honeysuckle, wisteria, clematis, etc) leading to the vegetable garden. Between the vegetable garden and the concrete pad (arrow 3) is a fence for grapes to grow along. D&T also talked to me about a possible garden workbench area. I figured out a way to include that too by putting it up on the retaining wall planting area (arrow 4). There will even be enough space down below for some stairs to access the workbench and enough space above to include a narrow greenhouse. And to save space, the door to this work area will be a sliding barn door. How cool will all of that be!

I love this design. Everything is there that D&T wanted, it’s more functional, it flows, and it’s going to be beautiful.

Love some feedback!

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