Before and After: Part 1

Have you ever been to a Cracker Barrel as a kid (or adult) and played one of those puzzle games? Some of them mirror a rubix cube where the object is to move around the squares in the puzzle until each of the cubes sides display a solid color. You might get to the end only to find out you are one move away from solving the puzzle, but the pieces just don’t add up.

I am not a mathematician, and those that know me may chuckle at my arithmetic short comings, but the part about design I love the most is taking the pieces of the puzzle and putting them together so that my client can realize their dream landscape. I get to take desires such as more entertainment space, a place for storage, a front walk that invites, a view to hide, or a concrete foundation to soften. Then we throw in a few objectives like kid friendly spaces, price points, pets, large and small families, extra vehicles, homeowner association or village rules and the challenge begins.

It can be easy to work with a clean slate. No 100 year oak trees in the middle of patio space, or recently redone front walk that doesn’t really “flow”. I find the renovations however, can be the most rewarding because it takes time and effort to make a design work around those beautiful old trees, or reuse a clients existing paver brick. The project I’ve selected for the first installment of before and after is one such renovation with a very rewarding outcome for both client and designer.


Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

The patio was very rectangular and though it had a lot of space, it lacked interest, it didn’t segregate any specific spaces for entertainment, grilling or enough length to allow a large table to have its own space. Also, the yard beyond had a very clear shot of the busy road and anyone passing by could see into the back windows of the home. This lack of screening and the new subdivision openness produced heavy winds that knocked over the grill quite frequently. The actual paver used in the original patio were still new, and matched well with the house and clients’ taste. The patio had several sunken spots that needed to be addressed. The objectives were to increase screening, cut down on the wind, while upgrading the barbecue for the family that enjoyed cooking, increasing the size and livening up the patio design, and reuse the existing pavers if it fit into the overall scheme.

Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

The patio is outlined by a double border in a complimentary color. This allows the patio to be upgraded in size without a noticeable difference in the age of the old and new pavers. The barbecue now has its own space, which will no longer blow over in the wind, gives ample countertop space for preparation, and is not part of the rest of the patio thus allowing grilling to be done out of the traffic of a party in full swing. This unit is by Weber Grill and is made for a built-in barbecue, but stands alone unlike the traditional cook tops usually used in a built-in setting. The furniture and added fire pit also increase the function and entertainment value of the space. The back corner of the yard was planted with several evergreen trees and larger fast growing shrubs. There are several ornamental grasses that match with the rest of the property and neighborhood, as this home is part of a larger subdivision that incorporates prairie restoration.

Another great part of landscape design is that there are probably a hundred other ways this could have been done and still get the overall effect. I love that part of design too. No two projects are alike, and there are no wrong answers. Only multiple right answers…Puzzle Solved!

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