Outdoor Spaces – We Have Plans!


With the temperatures finally starting to feel normal, everyone around us seems to be focusing their attention outside.  Understandably so, after the horrible winter and slow moving spring we’ve had here in the Midwest.

We’ve talked about sprucing up our backyard for awhile now, and we’re finally taking some positive steps forward in doing something about it.  I have blogged about our pond a couple of times over the years, and while the idea of a pond is nice, the reality is something much different.

Allow me to illustrate.

The idea of a pond.  Beautiful, tranquil, peaceful, right?

The reality of a pond.  Well, the reality of my pond.  It’s a lot of maintenance – we have to have it drained and cleaned every year – and it seems like no matter how hard you try to keep it looking nice, it still ends up looking … like this. And this is a semi-decent looking state, before all of the landscaping grows in and gets crazy.

I mentioned the annual cleaning – talk about a dirty job.

Did I mention that during these pond clean-outs, we’ve found baby snapping turtles?  Twice.  And it’s not the same one, because we have them taken away and “released” since they can grow to be quite large and snappy.

So, we’re kind of over the pond, and are ready to move on to something that would be more functional for our family.  I’ve mentioned the idea of an outdoor fireplace, so we finally got together with a landscape architect to turn some ideas into plans.  When we asked him if we were making a smart decision from a house resale point of view, he assured us that the trend is more towards outdoor living spaces vs. decorative ponds like this one.  It was nice to hear that, because I feel kind of guilty tearing out something that I know cost a pretty penny to put in place.

Before I go into the plans, let me give you a little bit of a “lay of the land” in the backyard, so that the plans will hopefully make some sense.  Here are some shots of our yard, with me shooting towards the rear of the house.  

We have the covered porch that is above a covered patio, and the pond is off of the covered patio area.

Here is a shot from the pond area, looking towards the covered patio (excuse the mess).

And a close up (of the hot mess).

Here is the view from the covered patio, looking out towards the pond.

If you walk out of the covered patio, towards the right and look up at the pond, this is what you see.  Lots of boulders, and steps made out of stone.  We’re keeping the steps, and they’re something you’ll see in the plans as well.  We’re also hoping to reuse the boulders in the new design.

Here are a couple of shots from the stairway area.  Yes, there is a lot of area that currently requires mulch.  It’s nuts.  The new designs will definitely help us cut down on our mulch bill.

And another one of the pond area (after it was cleaned – see the fish?), looking down from the covered porch.

We have been wanting to add an outdoor fireplace to this space, working with the shape and elevation of the current setup.  I have shared some of the dreams that I had in mind for this area.

After meeting with the landscape architect, detailing our ideas, and overloading him with photos from Pinterest, he came back with three options.

Option 1

The layout of these plans is as though it’s an aerial view of our backyard, and I labeled them so you can see how the drawings are oriented.  The two squares are the covered porch and open deck area.  You can see where the stairs are also, as well as the current steps that we have near the pond.  Make sense?  

This option extends the downstairs patio area out and gives us a large area for additional seating, with the outdoor fireplace as the backdrop.  We also hope to incorporate some built-in seating around the fireplace, since there will be a wall of sorts built around it.

Option 2:
Option #2 puts the fireplace on an angle, with a smaller seating area, but still offering space for outdoor dining.  The area around the stairs is some of the current landscaping that is in place – trees and some bushes.

Option 3:
Option #3 has the fireplace more built-in to the existing pond footprint and elevation.  This option has it more hidden, in its own space, with room for outdoor seating and a separate dining space.  The extension also doesn’t cover as much space from where the stairs are, leaving more of the current landscaping in place.

So which option do you like the best?  Can you guess which one we liked?  If you guessed Option #1, you are correct!  Of course, this option is probably going to be a bit more pricey to implement since it covers more square footage, which requires more pavers, but I can really see us using this space and hanging out.  I’m envisioning my kids hanging out with their friends around the fire on a chilly fall evening, or having a great party and eating al fresco.  Ok, maybe I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself, but that’s what ran through my head after seeing these plans.

Now we’re getting some estimates as to how much this will actually cost, so we can figure out how/when to implement it.  I suspect it will be a project that we take on in phases, but I’m excited that we are finally making some forward progress.

Are you working on your outdoor spaces?  Have you done any big backyard makeovers?  Any tips or suggestions?


  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    You have a wonderful backyard and loving your plans…a fireplace would be amazing!!

  • Reply
    Cyndy Aldred
    May 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Wow Jenny! What a gorgeous backyard you have! Whatever you do will be amazing! I want an outdoor fireplace too, so I am anxious to watch all of this come together. My advice is to pick the layout where you would have the best view sitting around in your chairs. Good luck girl! xo

  • Reply
    May 7, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    Your yard & house look awesome. A fireplace sounds great. A few years back, we removed the pavers and replaced it with stamped concrete. Love the low maintenance of the concrete vs the pavers that seemed to shift ever year. Best of luck with this exciting project!

  • Reply
    Cassie @ Primitive & Proper
    May 7, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    your yard is already amazing! can't wait to see it get even more so!

  • Reply
    Lisa @ Shine Your Light
    May 7, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    That is so exciting, Jenny!! This is my husband's dream project! I can't wait to see it all unfold.

  • Reply
    Cheryl Libutti
    May 7, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    This will be beautiful- and great outdoor space. Since we moved into our "forever" house four years ago, we have done everything with an eye towards things being lowest maintenance possible… so that is my only word of advice: even if it costs a bit more upfront, the lowest-care option will be what you are most happy with after it is all said and done. And that's my two cents.

  • Reply
    pam {simple details}
    May 7, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Wow Jenny, this is going to be such a fun project!! Our neighbors have a fireplace and a brick pizza oven, I can't even tell you how much fun it is to party on their patio! 🙂

  • Reply
    Kris @ Driven by Décor
    May 8, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Your outdoor space is going to be so amazing!! We put in a new tumbled paver patio at our old house about a year before we left and absolutely loved it. Reading Rock in Cincinnati is a great place to go for selecting pavers if you haven't come across it already! Looking forward to seeing how it all comes together!!

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