Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Outdoor Space

The piccolini and I are playing pretend today. They are going to pretend a nanny is taking care of them. And I am going pretend I'm a practicing architect who has been designing a big, important deck and yard project. This also gives me a chance to insert lots of photos I've been taking over the last month or so. Also, just to clarify, it took me so long because usually there's a lot of mess lying around that I didn't want in my big, important yard and deck photos.
I posted about the deck itself a while back, but I thought you might like to see the continuation of the project - and how the space is being used.

When I'm working on a design, I'm always interested in how the space will be used. Now, I never worked as a residential architect, HOWEVER, in residential architecture I would ask questions like, how much time do you spend indoors and outdoors? Do you take your shoes off when you come inside? Do you watch television? Do you like to be near the kitchen when you watch TV? Really? Do you like to be able to see the refrigerator?

(Oops, sorry, minor tangent here: I have a personal test that I call the View of the Refrigerator from the Sofa test. Basically, one should never be able to see the refrigerator from one's sofa. Need I say more? A surprising number of new construction houses fail this test. A View of the Refrigerator from the Sofa must be something that lots of people like: because these builders do their research! As for me, don't worry, I'm not planning on becoming a residential architect or interior designer anytime soon. That's why I have no qualms about suggesting that you cover your refrigerator in children's artwork if your house fails this test.)
View from the kitchen sink.
One of the things we really liked about our floor plan was the ability to integrate indoor and outdoor space. From the kitchen sink, I can see the whole deck. I can almost see the new sand box along side the stairs. And I can definitely hear what's going on outside. I can be out the door, surveying the situation, in a matter of seconds. That's important to me as a mother of young kids. I keep joking with Fritz that I'm going to add a convex mirror at the end of the deck so that I can see the rest of the yard as well.
The sandbox is still in progress - from both our perspective and the piccolini's - there's no bench (yet) on the sides.
The drawback to our indoor/outdoor integration is the wood-floor-destroying sand that is being tracked directly into our dining room. We've put down an indoor/outdoor carpet and industrial-sized rubber mat. Which help. And look ugly. I tell myself it's temporary.
Before the carpet and after. The design idea concept of integrating indoor outdoor was a lot clearer before the carpet went down.
Another minor failure of the current integration between indoor and outdoor space is that I can see a lot of the neighbor's houses from the kitchen sink. What can I say? It's a small, corner lot. We've started a plan for remediating that situation: essentially, a large planter filled with bamboo at the end of the deck. I'm nostaglically calling it the 'bamboo grove' and it's essentially meant to be a vegetation screen.You can see more photos of the planter here.
Nowadays, falling off the deck means falling into the bamboo.
Check back in the spring to see if it does what it's suppose to do: grow like crazy to a height of 10-12 feet over a period of 60 days. Fingers crossed, Daumen gedrueckt. In these photos, it's about 4-5 feet tall.  We've taken the recommended planting precautions given the invasive nature of bamboo. Although, I've had a difficult time finding people with first hand knowledge of bamboo in Denver's dry, cold climate. Everyone, however, has lots of scary second/third/fourth-hand anecdotes from elsewhere. We shall see.
View from the second floor.

We've done a lot of middle-size outdoor projects ourselves on the weekends: like building more planters around the deck, adding some landscape/rock filled steps, filling the planters with dirt and rock, planting the bamboo, building a sandbox, and building raised vegetable beds.

The original plan didn't include these steps, but when we decided to keep the fence, we added them. I actually like the contrasting landscaped look; but it still needs some rock-friendly plants, or something.
Most of these projects involved hauling around large amounts of dirt or rock or sand. Our wheel barrow broke multiple times this summer. I suggest NOT buying the second cheapest wheel barrow at Home Depot if you plan to haul 8 cubic yards of dirt and 5 tons of rocks. Do you think Home Depot will take it back?
A modified raised bed planter from Sunset Magazine. We used leftover redwood from the deck, made it taller, added a "bench" for ease of tending, and cut the pieces a little differently. Yeah, actually, it's almost nothing like the original.
Colorado is relatively dry and getting a conventional yard started requires a good number of sprinklers. We became sprinkler and irrigation experts. We added drip irrigation on the front porch flower boxes, as well as the 'bamboo grove,' 'vegetable garden,' and multiple potted plants. We've been shocked to discover how much water our sprinklered grass uses. Didn't pay attention to that stuff as a renter. Even the water-intensive bamboo grove is less of a water hog because we are able to use drip irrigation on it. In retrospect, we would have less lawn with grass than we do now, if we had to do it over again. Although, admittedly, it is nice to have some GREEN considering that trees are all still so small.
Some Before and Afters Nows: (because they're fun, right?)
Now (I think we'll plant some more trees. Next year.)

Now - with vegetables and strawberries!

Before. Hot and sunny and dusty.

Still pretty hot and sunny, but not so dusty. We'll have to address shade in the near future.


Swistle said...

Oooo, Before-and-Afters ARE fun!

Meredith said...

It looks great! Our raised beds look pitiful compared to that! (I'm not going to tell my husband, though.)

Ann Wyse said...

Meredith - fortunately, raised beds don't have to look good to produce well! Fritz reminds me of this often. ;-)

Angelina Garcia said...

I love your systematic approach to designing. In my opinion, constructing a desk should be carefully mapped out because its functional and aesthetic value is almost equal. By the way, I’m impressed that you were able to maximize the deck’s space. I think a lot has changed since you posted this; I would like to see how your deck looks like today!