Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Front yard courtyard design

Wow, I bought my very first Groupon, and I seriously got my money's worth!!  More than my money's worth!!  
It was offered by Outdoor Homescapes and appeared as a "Suggested Post" on my Facebook account in November 2013.  If this offer is still available by the time you read this post and you are interested in it for yourself, you might be able to access it via this link

I thought to myself, what the heck - I've never done Groupon, but it's only a hundred bucks.  I'm shopping for courtyard ideas anyway, so I'll give it a try. 
I'll walk you through the design development from start to finish below, with one caveat

I'm only going to publish limited design content in order to preserve the maker's intellectual property (which is largely based on my own intellectual property, which is what justifies my posting of any of it).   I won't publish full renderings of the design and I won't publish any part of the overhead views or plat map (scale drawing with full lay-out and material dimensions) which is based on our property's legal survey and therefore quite quantitative and potentially reproducible.  

OK, here goes.
This is my basic hand-drawn map view of what it looks like now - just the usual two builder trees in the middle of a St. Augustine sea.  We made sure when we built the house that the two front yard trees were off-set slightly so that we could later incorporate a courtyard design.  Trees side by side are too starkly uniform to make a good design work - remember the artistic rule of diagonals.  These live oaks were intentionally set on a slight diagonal.   
In my usual obsessive style, I sent the designer a seven-page PDF describing in very general terms how I thought I wanted the final product to look, and the PDF included sketches, property photos, and a copy of our survey.  The constraints were that the courtyard had to:
  • Be rectilinear to match the style of the stacked stone foundation beds we installed this past May;
  • Be modern to transitional rather than traditional in appearance; 
  • Incorporate our one spare pallet of the wide Oklahoma sandstone that our foundation beds are built out of, but the bulk of the construction had to be of cheaper materials because a property in our market would not support the magnitude of investment that would be associated with an all-stone patio;
  • Include two higher bench structures flanked by lower planting beds;
  • Be dynamic in including three ingress-egress points.
  • The "floor" of the patio had to be largely constructed of very large floating concrete block pavers that would not get destroyed by the shrink-swell of our local soils, rather than being poured in place. 
This was my initial sketch that I sent to the designer:
It was short on details, missing the third dimension, and totally devoid of sourcing, but I knew that I wanted two bench-like structures cater-corner to each other, and three walkways leading into it: one from the sidewalk, one from the driveway, and one from the front door. 
Here's what Outdoor Homescapes came up with:
Before and virtual after:
There you see our existing front yard in the upper image (I had to "blue out" our next door neighbors' house for their privacy), and at almost the same angle, the computerized rendering of the courtyard in the lower image. 

They basically took the guts of my amateur design and elevated it to an impressively-professional level.  I've got some artistic instincts but functionally I'm just a DIYer - I could not have achieved that degree of sophistication on my own using my pencil and paper.   
Virtual view from the driveway - this is what a barren builder lawn could potentially look like instead of being barren. 

I can't stress that word enough - it's just barren right now.  In contrast, this completed view is pretty amazing, eh??  All walkways converge at the center - can you imagine sitting on those elevated L-shaped benches sipping a beverage in the evening and chatting with your neighbors as you watch everyone's kids tear up and down the street??   Right now, nobody has anywhere to sit.  We habitually mingle around our cul-de-sac like a small herd of lost cattle. 
When I saw those drawings, my first thought was, "Oh my gosh - that's what it was meant to look like all along.  Our house finally looks DONE now."

But it remains to be seen when and how we'll be able to actually get it looking like that.  Outdoor Homescapes is too far away (Cypress, Texas) to project-manage it, and besides, they are self-confessed at specializing in outdoor kitchens and prefer to execute those kinds of large-scale jobs.  I could serve as general contractor, but with my husband's irregular shift work and my "regular job", even the management and the sourcing are going to be huge challenges given that I'm not familiar with what's on the market or where to procure it. 

But at least now we have a much better idea of what we're shooting for.  Amen to that.   

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