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7 Outdoor Design Ideas

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For some, the Great Outdoors might mean rugged mountains, untrammeled forests, or wide-open plains. The residents of these seven homes managed to carve out their own great outdoor retreats—a sunken fire pit, built-in slide, contemplative koi pond, and family-friendly patio, among others.

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  The first thing landscape designer Laura Cooper asked residents Juan Devis and Laura Purdy was to recall childhood gardens and outdoor play. In that spirit, she designed their backyard. Near the Barragan-inspired house Cooper clustered lush, big-leafed plants like philodendron, purple heart, and flowering canna. Farther out, vegetable gardens sprout in raised beds, and thyme and mint thrive beneath citrus trees. Native California silver wild rye and matilija poppies bind the slope, bordering the low “snake wall” that winds around the yard, narrowly ducking beneath a big ficus tree with just enough clearance for a sprinting kid. Wide stadium steps connect the garden levels, turning the steep hillside into amphitheater seating.  Photo by: Lisa RomereinCourtesy of: Copyright Lisa Romerein
    The first thing landscape designer Laura Cooper asked residents Juan Devis and Laura Purdy was to recall childhood gardens and outdoor play. In that spirit, she designed their backyard. Near the Barragan-inspired house Cooper clustered lush, big-leafed plants like philodendron, purple heart, and flowering canna. Farther out, vegetable gardens sprout in raised beds, and thyme and mint thrive beneath citrus trees. Native California silver wild rye and matilija poppies bind the slope, bordering the low “snake wall” that winds around the yard, narrowly ducking beneath a big ficus tree with just enough clearance for a sprinting kid. Wide stadium steps connect the garden levels, turning the steep hillside into amphitheater seating.

    Photo by: Lisa Romerein

    Courtesy of: Copyright Lisa Romerein

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  In the Balcones House, the family room is situated at the apex of the house, with picturesque views that extend up the meticulously landscaped north slope. The concrete floor sits just low enough that the main elements of the scene—the succulent garden and large limestone ledges—are at eye level. A bank of NanaWall folding windows breaks up the fourth wall.  Photo by: Brent Humphreys
    In the Balcones House, the family room is situated at the apex of the house, with picturesque views that extend up the meticulously landscaped north slope. The concrete floor sits just low enough that the main elements of the scene—the succulent garden and large limestone ledges—are at eye level. A bank of NanaWall folding windows breaks up the fourth wall.

    Photo by: Brent Humphreys

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  Rather than resist the natural slope of the Buena Vista Heights backyard, landscape architect Eric Blasen composed a well-considered, minimal, multi-terraced space that includes a concrete slide.  Photo by: Marion Brenner
    Rather than resist the natural slope of the Buena Vista Heights backyard, landscape architect Eric Blasen composed a well-considered, minimal, multi-terraced space that includes a concrete slide.

    Photo by: Marion Brenner

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  “Climbing down into the pit feels very intimate,” says architect Matthew Hufft, who modeled this fire pit after the recessed conversation areas popular in 1960s and 1970s interiors. “We didn’t want the pit to be an obtrusive contraption sitting in the center of a zen-like courtyard,” he explains. Its low profile complements the outdoor area, designed in collaboration with Weston, Missouri–based landscape architecture firm 40North.  Photo by: Mike Sinclair
    “Climbing down into the pit feels very intimate,” says architect Matthew Hufft, who modeled this fire pit after the recessed conversation areas popular in 1960s and 1970s interiors. “We didn’t want the pit to be an obtrusive contraption sitting in the center of a zen-like courtyard,” he explains. Its low profile complements the outdoor area, designed in collaboration with Weston, Missouri–based landscape architecture firm 40North.

    Photo by: Mike Sinclair

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  The Babat residence in Nashville is blessed with a big backyard; however, the blistering Tennessee sun once made it feel more like a broiler than a place to kick back and relax. Enter architect Michael Goorevich—then on staff at Manuel Zeitlin Architects—who devised a wood-and-steel trellis to cover part of the space.  Photo by: Anthony Matula
    The Babat residence in Nashville is blessed with a big backyard; however, the blistering Tennessee sun once made it feel more like a broiler than a place to kick back and relax. Enter architect Michael Goorevich—then on staff at Manuel Zeitlin Architects—who devised a wood-and-steel trellis to cover part of the space.

    Photo by: Anthony Matula

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  After entering through the front door of the Wabi House, visitors pass over the large koi pond on a cast-concrete footbridge chiseled to look like stone. A viewing platform extends from the house.  Photo by: Daniel HennessyCourtesy of: ©2010 DANIEL HENNESSY PHOTOGRAPHY
    After entering through the front door of the Wabi House, visitors pass over the large koi pond on a cast-concrete footbridge chiseled to look like stone. A viewing platform extends from the house.

    Photo by: Daniel Hennessy

    Courtesy of: ©2010 DANIEL HENNESSY PHOTOGRAPHY

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  The courtyard is an extension of this renovated Toronto dairy, with a big table that hosts parties, a stage for impromptu performances, and part of an old loft overhead that will one day become a treehouse for the children.  Photo by: Christopher Wahl
    The courtyard is an extension of this renovated Toronto dairy, with a big table that hosts parties, a stage for impromptu performances, and part of an old loft overhead that will one day become a treehouse for the children.

    Photo by: Christopher Wahl

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