Dumb Backyard to Awesome Outdoor Living Space

Hi Guys, coming to you today for a happy photoshoot day . . . to show you a Dumb Backyard to Awesome Outdoor Living Space Transformation. ‘Dumb’ sounds pretty mean but in all reality sometimes we live with backyards that do not make sense for our family size or livability needs. Lawns with flower-bed-borders and unused space cut down on “get outside and live” backyards. Today we’ll share a small courtyard landscape – revamped into an Outdoor Living Space extraordinaire!

Getting More From Your Space

We use creative solutions to be able to pack a punch into smaller space landscapes. Our goal is to turn each unusable yard into an awesome outdoor living space.  You’ll see in this video we have a lean-to structure, a fireplace that is strategically placed to give privacy, and a convenient bar-island kitchen. We’ll show you how to build a retaining wall to maximize the use of this smaller courtyard space. So here we go – from start to finish – how to transform your landscape to usable outdoor living.

Micah Dennis, the Outdoor Living Guy: “I can’t wait to show off this before and after landscape makeover.” Let’s do it:


Did you see the time lapse photography during construction in the video?  This little gem backyard has come full-circle into a full use outdoor living space from start to finish.



LEAN-TO Covered Structure

If you have the versatility to add a covered structure, lean-to’s work to give you a nice destination. Usually you will want to put in skylights if the roof-line robs the natural light but in this property it wasn’t needed. Notice the lower windows didn’t need more light.  Here we did a tongue and groove ceiling and added a fireplace wall for privacy creating a nice destination. It draws the family out of the house to an awesome covered patio.

“I do like a lean-to in a certain situation like this one (a lean-to is attached to the house). Many times I recommend detached structures – but in this situation it acts as a destination itself. The family walks out to their space and that’s what I love . . . encouraging homeowners to get outside – leave that backdoor behind and go out into their landscape and enjoy it together.”


Notice this area – we’re holding up a lot of earth here – right in front of the garage – so it’s important to make it nice and strong. The block we use is very sturdy. A strong, engineered block wall and then we veneer it all the way through the kitchen up to that 3-foot height. The rest of the walls will  be done at 2 1/2 feet tall. It gives us a nice looking finished product using retaining rock/containing block.


In the video you see the face of the kitchen block wall – a veneer stone. If you turn it to the side you see the grooves that are in it. The block attaches these two – so this job site is going to be a perfect for this material. We’re building big walls in this kitchen so the tandem gives us the flexibility to build a strong wall to retain the earth.  These clips attach and it’s very attractive as you can see.

This common wall material is called a tandem wall by Belgard – a nationwide distributor. You should be able to get Belgard whatever area of the country you’re in. It’s a beautiful product to use for retaining but it’s also awesome at doing what we see here  – outdoor kitchens.

Retaining Wall In Outdoor KitchenMINI BAR

See how out of a little ledge – we have created a cute bar top?  Think about these kind of things when you are designing your space – how you can utilize and maximize space to create destinations. We double purposed this little stairway to create a cool mini-bar. (see last photo too)

Outdoor Living spaceCeiling Heaters Create 4-Season Rooms

Also, think about in-ceiling heaters with a timer on the wall. They are wonderful combined with an awesome outdoor fireplace that put out a lot of heat. They give you that extra heat in Fall’s chilly nights or even in colder winter ones. Turn up those heaters to create a very cozy outdoor space.

Good Design Never Fails

“Don’t you love this smaller courtyard space?  The transformation made here is all about good design. Make sure to have a designer create a design plan to help you maximize your space – like this one.

Before you try to do this on your own – give us a call if you have any questions. We want to help you and I don’t care if you hire us. We wanna help! We will hook you up with videos or comments or solutions.”

Alright guys. For additional landscape design ideas, we welcome your visit to our gallery of works in our portfolio  Complimentary Consultation? You got it! Visit our YouTube Channel

It’s a Wrap!

Thanks for Dropping In

Until next time . . . Get Outside Portland!

Kim Thibodeau, Exterior Design Services

Landscape Blogger, Grubb Landscape Reveal

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