Inside Out

It's time to move the party outside—to a gorgeous deck, patio, or pool. Let these nine projects from local designers and landscape architects get you started.

home by elevate by design
Photo by Raul Garcia at Astula Inc.

Farmhouse Chic

The owners of a new build in the Observatory Park neighborhood are huge football fans, so they asked the team at Elevate by Design to create an indoor-outdoor space conducive to watching games. “Architecturally, the modern farmhouse is simple in that there’s not a ton of materials and colors; it’s very monochromatic,” says Chris Turner, co-owner and principal of Elevate by Design. “So it was important for us to simplify the outdoor space; it’s not a big lot, and they wanted yard space for their young kids to play sports and an entertaining space to watch sports.” With a TV on the left-hand wall (underneath a flat roof that contains two skylights) and cantina doors that push open to one side, EBD was able to create a contiguous outdoor area on the same grade as the living room inside.

The low-slung wood-grain tile deck is centered on a Nisho natural-gas fire pit made of glass fiber-reinforced concrete, surrounded by two aqua-hued poufs and an L-shaped Caneline sofa that maximizes space for TV viewing. “The fire pit felt as if it was designed for the space,” says Aubrey Smith, senior designer at EBD. “It acts as a focal feature and a sculptural element, even when it’s off.” On the right side of the photo is a pass-through bar and (not shown) an outdoor kitchen and sunken hot tub.

Elevate By Design

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Boulder home
David Winger Photography

The Secret Garden

After sustaining damage in the 2013 floods, this Boulder backyard needed a serious refresh. So the family turned to Designs by Sundown, which came up with a plan that comprises several distinct pockets for them to enjoy: a large dining space for big dinner parties (the homeowner said she wanted an area large enough to host at least six couples); a more intimate tea/breakfast nook, where the couple could enjoy morning coffee; a fireplace lounge area; and a large lawn complete with trampoline and lacrosse net for the couple’s three boys.

“They are both from the East Coast and summer in the Hamptons, so she knew the vision she wanted,” says Jessica Hommel, director of marketing at the firm. “The whole purpose was to create a space that was functional and formal at the same time.” The magic is in the details: In the dining area, Designs by Sundown added a beautiful custom farm table made of wood (coated so it can withstand the elements), sitting under a new pergola, with the space connected to the house through folding doors. Step up from that traditional space, which is grounded in Pennsylvania blue stone, into the breakfast area, which includes an L-shaped sofa surrounding a custom tea table. “We wanted to create a space that was usable for their family of five as a casual dining area but would still feel intimate,” says Hommel. For the tall two-tier fireplace, Designs by Sundown replicated the brick used on the house and accented it with Pennsylvania blue stone. Throughout all the spaces is custom-designed furniture mixed with McKinnon and Harris pieces.

As a final touch, and knowing that they were working in a property with existing mature trees, the Designs by Sundown team used a lot of boxwood (to provide formality) and added wildflowers in plantings throughout, “to give the space that secret garden kind of feel,” says Hommel.

Designs By Sundown

lifescape colorado design
Photo by Dan Degrush

Lush Life

A side-yard knot garden is the centerpiece of the landscape design for a 1904 home in Denver’s north Country Club neighborhood. “The homeowners had already done the hardscaping elements, including the pizza oven,” says LeAnn Ostheimer, director of design and sales at Lifescape Colorado. “They wanted us to create a really charming garden to tootle in, one that had a bit of formality like a European garden.” The couple already had a large entertaining area, so they wanted some quaint, little places for having a cup of coffee. Besides boxwood, Lifescape added such colorful plants as rosebushes, lavender, salvia, lamium, and geranium delmaticum, with annual geraniums planted around the fountain each year; pebbled paths made of crushed granite chips and edged with tumbled flagstone provide definition to the space, and antique-look globe lights complete the look.

For a traditional south Country Club house Lifescape created a two-tier entertaining area, building a new composite deck with a built-in grill and enough area for a large dining table, as well as a patio with a large gas fireplace bookended by two fastigiate Norway spruces. It is constructed of big chunks of stone from the Telluride Stone Co., with a mantel made of reclaimed barn timber and a large flagstone hearth. “Having the fireplace at the end really invites guests down to explore that space,” says Lifescape senior designer Troy Shimp. “It feels rustic and homey and comfortable.” The space is surrounded by greenery: boxwood, burning bush, yew, and daphnes, as well as a red oak tree that will grow in to provide shade. The homeowner’s collection of cobalt-blue pots add pops of color everywhere.

Lifescape Colorado

backyard with pool
Photo by Logan Manaker

From the Terrace

The house and the landscape for this new build in Boulder were designed at the same time, says Luke Sanzone, principal landscape architect at Marpa, “with the goal of creating a strong connection between the interior of the home and the landscape and site.” Marpa, which used Environmental Designs as one of its main subcontractors during construction, “conceived of the landscape as a series of terraces, with highly articulated level changes that were coordinated with the volumes of the home.” The mid-level terraces, which serve as the main living areas, include a series of patios with an outdoor fireplace, a dining patio, and a small grassy area that transitions to a swimming pool. “It was conceived as hardscape, grass, and then water,” says Sanzone. “The indoor-outdoor relationship there is the strongest, and it is used a lot for parties, including large fund-raisers.” The topography from the house down to the street is very steep and receives a lot of sun, so Marpa used lush but very low-water Xeriscape plantings around granite boulders and architecturally interesting, dark-charcoal concrete walls. “The owner walks down every day to get his mail, and we tried to design it so that it was not only a beautiful landscape when viewed from the street but also a garden to walk through, with something blooming year-round,” says Sanzone. “We created a series of switchbacks in the walkway, and as we got farther away from the house, we designed the terraces to become increasingly naturalized until by the time you get to the street, everything looks organic.”

Marpa Landscape Architecture

backyard with fireplace
Photo by Andrew Forino

Year-Round Fun

When David Schwank of Mosaic Outdoor Living & Landscapes first encountered this Castle Rock house, it had a rotting and dangerous deck in back—nothing conducive to the kind of indoor-outdoor living this family craved. “They wanted a space that they could use year round, took advantage of their mountain views, and expanded their living space to an indoor-outdoor space,” says Schwank. His team at Mosaic, famous for their HGTV show Mega Decks, created an enormous space with three distinct areas, including a dining room with a custom table and an outdoor kitchen complete with pizza oven, grill, and refrigerator, and a seating area around a huge natural stone fireplace with firebrick inside to give off lots of heat, topped by a steel and wood pergola. To provide for year-round use, Mosaic also added inset heaters to the soffits in the roof overhang.

Mosaic Outdoor Living & Landscapes

backyard year tlc gardens
Photo by David Winger Photography

Force Field

“We call this house Contra Verde, because of its contrasting energy,” says Cheri Stringer, owner of TLC Gardens, of this new build in Longmont’s Somerset Meadows neighborhood. “The angles on the roof are all different and modern, and it has this feeling of trapped energy that I love.” The house was built on a one-acre lot, and the homeowner was initially intimidated by the lot’s size. “She said, ‘How do we make this so there are entertaining spaces and exercise stations—she is really into CrossFit—but I don’t feel this overwhelming need to take care of everything?’” says Stringer. “So we designed a way to bring the native, wild, borrowed landscape in and create intimacy by adding some berms and native plants.”

TLC created several distinct areas, different but interrelated. The dining table is sitting on Colorado buff dimensional flagstone installed in an ashlar pattern; a nearby conversation area, bounded by an L-shaped fire pit whose angles align with those of the home, is built of eight-foot-long porcelain tiles that have an old wood-like texture; a sled pull area is used for exercising; and a separate green is meant for volleyball, badminton, and similar games. Large planters of different sizes “bring joy and playfulness into the design; they also provide a screen between these outdoor activity areas and the master bedroom beyond,” says Stringer. “The lowest planter is for vegetables; the next one is for an herb garden— basil, rosemary, thyme, and all those things. We planted the next three in contrasting colors and heights, using things like Helmond Pillar barberries and chartreuse sedum. In the pots next to the dining room, I wanted something elegant, so we planted canna lilies.”

TLC has worked on this Lafayette property in phases over a decade. Phase one was a bird sanctuary, left, containing many native plants. Around the entryway, above, TLC wanted to create a “sense of arrival, a place to pause, a place of reflection, and a focal point,” Stringer says. The overlapping masses of flowers in contrasting colors include dianthus firewitch, lavendar hidcote, salvia caradonna, moonshine yarrow, goldmound spirea, and geranium rozanne. The Washington hawthorn tree provides berries for birds, and ornamental grasses provide them nesting material.

TLC Gardens

smart and sleek backyard

Smart & Sleek

The owners of this beautiful Lone Tree property had a big wish list for their backyard—and a not-so-big space, says Joseph Nguyen, owner of Dream Makers Landscape. But somehow Dream Makers was able to make it all work; the new space looks grand, and best of all, the whole project is “smart.” Nguyen used limestone slabs from Mexico for statement-making columns, a huge fire pit with a built-in bench, and a hot tub, as well as in three huge fire bowls that line the swimming pool, with Italian porcelain pavers for flooring. A custom carved metal wall, designed by Nguyen, serves as a striking backdrop to the fire bowls, and he surrounded the whole design with Norway spruces and redbuds. “The thing that is most special about this project is that everything can be done at the touch of a button, from igniting the fire bowls, to turning on the TV, to activating music and color-changing lights; the homeowners can plug in ‘party mode’ or ‘relaxation mode.’ ”

Dream Makers Landscape