Monday, October 3, 2016

Outdoor Gravel Living Room

My son's new house in Denver came with a fenced in backyard -- long, narrow, not very big, quite private, and in need of landscaping. I've accepted his commission to think of ideas for him to implement.

The seller put in sod, and added nice big stepping stones. There are borders of mulched wood chips all along the fence and at the garage door. The ell between the garage and fence is entirely mulched.

The mulched areas will need some shrubs and I'm working on a list of low-care, easy plants he could put in (I'm working on ideas for trees for shade too).

But my main recommendation right now for the yard is to entirely remove the sod inside the fence and put down pea gravel. It's hard to keep grass nice looking in a climate like Denver without lots of water, fertilizer and weed killer. He has plenty of lawn outside the fence and in front to mow and tend.

The area inside the fence could be converted to a no-care seating area -- an outdoor living room as an extension of his small indoor space. Here are a couple idea pictures of chairs around a fire pit in gravel:

Wood burning fire pits are outlawed in Denver. It would need to be propane fueled.

Not sure where the propane tank would be --
I guess several feet away with a hose buried under the gravel.

Fire pits can be metal, free-standing, portable ones or bricked in for a permanent installation.

The portable ones appear to be wood burning and not usable with propane?
 -- not an option for Denver

The nice stepper stones that lead to his garage can be re-set level in the gravel as they are in the grass now. These photos show an idea of how that would look:

It doesn't have to be an elaborate outdoor room with much furniture. It can just be chairs set randomly in the gravel. They don't have to be centered around a fire pit.

In my own side yard I have made a gravel seating area for a glider and chairs. I don't have a fence surrounding it, but it's the same idea I recommend for his fenced in yard. The key is to soften the gravel area with lots of shrubs at the edges.

A patio table and chairs in the gravel area works nicely too.

Two Adirondack chairs side by side might be all he needs. Nothing fancy, no maintenance, just a place to sit outside.

Or a simple picnic table in the gravel is versatile and makes a great living area, eating space and work bench all in one.

Here's a great step by step tutorial --  these homeowners took up their grass and made a gravel patio area:

The key to implementing this for his yard is putting in a couple trees for shade and enclosure, and adding low-care shrubs in the borders around the fence line so the space is more like a patio garden room and not a gravel parking lot.

The advantages:
  1. No maintenance. No mowing. No lawn care.
  2. A clean, simple look. Unfussy.
  3. Chairs, a table, and a gravel "floor" expands the living area of a small home.
It all depends on what the homeowner wants. If a green lawn inside the fence is the look he'd prefer, we'll work with landscaping that.

But picture stepping outside the kitchen door into a fence-enclosed outdoor living room. Stone steps still lead to the garage, but the grass -- lovely green now, but hard to keep -- is replaced by textured pea gravel. Chairs beckon you to sit a bit. Maybe a table for your beer, and a fire pit for those chilly Denver nights. Can you see it?

Here are some more picture ideas. Lots of ways to do this.

Propane gas only in Denver -- so the design will have to accommodate that.

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