Backyards & Gardens

Outdoor design: Contemporary backyard renovation

Outdoor design: Contemporary backyard renovation

Newly renovated modern backyard Author: Maya Visnyei

Backyards & Gardens

Outdoor design: Contemporary backyard renovation

Contemporary flaming orange steel walls bring crackling energy to this recently renovated yard.

Toronto food stylist Claire Stubbs had to wait three tedious years before she could tackle the backyard of her Roncesvalles Village semi-detached home because her focus was on renovating the interior. So the space – with little more than a 1980s hot tub and a blown-down fence – was left to languish. “Once I was happy with the inside of the house, I contacted Earth Inc. because I knew they could create the modern look I wanted,” says Claire.


Problem: A derelict backyard
Solution: Hire pros to create a modern outdoor entertaining space
Budget breakdown:

  • Design budget:$5,000
  • Hardscaping budget: $68,000 (Includes cedar deck and bench, polished concrete patio, Cor-ten steel walls, limestone stepping stones and pressure-treated pine fencing.)
  • Plant budget: $18,000 (Includes 'Karl Foerster' feather reed grass, European beech, paper-bark maple, Carex and potted herbs
  • Total cost: $91,000 (Includes labour)



The planning process
“January was a great time to hire a landscape design company. Since it’s the off-season, I was the first or second one on their list to get started in the spring,” says Claire. After she gave the team her wish list for a streamlined outdoor entertaining space, they presented her with a dream design kitted out with all the bells and whistles. “We like to present the ideal garden so the client can pick and choose from what is possible,” explains landscape designer Kennedy McRae. Claire loved the team’s contemporary plan – which included a cedar deck and bench, a sunken polished concrete patio and Cor-ten steel walls – but decided to switch out a few of the elements to stay on budget. For example, instead of a water feature, she opted for a larger patch of grass for walking barefoot on hot summer days.


The design decisions
Earth Inc. created a sunken polished concrete patio where Claire could entertain and incorporated her ultimate must-have – Cor-ten steel – into two walls that gave shape to an outdoor room. Cor-ten steel is a coveted material, especially in contemporary gardens, says Kennedy. Its natural burnt orange patina, which develops over time when it’s exposed to the weather, dramatically warms up cooler elements. An important consideration: Be sure to seal any surrounding hardscaping, as the steel can drip in the first year of its oxidization process. (“Don’t worry – it’s just the outer layer rusting, which then stabilizes,” says landscape designer Michael McMartin.)


The end result
“I love the steel,” says Claire, adding that she installed the same material on her third-floor deck a year later.


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Backyards & Gardens

Outdoor design: Contemporary backyard renovation