Building Your Backyard in Stages

Creve Coeur Missouri

Beside clients relaying that they’re highly satisfied with a project’s results, the next biggest kudo is having them return for more work as their needs change. This was the case with this St Louis project, seven years after we had designed a patio with water feature for homeowners in suburban Creve Coeur Missouri. They now wanted a larger, better deck, a fireplace, and a small kitchen.

Wish List

  • Remove water feature
  • Refurbish existing balcony deck
  • Construct fireplace
  • Install kitchen
  • Make it all look like it was not added on 7 years later


The Site and its Challenges

The project required both new additions and a redesign as the homeowners found their entertainment needs evolving over the course of seven years.


            Patio. While the lower-level patio built from pavers still functioned well, its central fountain water feature needed something to be the gathering area anchor. The shared decision was to remove it, giving way to a larger entertainment space, and tie into the balcony better, one that would function with a new improved outdoor deck a few steps higher.

            New deck. The existing deck was aging, built from wood that needed to be painted and fixed periodically. We decided to take it down to its main frame, add on steps in two places–to the back yard and to a the seating area with stone fireplace. We finished it in composite lumber that’s weather resistant. We also added handsome elegant iron railings with a French motif design. The new kitchen is modest in scale, yet sufficiently functional for family needs, consisting of a grill, refrigerator, cooking station with honed stone top and stone veneered facade It stands close to the home’s main exit door.

            Fireplace. For a more impressive feature, a 15 foot-high stone fireplace with mansard style top, mantel, and round ledge was built on the lower patio, making it much more of a focal point in the yard than a smaller fire pit would be. But the most clever feature of this design is its built-in fire box on its back side, not in view, but able to be accessed easily and keep wood dry.

            Landscaping touches. Because the original plantings were carefully selected seven years ago, they’ve thrived and now grown into mature red maple trees and very fluffy hydrangea bushes. There are also many perennials through the growing season. All help screen the site from neighbors.  A large torch gas light was installed for illumination, and flagstone walks connect the different “rooms.”

Building a backyard in stages.  

Not all landscaping needs to be done at one time, or even planned for, since homeowners may not know how they’ll use their property and even when hardscape and amenities are added, if they no longer suit your needs no reason to keep them, as was this case here with the water feature. With any change in level between spaces, it’s important to limit it to two or three steps, since otherwise people in the two areas won’t easily mingle. We followed that mantra here with a short run in each case.