Before and After: A Muddy Lawn Gets a Full Redo with Room for Gardening, Dining, and More

published May 13, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
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Outdoor Spaces
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Rental Friendly
Planter boxes in backyard before landscaping renovation.
Credit: Edith and Bobby Forch

If you’re planning to stay in your home for the long haul, you can expect that you’ll have to make some changes over the years. You might need to make adjustments to adapt to a changing lifestyle, like converting a bedroom to an office, making a more open dining room, or creating a bigger bathroom. Other times, you might just need to make an update to spaces that naturally see wear and tear as they’re used over the years.

In the case of this backyard redo at homeowner Edith Forch’s house, it was a little bit of both. She and her husband Bobby bought this 1926 bungalow 35 years ago, and the backyard didn’t change much in that time. “The problem with our backyard was that it just wasn’t well thought out,” Edith says. “It lacked a cohesive and functional design — and was mostly a large grass yard with some planters on one side of the yard.”

Credit: Edith and Bobby Forch

Edith and Bobby love to spend time outside, but their surroundings weren’t quite in line with their style. Plus, there were some things that needed to be fixed after decades of use, like the falling-down fence. The couple had previously tried to make over the yard on their own with new flowers arranged in a relaxed cottage-y style, but ultimately just created more work for themselves. “We’re in the middle part of our lives, where you have a lot of activities, and the garden as it was required a lot of upkeep,” Edith says. “Spring would come and the garden would explode. And then a few months later, the plants and the flowers would be wilted, mushy or laid over.” After that, she says, they’d go to the store, buy another plant, and repeat.

To break the cycle, Edith and Bobby called in pros (they used Yardzen) to give their yard a full-scale makeover. A local contractor removed all their plants, stripping the landscape down to dirt. From there, they rebuilt the old falling-down fence to give the yard a sturdy barrier. 

“We needed a bit more privacy in the backyard and side yard, so we ended up going with a privacy fence, which was a first for us,” Edith says. Instead of traditional lattice, they went for a custom design with a modern spin. “The lateral boards make things look more linear, which we really loved.”

After the fence was done, contractors then leveled the yard and helped create a more functional drainage system (something that the previously muddy yard had lacked).

From there, it was all about style. The lawn was downsized so that grass makes up just a small part of the yard now. Most of the space is now devoted to a lounge area, created with pavers and gravel. That gives Edith and Bobby additional space to hang out in their yard aside from the already-existing pergola. The redesigned yard also gives the couple plenty of pathways through the space, which they lined with plantings to make it “more of an experience as you walk through the space,” Edith says. “It’s not a big space, but it’s so well-designed that it feels expansive. We didn’t add trees to the middle of the yard, which allows for a lot of sun in the middle of the yard — something we need here in Seattle!”

The new design still features raised garden beds for Edith’s vegetable garden, too.

The new yard was a much larger upfront cost than their old DIY efforts, but it’s much less work to maintain. And now, Edith and Bobby can spend more time enjoying that space, sitting outside for meals, coffee, or work. The new design has an additional benefit for veggie gardener Edith, too: “I use my raised beds year round,” she says. “I’ll go out and get leeks or onions or herbs — anything I’m cooking with. And everytime that I go out there — doesn’t matter if it’s raining or hailing — I can always step on something that doesn’t make my shoes dirty!”

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