ivysmomOctober 25, 2010

We recently bought an urban-plot house on a piece of land that's 50' x 100'. The house is about 25'x50' and is offcenter left, near the front of the property, so we have a long stretch of uninterrupted lawn to the right of the house (house faces north) and then a section of front yard that's about 15' deep, plus the back yard which is a mostly uninterrupted rectangle probably 30' deep or so. There is one tree on the property -- a tall bald cypress in the northeat corner. Otherwise it was grass and weeds when we bought it.

In the back yard, we built a 7 x 8' storage shed, because there's not much storage in the house, and this being Houston, the attic space is not somewhere you want to spend much time or put many things.

I've got a good idea of how I want the front yard set up, and have that pretty much where I want it. It's the side yard and back yard that are still pretty much blank slates.

Most LIKELY we will build/add a garage/carport with a deck on top (to eventually add a second story to the house) off to the side, which will take up most of the side yard, so I'm not going to put flower beds there -- maybe one of the two crape myrtles I bought, near the front of the driveway by the fence.. they are still potted, so we'll see.

That leaves the back yard wide open.

Elements I would LIKE to incorporate include a patio, an area with a fountain/pond/waterfall (corner of the property), a pergola for some coverage -- part of the yard is shaded by a tree in the back neighbor's yard and a banana plant to the east, but otherwise the yard is bare to the sun most of the day. I also want some raised flowerbeds (using those concrete paver kind of things) where I can swap out various-seasoned annuals or die-backs like tulips and daffodils.

In the ground NOW are a Meyer lemon (with pavers around it near the fence in the back yard) a satsuma (with pavers around it near the back corner of the house), a limequat (near the shed, with pavers) and two hydrangeas (no pavers, far back southwest corner). In pots (ie: moveable) are two small crape myrtles, a good-sized 4-trunk pygmy date palm and a 2year-old japanese maple. Everything in the pots is movable, but they've stayed put since being put there in August... to get an idea of where the ideal spot for them to grow in the ground would be.

So... ideas? Below are links to some photos I took of the yard. If anyone wants to browser, the directory is (files ending in "25" are 25% the size of the original file -- for faster loading).

The area where a driveway/garage would go is kinda lumpy/uneven under the turf, but the back yard is relatively even.

View of southwest corner, back against the house. Maybe a pergola to the right of the shed? You can see the hydrangeas in the ground to the right, and the planted limequat at the far left corner.

View of the long side yard (likely where a garage will be built):

View from sw corner up through the driveway to front of property. Shows back of the house, along with the Meyer lemon (left) and satsuma (right):

Another view from the SW corner, showing more of the back yard, including the shed:

View from SW corner, showing shed, along with the limequat and edges of the palm and maple:

I'm going to fiddle around some with Sketchup to make some mock structural models for superimposing on these images, but in the meantime, comments are welcome. I am not opposed at all to reducing the amount of turf in the yard (to make way for flagstone or pathways... or a patio or any other elements mentioned above).

The shed is on a skiff so can be moved, but I think my husband would consider killing me if I asked him to do that :)


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Oh, and that's a bushy weed growing against the back of the house. It is not a keeper :)

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 12:13PM
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Oh, and the "zones" I'm hoping can cohesively fit in the back yard are a relaxation zone (that's the idea with the fountain/waterfall/pond... kinda thinking the area where the palm currently is -- it's the most private part of the yard), a play zone for the kiddo (maybe rubber mulch?) and a gathering zone (thinking about a patio built onto the back of the house... kinda sucks that we won't have doors directly to it, but oh well... maybe the next house) for guests outdoors, a BBQ, etc.

Love to work a gazebo-type structure in somewhere, but I can't figure where there's space for that at a useable scale.

Hopefully I'm not just talking to myself here, LOL!

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 1:48PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

When you make your plan, be sure to measure the eventual location of the garage. It seems to me (though there isn't really a picture of that area), that the back of the garage will be quite close to the side door. [And have you looked into the city's set-back laws?]

A deck atop the garage will certainly increase your usable space, but you may want to think about how private the deck space will be. There may need to be a screen on the north side, to block the view of the deck by people in the buildings across the street.

I think that even if you don't want beds in the side yard now, once you get the garage built, you will want a bit of hardscape there (intersection of the path from the front, the stairs to the deck, the side door). And I think that area will cry out for something green as well -- if only because hardscape will be replacing some of the grass.

A link to your photo directory:

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 3:31PM
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Thanks! Actually the garage I see as being more flush with the back of the house -- starting about where the two windows are to the left of the side door (those are bathroom and kitchen windows, respectively) and running to about where the back full-size windows are (the back bedroom). This would give us about 15' of driveway space as well, which is important, because the gate swings in, and is 11' wide.

I'm not sure what kind of driveway surface I want yet, though I have considered cobble/paver and even a "Hollywood" drive (two strips where the tires go, and grass between). That'll leave the side right by the fence open to planting, and it gets good sun, so something will go there, but I'm not willing to even think about that until the driveway/garage is firmed-up, planwise... or even built.

As for the deck, it'll probably be covered with open or maybe screened sides. I don't much care if the neighbors can look down into it -- it'll be mostly for enjoying elevated views (you can't tell from the ground, but the Houston skyline is 1.5 miles south and the skyscrapers are quite a sight :)

There's no room inside for stairs right now either, so the deck would also provide access to the second floor of the house. I'm inclined to have them run along the BACK of the garage, with the ground-level entrance being closest to the house, and running up towards the fence side of the property. It'd be enclosed and covered, and then under the stairs is where we could build additional storage (in my head I see barn-door type doors that open out towards the back of the property... good place to tuck away lawn equipment and seasonal stuff).

Setbacks here are pretty wide and varied. MOST people with plots this size and shape put a detached garage in the back corner of their property, and frequently an apartment is added on top of it. I considered that for future income purposes, but then decided I'm not too keen on someone else living in the same place we are... so, moved the garage/carport forward and attached it to the house in my head. It leaves the back yard more intact.

I had the utilities come mark the property earlier... I don't think the water folks made their way out, but there are no gas or power lines through the backyard (power is above ground, gas is on the other side of the house) so hopefully that means less hassle when digging for laying a patio or additional structure.

    Bookmark   October 25, 2010 at 3:49PM
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