Hill Country Backyard Renovation


Homecoming

For Sarah and her family, Austin was a happy inevitability. “We spent our twenties in New York, and loved it, but once we had our kids, we knew the clock was ticking.” 

Wanting more space, and craving the Texas landscape of her childhood, Sarah’s family made the call to move back to Austin. “This is our forever home. We’re here to plant roots,” she explained.


Designing for the Future

The interior of their new house was ready to go, but their yard and home’s exterior (Yardzen’s exterior design packages) needed help. With two young kids running around, Sarah was looking to move fast. She turned to Yardzen to reimagine her outdoor spaces. 

“We needed a yard with plenty of space for the boys to play, and that would meet their needs as they grew up.” With friends of their own in the city, they also wanted space to entertain.

A love of the outdoors was another huge motivation. “We wanted a design that would let us live outside,” she said. “We also love hiking and backpacking, and wanted our home to foster that same strong bond with nature in our boys.” 

The yard itself was dead flat, and would benefit from a little variety in elevation. At the same time, they wanted to keep things wide open. “We love the simplicity of modern designs,” Sarah said. Each space needed to flow into the next, but they wanted to make sure the yard still looked good and met a variety of functional needs.

And, for the exterior, she tapped Yardzen’s team to add some drama to the renovated, 1950s ranch style home. The team chose a charcoal paint with black trim, as well as expansive windows and sliding doors to the backyard to help facilitate indoor-outdoor living.


The Deck Does it All

The resulting design focused on the essentials, prioritizing multi-functionality, open circulation, and an embrace of the regional landscape. 

The most crucial move: a large, multi-functional deck, built with TimberTech’s recently released French White Oak, which pairs beautifully with the newly refinished floors in the home’s interior. “We knew we wanted a big deck, but we were worried about wood. The kids may get splinters, and we know that wood gets beat up quickly in the Texas climate,” said Sarah. 

Sustainability was also a concern. With incredible durability, splinter-free construction, zero required maintenance, and a thoroughly sustainable pedigree, TImberTech addressed all of their concerns. “We’re super happy with the TimberTech decking. It looks amazing, the kids can’t destroy it, and we can feel good about its environmental impact,” said Sarah. 

The deck itself is a large platform, two steps above the lower yard. Its simplicity unlocks a wealth of functionality. Prefabricated furniture defines distinct zones for dining and lounging while making it easy to reconfigure the layout to accommodate different uses. “We can host pretty much any event we want to on this deck,” said Sarah.

With the goal of linking the home to the landscape, Yardzen designed the deck to be a transitional zone, a gradient bridging indoor and outdoor spaces that offered the best of both worlds. 

Clear edges and a broad stair create a seamless, flowing bond to the lower yard. The elevated height lends topographical interest, while granting access to views of the surrounding hill country landscape.

Being such a large element, the deck needed to feel lightweight, and to avoid dark colors to minimize heat absorption. Yardzen opted for TimberTech’s French White Oak color, a subtle, natural hue that struck a perfect balance between softness and ruggedness. “We love the contrast between our dark house and the deck, and how well the deck sits within the pale tones of the rest of the design. It feels very Austin,” said Sarah.

Wide Open Spaces

The gradient concept and open boundaries established by the deck echo across the lower yard. 

The solid deck gives way to a concrete patio interlaced with rock seams, maintaining the modern aesthetic while moving things in a more rustic direction. This transition proceeds as the patio emerges onto a turf play lawn.

Throughout the yard, spaces are implied through material and furnishing choices, but all edges remain wide open, allowing for free-flowing circulation in every direction – a perfect arrangement for little ones with energy to burn. “The kids own the entire yard. It’s wonderful to see them take advantage of every square inch of the space,” says Sarah.


Simple but Stylish

While the design emphasizes essentials, it doesn’t sacrifice style. As lovers of the modern Bohemian aesthetic, it was crucial to Sarah that her design felt cozy and inviting, but also stylish. “We wanted it to look styled, but liveable,” she said. 

She loved the details Yardzen included, from outdoor rugs to help define zones within the deck, to charcoal throw pillows that hid dirt and stood up well to life outside.

Planting for Sustainability

“Since we were going to be overhauling the yard, we wanted to use the opportunity to teach our kids about respecting the environment,” Sarah said. 

Tasked with foregrounding sustainability in their planting design, Yardzen incorporated native grasses, including bird-favorite little bluestem, and the Texas state grass, Bouteloua curtipendula. Several species of low-water, climate-adapted Agaves punctuate the grasses. “We love the sculptural look of Agaves, and how they stand still next to the grasses blowing in the breeze,” said Sarah. 

Dominating the planting design is a stunning Desert Museum Palo Verde, whose pale green branches, yellow blooms, and imperviousness to heat and drought make it a no-brainer specimen tree. It also happens to be popular with birds and bees. 

The overall plant palette sticks to pale blues and silvery greens, a dusty-hued aesthetic that perfectly complements the sun-bleached elegance of the French White Oak decking and the cool grays of the concrete and gravel patio.


Soak it In

Gravel gaps in the lower patio, coupled with plenty of planting area and permeable artificial turf, collectively offer substantial drainage throughout the yard. “Rainstorms in Texas are pretty intense, so having plenty of space for water to soak back into the ground was a high priority,” said Sarah. By capturing stormwater onsite, the design helps to reduce flooding, preventing pollutants from entering local waterways while recharging groundwater supplies. 

Roots Planted

With their new yard in place, Sarah and her family are happily established in their new Texas home. “We’re out on the deck all the time, enjoying the yard and the landscape,” she said. It feels good to be home.

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