From Lawn-Covered Landscape to Charming Low-Maintenance Backyard in Austin

Posted on August 10, 2022


Stacey and Sean Matthew enjoying their new backyard landscape, where a new concrete planter doubles as a seatback for a rustic modern bench.

Stacey and Sean Matthew enjoying their new backyard landscape, where a new concrete planter doubles as a seatback for a rustic modern bench.

THE CHALLENGES

Stacey and Sean Matthew, a pair of young Austin homeowners, sum up the challenge of their backyard in three words: “Too much grass.” 

For all its charm and beauty, Austin gets quite hot and dry—no kind of climate for the blanket of turfgrass spreading fence to fence across their backyard. “It was disheartening to use the amount of water required to keep the grass alive in such a hot climate,” Sean Matthew shared. 

Water wasn’t the only drawback. “We would mow the lawn for over an hour each week, then be too tired to enjoy the outdoors,” he added.

Their expansive lawn was also a missed opportunity. Beyond a crowded covered patio and a lonely fire pit floating in the lawn, their yard lacked outdoor living amenities, despite plenty of available space.  

Looking to save water, reduce maintenance, remove lawn, and get more from their yard, the couple turned to Yardzen for help.  


Yardzen’s new backyard design adds a series of functional spaces, arranged to flow seamlessly into each other.

THE VISION

Stacey and Sean Matthew already had the bones of their design in mind. A pool was a top priority (as we said, Austin gets hot). So was a modern prefab shed to keep their lawn mower, pool equipment, and other knick-knacks out of sight but within reach.

A patch of grass would remain for their two dogs to enjoy, but overall they would slash their lawn, replacing it with gathering spaces and drought tolerant planting. “Our goal was to take the hour and a half of lawn mowing down to 20 minutes and use the other 70 minutes to jump in the pool,” Sean Matthew explained.

All told, the couple envisioned what Sean Matthew described as “an oasis, an extension of our living space where we could enjoy time with our friends and family.”

THE DESIGN

From their vision, Yardzen developed a design that nailed both the look and function Stacey and Sean Matthew had hoped for.

A pool occupies one side of the yard, framed by a drought tolerant array of succulents, grasses and silvery desert shrubs. The downsized lawn stretches along the other side, separated from the pool by a comfortable stretch of concrete pool deck. The new storage shed anchors the rear of the yard, artfully obscured by an oak tree tucked along its front. 

In a break from the client’s vision, the design sites the fire pit zone just off the pool deck, encouraging its use by keeping it close to the action. This location also capitalizes on an adjacent understory tree, which lends a shaggy softness that balances nicely with the crunchy gravel groundcover. 

To tie things together, Yardzen added a small but crucial concrete planter to the center of the yard, which sits like the hub of a wheel with spaces extending from it in all directions. The planter itself has a patina of warm neutral coloring, which beautifully complements two adjacent wood benches, arranged in an L-formation.

On the whole, spaces flow seamlessly into each other, offering easy circulation and an open, interconnected feeling throughout the yard.


A cluster of grasses and a canopy tree draw attention from the storage shed. So does the pool, whose simple, clean design suits the clients’ modern style.

A cluster of grasses and a canopy tree draw attention from the storage shed. So does the pool, whose simple, clean design suits the clients’ modern style.

THE INSTALLATION

Stacey and Sean Matthew took advantage of Yardzen’s Pro Matching service to quickly connect with a contractor to install their design. 

Working with their contractor, they made a few final adjustments before breaking ground, adding in lighting, adjusting some stone paths, and plugging in a few more drought tolerant and Texas native species (the more natives, the merrier!).  

In lieu of a separate wood cooking deck, they opted to extend their concrete pool deck space along the back of the house, strengthening the connection between cooking and poolside lounge areas. These minor alterations notwithstanding, “the spirit of the design stayed right in alignment,” said Sean Matthew.

Thanks to their pool builder coming in under budget, they were also able to extend both their pool and the surrounding concrete patio. 


The new concrete planter creates a cozy nook for intimate conversation, yet its modest scale allows enough space around it to maintain an open, interconnected feel in the yard.

The new concrete planter creates a cozy nook for intimate conversation, yet its modest scale allows enough space around it to maintain an open, interconnected feel in the yard.

THE NEW YARD

With installation now complete, Stacey and Sean Matthew are thrilled with their new yard. “We love the lush feeling of the yard and how peaceful it feels with the bubbling water of the pool,” Sean Matthew says. 


Orange patina on the pool coping and built-in planter cue off the auburn fencing, not to mention the warm neutral tones that dominate the regional landscape.

Orange patina on the pool coping and built-in planter cue off the auburn fencing, not to mention the warm neutral tones that dominate the regional landscape.


Lush indeed: drifts of tall grasses sway along the back of the pool, contrasting nicely with the structural form of Agaves and cactuses. As Sean Matthew puts it, where the old yard was “a place to mow,” their new yard is “a place to host, relax, read, be.” 

“We actually have a reason to be in the yard now,” he explains. If that isn’t testimony to the value of landscape design, we don’t know what is.


Crunchy gravel, comfy chairs, and an understory tree make for a cozy, rustic fire pit area. The zone adds value by offering a distinct experience from other gathering spaces in the yard.

Crunchy gravel, comfy chairs, and an understory tree make for a cozy, rustic fire pit area. The zone adds value by offering a distinct experience from other gathering spaces in the yard.


DESIGNING YOUR LOW-MAINTENANCE BACKYARD FOR OUTDOOR LIVING

Yardzen’s award-winning online landscaping design is tailored to clients in all fifty states in the U.S. Our design process begins with understanding your space, your design ideas and aesthetic preferences, and a discussion of your budget and vision to minimize surprises when it comes time to build. 

Our top-notch designers then develop a personalized vision for your yard, shared through 3D renderings, 2D plan drawings, and plant and material lists. Your design will capture the look, feel, and function you are hoping for, all while keeping costs within range. 

Once your design is complete, we’ll help you connect with a local contractor from our Pro Network of vetted professional landscapers to install your new design (if you don’t plan to diy).

Ready to level up your curb appeal or backyard landscaping with a professional design and remodel that brings your vision to life? Create your design profile or explore our design packages today!

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