Bethlehem, PA | Overall 21 Weeks

Shriver Residence

Being a new construction home, this outgoing family was eager to start the journey for their backyard transformation and we were ready to help uncover the true potential for their outdoor living space! The carefully crafted project wish list was detailed yet open to custom-tailored interpretation. Let’s take a look at how we were able to answer many design questions while being able to stay true to the beautiful architecture of the home and the clean, modern farmhouse style…

Designer Comments

To purchase a vacation home or to transform the backyard into their dream outdoor living space was the first question at the beginning of this family’s journey. Chatting through the possibilities, we all hit upon the solution of being “18 seconds to vacation”. What is that? Well, instead of finding the time in the calendar, planning, packing everything needed, making arrangements, fueling up, sitting in the car for hours just to arrive at your second home with a warmer climate and a body of water seems like a lot of wasted time just to turn around and do it all again a few days later, don’t you think? Why not cut the chaos and spend 18 seconds walking from the comfort of the inside of your home to your own outdoor resort?! No need to find someone to water your plants or map out the cheapest gas prices…just open the rear door, breathe in the fresh air and feel the summer warmth in your own personal outdoor living space.

Having made the decision to dedicate the time and energy investing in their own outdoor living space, we began the design process. This brought up a second question for the space, patio, or deck? Starting out as a patio, it was quickly realized that the space needed for the staircase alone would eat up too much square footage, rendering the hardscape less useful. While this option would have been less of an investment, this solution would have sacrificed too much valuable real estate. Discussing the idea of a deck space, we were able to chat about the many benefits of a seamless transition and how it would ultimately save space and become more convenient and comfortable for the family and everyone that visited.

Previously living on the west coast, this family was naturally drawn to the Eichler-style or “California Modern” aesthetic, which could easily be translated into their own 3 season room. The seamless transition deck was installed 1” below the existing door thresholds for easy flow, the composite decking is low maintenance and continues the deep brown flooring color, giving the illusion of the inside blending into the outdoors. The decking is installed with a hidden fastening system so no screws or nails are seen and there is no threat of splinters, stubbed toes, or snagged socks. Keeping with the open layout we installed 2 sides of floor to ceiling screens to allow the eye to float into the distance while allowing the breezes, not the bugs, to filter through to touch upon the senses.

With the houses closer together in this community, added privacy was high on the list, so we created a feature wall for the 3rd side of the structure. Through collaboration, we landed on a material combination of stucco and rustic barnwood which brought the “room” together in a beautiful way that was unique yet complementing to the home. The space was completed with fixed skylights to allow natural light to filter back into the home, dimmable recessed lighting and speakers tailored to fit every mood, a ceiling fan for comfort, and an outdoor-rated television for when it’s just time to chill out and relax.

Knowing that every successful and welcoming outdoor living space needs 3 zones: cooking, dining, and lounging, it was decided that dining and lounging was important to be in the bug-free 3 season room, while cooking could be just outside the storm doors on the patio. Not every outdoor living space needs an ample built-in kitchen so we simply accounted for a dedicated space for the portable propane grill on top of beautiful bluestone slabs. The placing is intentional and the space and money savings were just right.

The next question that was asked in the discovery process was, pavers or stamped concrete? Wanting a linear style patio, we originally started off the design with large rectangular pavers to fit the Modern California vibe, though this option was beautiful, it definitely blew the budget. Shifting focus to stamped concrete, we decided to capture this same look with a natural texture and uniform, straight control joints to keep everything looking clean and streamlined. The patio was created with a beautiful grey color scheme to balance the black and white home and the grey stone veneer at the front.

The patio surrounds the custom gunite swimming pool and spa, which were deliberately made to be the gems of the backyard. The family wanted clean, straight lines to match the uncomplicated look of the home while providing a space for the adults as well as ample space for the kids. The pool’s sunshelf is perfectly sized for in-water loungers and an integrated umbrella. This space is great to catch rays while keeping an eye on the little ones. The pool’s staircase also serves more function than egress, the church steps span the width of the pool, acting as extra seating in any depth of water of your choosing.

Adjacent to the swimming pool is a custom and very unique backyard treasure, the overflow spa! This feature was designed to be the main focal point within the space no matter the time of day or how many people want to enjoy! The constant water overflow paired with the iridescent tile picks up on different light angles during the day, making it as magical as a unicorn at times. The light color of the tile reflects the sunlight, keeping the tile cooler during the hot days of summer. The tile continues into the spa’s water catch basin as well as the tile line of the swimming pool, tying everything together brilliantly.

Moving along to the garage area, the original idea was to install a more modest single-bay prefabricated garage to match the home so we wouldn’t have to relocate the existing underground propane tank. However, through the discovery process, this unit “grew up” and transformed into the coolest garage on the block! After working with the gas company to relocate the underground tank, the garage was custom designed to house vehicles and have ample space to store pool toys, floats, and chemicals. As soon as the homeowner said it would be cool to have the garage be described as “Black Ops”, we were totally on board! We created a board and batten exterior to match the home but painted the structure as black as midnight itself. The trim and accents on the garage are white to complement and the copper light fixtures harmonize with the fixtures on the home. This garage seems to say, “expect the unexpected” without saying a word at all!

Lastly, with 3 happy and energetic kids and an equally spirited furry family member, it was evident that we needed to balance the hardscaped surfaces with green space for everyone to have room to run. The family installed a fun playset at the corner of the property, facing in toward the completed outdoor living space. Boulders were strategically placed to act as retention for the changing grade but look natural and beautiful within the landscape.  The low-maintenance plantings were placed to provide more privacy to the space and give movement to the environment. We planted a fine combination of evergreen, deciduous, and perennials to provide a variety of texture and color throughout the year. Feature and landscape lighting was installed to illuminate the taller plantings and the new structures, as well as exude ambiance and a warm welcoming feeling to the space.

Ultimately, we were able to partner with this amazing family to accomplish a beautiful space for maximum use and comfort without wasted space or unnecessary and wasted spending. Every feature in this outdoor living space is used to its fullest and enjoyed by everyone, every day, even Pheobe the dog!

Client Wish List

  • California style extension with bug protection, AV package, recessed lighting and ceiling fan
  • Feature wall for added privacy and interest
  • Patio with ample room for fire pit and seating
  • In-ground swimming pool with sun shelf, loungers and umbrellas
  • Adjacent spa to become a beautiful focal point
  • Low maintenance fence
  • Boulders for functionality and natural beauty
  • Perennial and evergreen landscaping for added privacy
  • Landscape and feature lighting for evening ambiance
  • Custom garage for vehicles and extra storage

"I’d describe our backyard now as a place that we can come together as a family"