By Clayton Ditzler
The Landscape Artist Inc., has been providing the Calgary area with residential landscape design and construction services since 1977. When the company was called out to revamp a modest backyard in the city, the result was a functional, easy-to-maintain outdoor space with a striking fireplace as its visual centrepiece.
Starting the project
The Landscape Artist finds clients in a variety of ways, progressing from the tried and true methods of referrals, Yellow Pages listings and home and garden trade shows, to the more modern channels of social media, such as Facebook. Thanks to numerous referrals, the company has a solid base of repeat customers.
The clients on this particular project are the owners of Diamond Fireplace & Stone, a business that has been awarded a local Consumers Choice Award, an accomplishment it shares in common with The Landscape Artist. This project was the catalyst for what has become a great working relationship; the two companies now collaborate regularly on projects that involve outdoor fireplaces, kitchens and other cultured stone features.
The project site was a modest-sized backyard measuring 15 m (49 ft) deep by 13.3 m (43 ft) wide, with little to it beyond a raised deck off the back of the home. The only original elements that remain in the finished project are the fences; the pre-existing deck was in need of repair and did not fit in with the desired renovation concept. With a south exposure and some good borrowed landscape from neighbouring trees, the backyard served as a great blank canvas from which to design.
The client’s main focus for the new backyard was to create spaces to entertain and relax. This included creating space for an outdoor kitchen, outdoor dining area and separate garden room effect for intimate seating around the fireplace. Low maintenance and privacy were also important priorities for these busy homeowners.
Planning and preparation
While The Landscape Artist handled the design of the backyard, Diamond Fireplace & Stone provided the inspiration for the centrepiece of the space, the fireplace. Size was a major consideration—the feature could not be too large, or it would overwhelm the space. As such, care had to be taken to reach a balance in regard to scale. In addition to providing an impressive visual focal point, the fireplace also provides heat for cool evenings spent outdoors, as well as some added privacy.
The resulting landscape design separated the fireplace area from the main patio with a lawn and some shrubs, connecting the two areas together with a short sidewalk. When seated in the fireplace area, it feels enclosed and private.
To achieve the other goals of a larger dining area and privacy, a small landing was incorporated into the design, along with stairs at the door dropping down to the main patio level. Here, trees and shrubs were added to provide the desired privacy. Also by getting people lower down into the garden, the fences have a greater impact for providing privacy. The advantage of this approach is that it creates an abundance of usable space, rather than chopping up the backyard by trying to incorporate a new raised deck.
Priding itself on getting jobs completed as efficiently as possible, The Landscape Artist assigns different crews for each major step of installation, each specializing in a particular aspect of construction and following each other in quick succession. A project co-ordinator oversees the efforts, piecing together a schedule, keeping everyone busy and contending with any weather issues.
On this particular job, the weather was the only real factor that required some scheduling adjustment. Construction fell in the typically rainy and unsettled month of June, pushing the project into July. That said, not including design time, the job took less than six weeks start to finish.