the backyard reveal!

We had a few scheduling delays, but guys – the backyard is DONE. While Avery was down for a nap yesterday Kyle and I grabbed the baby monitor and quickly scurried to sweep the deck, round up the hoses, and shoot a few photos. Twenty minutes after we finished it started pouring and our deck was once again covered in itty bitty little fir cones (aka bane of my existence) from our neighbor’s tree.

Anyway. Let’s take a gander, shall we? [And if you need a sobering reminder of what our yard has been through and what the proposed design was, refresh here.]


Spiraea in front of the planter box, Brass Buttons and Speedwell as the ground cover.


Ahh, real grass (freshly striated from its inaugural mow)! As you can imagine, Bailey is ecstatic. The crew removed all the old grass/weeds with a sod cutter, laid down new compost, leveled it all and then rolled out this beautiful-ness. Having a big grassy area has never been a priority for us, but it is nice to have a little patch for Bailey and Avery.


In the great chair debate, we went with the ones from CB2. So far, so good. (By the way, that’s Creeping Jenny and Hebe in the south planter box.)


Instead of running the grass to the fence line, we decided to soften the edge with some low shrubs and plants (Bishop’s Hat, Evergreen Huckleberry, Lavender, Lenten Roses and a Red Flowering Currant). We kept the older Italian plum tree and transplanted the Katsura.


The evening light made it tricky to photograph the north side yard, but you get the idea – Kyle actually saw cut the existing sidewalk to create a pattern that would compose with the new pavers at the deck steps. (We still need to add a guardrail at the basement stair. Always something, y’know.) We kept the Winter Daphne (the only plant to survive 6+ years at chezerbey) and around it are more Huckleberries, Hydrangeas, a Vine Maple and Inside-Out Flowers as ground cover.


We decided to relocate the edibles to the strip in the middle of the driveway. This gives us 360 degree access and the plants aren’t as permanent in the event that we need to drive a car back there. (I’m so late to the tomato game, but hopefully buying starts that had actual tomatoes on them will work out.) A row of Little Gem Magnolia trees line the new north fence and will eventually create a bit more privacy. Orange Hummingbird Mint and Pt. Reyes Ceanothus help fill in the bottom.


Oh yeah – new fence, did we mention that? We knew at some point we wanted to replace the boards on the existing fence (it was done more recently, so not in too bad of shape but definitely some rotting boards) and figured we should do it now before access became an issue. The hope was to reuse the existing fence posts and footings but a few of the posts were rotting so a new fence it was. Fortunately, we split the project with our neighbors which saved on costs and labor. (Side story: they have chickens and during the construction process Bailey got into their yard while the chickens were out. There’s nothing quite like seeing a goofy and somewhat uncoordinated golden retriever attempt to catch a fleeing bird.)


We’re also happy with the new table from Crate&Barrel. The ipe deck has grayed out quite a bit since we installed it two years ago, but we’re planning on doing a fresh coat of Penofin next month. (Remember when we did the first coat?)


After letting the steel hang out (err…develop a patina) in our driveway for the last two years, Kyle finally got around to welding up the remaining planter boxes.


Along the south fence line is a row of bamboo that will provide privacy and a nice vegetative screen in a year or so.


This. Yes. If you saw my Pinterest spree of summer cocktail recipes a few weeks ago this is why. (We bought outdoor pillows for the Adirondacks from C&B.)


Kyle installed pressure-treated 4x’s at the base of the fence to compensate for the grade change between our yard and our neighbor’s. To hide the ugly PT wood, Kyle installed 1/4″ steel plates with countersunk flush brown-tip stainless steel trim head screws. (If you had any doubt that Kyle was a perfectionist, well…countersunk.flush.brown-tip.stainless steel.trim head.screws.)




Kyle also installed 1/4″x6″ steel edging between the grass and planted areas, welding the seams and corners.


Funny story – the one plant that we were a little unsure of were these somewhat tropical looking guys in the north planter box. Turns out, a minor typo was made to the latin name on the planting list and they were supposed to be California Fuchsias (which look quite different). We’ll probably transplant the existing plants to pots and pick up a few actual Fuchsias.


There are also pavers that connect the deck to the driveway and our trash/recycling/compost station on the north side of the house. We were a little concerned about all the sharp edges with the steel, so Kyle went back and rounded all the corners to make it slightly more kid-friendly (as much as raw steel can be I suppose).


Instead of extending the horizontal cedar boards to the front yard, we collaborated with our neighbors on the design and installation of hog wire panels that are attached to the 4×4 posts and covered in cedar trim boards. The idea is that the hog wire will become the structure for a future double espalier with our neighbors (there are panels on both sides). We’re not sure what we’ll plant just yet, but have been thinking of some type of edible. (Kyle’s vote is for hops.)

Finally, who’s got two teeth and is super excited about the backyard?


This girl.

Once again, a big thank you to Mark Garff at The Watershed Company for an incredible design and to the folks at JP Landscape Services for another quality installation. We love it now but also can’t wait to see what it looks like in a year when everything has had a chance to grow and fill in.

This weekend calls for sun and temps in the 80’s. I know where we’ll be.


36 Responses to “the backyard reveal!”

  1. Jennifer says:

    Wow! This is gorgeous! It has all my favorite yard elements in it. Can’t wait to see it again when the plants grow in a bit : ]

  2. Helena says:

    I really like what you’ve done with back garden. I love the red chairs and the rusty planters.
    Congratulations, your House is looking beautiful!
    Can’t wait to see what you’re going to do next.

  3. Beth says:

    Everything looks amazing! I really love the steel planters and edging. I’m thinking I might have to take some welding classes. Where do you get the materials for those?

  4. Paul says:

    I’m so envious of you guys with all your “Done!” Postings of late. Looks beautiful. I love the steel edging, a very nice touch indeed!

  5. aprillaugh says:

    Beautiful!!! I love the chairs!!!

  6. Love the front fence panels. Where in Seattle do you get “Hog Wire”.

  7. Alison says:

    Oh my gawd, I think you guys just made my dream backyard – it looks amazing! My favorite part is those planters, I love their patina.

  8. Martha says:

    I have to jump on the bandwagon for the steel edging! Everything you do is so well thought out…your attention to detail is inspiring!!

  9. LauraC says:

    I was looking forward to seeing the backyard! It looks amazing (of course)! My favorite parts are the matching planter boxes. I just have a thing for neat and tidy yards. Josh, on the other hand, loves a freer more organic style. πŸ™‚ Also, you made me look up espalier, so I’m smarter now than I was at the beginning of your post. Thank you. πŸ˜‰

  10. Jeff says:

    Looks awesome! What’s you plan with the perofin, will you sand first?

    I have a cedar deck that’s a year old and its weathered a lot too, but not as nice as the ipe. I wish I went that route with all the rain we get here (I am in Bellevue).

    • Kyle Zerbey says:

      Won’t sand the ipe as it’s a mucous membrane irritant. Penofin makes a cleaner and brightener to get rid fo the gunk and dead wood cells. Kind of like exfoliating your deck. For cedar I have seen some new products that are a paint for going over old cedar deck boards. Haven’t heard about how it works though.

  11. CT says:

    Wow. Wow. I love it all — so sophisticated, restful and amazing. Great job guys. Cheers – CT

  12. Jessica says:

    It looks spectacular! The patina that developed on the steel planters is beautiful!

  13. Sarah says:

    So gorgeous! Definitely lit a fire for me in terms of finishing our “always in progress” backyard!
    I do have a question about the deck and Penofin. Did the finish peel at all or is all that just natural grey on the deck? We stained our deck last year and it’s already peeling up so I’m looking for alternatives this time around. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how the Penofin has held up and what you plan to do (if anything) before you put another coat down.
    Great job!!

    • Lauren says:

      The Penofin we used is actually a Brazilian Rosewood Oil so it’s a penetrating product instead of a stain (so no risk of peeling). In our climate we probably should add more Penofin every year, but it’s been 2 years since we did the initial coat. Overall we love the product though. I’m sure we’ll do a full blog post when we redo it, but first we’ll pressure wash the deck and apply a cleaner and brightener (made by Penofin) to to rid of all the built-up gunk. Then the Penofin goes on with a broom.

  14. Kate says:

    Looks awesome guys! I love it all. Especially the steel planters and edging. And your new fence.

    I have a question though, how did you get all your neighbours to agree to having the posts on their side of the fence? or did you do a double sided on the latest fence? It looks different to the older fence, is it slightly overlapping? (hard to tell in the pic) What wood did you use on it?

    Sorry for 20 questions, but we are in desperate need of a new fence and this has just spurred me on to get it done sooner than later!

    • Lauren says:

      Hey Kate, the fence is double sides (our neighbors installed vertical boards to match their other fences). The older fence on the south side is one sided but that house is a rental so a one-sided new fence was a big improvement. πŸ™‚ We used cedar for the fence board and top cap at PT wood for everything else.

  15. Nika says:

    Wow ! Looks great. I am wondering about the Little Gem Magnolias. How big will they grow?

  16. Michel says:

    Looks great guys! Just in time too, in the 90’s next week, whoop!

    Where do you source your metal sheets? I checked onlinemetals, but they’re not cheap (although they cut to size), any other sources?
    Enjoy the sun and yard πŸ™‚

    • Kyle Zerbey says:

      Hi Michel,

      We actually bought ours from someone on craigslist. Rented a u-haul trailer then took them to a local metal shop to have them cut, then hauled them home, not the easiest for logistics, but saved us about half on materials cost. started enjoying the yard last night πŸ™‚

  17. Brittney says:

    Avery is so so so beautiful! I have a 3 month old daughter and all I can think is too bad we can’t sneak our way into a playgroup with Avery! lol Your backyard is beautifully modern, as is the rest of your house. I’ve been following for years and it just gets better and better.

  18. Kate says:

    Love your backyard — it looks seriously gorgeous!

    Just as an fyi, Lenten Rose/Hellebore is toxic to dogs ( (I know this because I (of course) Googled after purchasing some, which my neighbor now enjoys!) Bailey may not be one to get into plants, but I didn’t trust mine. πŸ˜‰

  19. Lauren says:

    Love your blog! Your eye for design is just amazing. Can’t wait to check out more! Also, what a cute baby girl. πŸ™‚

  20. Ahhh, a little late to the backyard game here but…so, SO good! As always. The steel planters are such a great finishing touch and the botanical mix is lovely. And those red-orange dining chairs are super happy. Hope you’re enjoying every last sunshine-y minute.

  21. christine says:

    You did a wonderful job on your backyard and just in time to enjoy the summer. Well Done
    Thanks for sharing

  22. troy. says:

    Beautiful and so very well executed (as always)!

  23. Naomi says:

    the garden looks great, but be sure to take that green tape off your trees otherwise it will choke them and eventually the cambium will grow around the tape, and the trunk will be ‘choked’

  24. ali thompson says:

    oh my word your backyard looks stunning–all the awesome details with the flower pots, the fence…everything. you did a great job.

  25. angsey says:

    Gorgeous — the yard and Avery!
    Is the grass seeded or did you buy rolls of grass and have them laid down? That’s what my parents did 30 years ago and it was fantastic. Instant grass,
    I need to add instant roll out grass to some areas of my yard and would like a recommendation.
    Thanks, Angela

    • Lauren says:

      Thanks Angela, yes – we had new rolls of grass laid down by the landscape installers (I believe it came from Oregon?). Our old lawn was pretty much all weeds, so they cut it out, amended and leveled out the soil and then put the new grass down.

  26. jill says:

    Love your blog! I’m a portland gal, so I’m stealing lots of your ideas! I’ve done a lot of deck restoration and have found Penofin a bit tricky. Sometimes people have problem with the oil base attracting mildew (I did). I really wanted it to work, it’s recommended so highly, but alas I eventually gave up on it. Just too much black mold buildup that made clean up rough. I have an IPE shower floor pan that I’ve never sealed and it looks great after 3 years of use. Good luck!

  27. Lisa says:

    Hi there – I came across this post while looking for ideas for outdoor tables. Are you still happy with your Crate & Barrel table? I love the way it looks and the price has been reduced, but the reviews are terrible. Everyone has complained about the finish getting spots from water and basically anything else that touches the table. Are you having any of those problems? Thanks!

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Lisa, we have been happy with our table so far (we actually just took the cover off, wishful thinking!). I know it got wet off and on throughout last summer but don’t recall being annoyed with spots. But we do live in Seattle so maybe we have different standards when it comes to water. πŸ™‚

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