I feel like I’m on HGTV.  Open your eyes and see your BRAND NEW BACKYARD!  Hurrah!


Oh.  Our backyard.  It has been quite the journey. 


You see, when we were house hunting, one of our Top 5 “wants” was a really nice backyard.  Mostly, I wanted the backyard for James.  Sounds crazy to buy a backyard for a dog, but James has lived in apartments his entire life but loves to be outdoors.  Since I was 22, I have promised James a backyard.  Unfortunately, the house we ended up buying did not have the nicest of backyards (but it did have everything else, which is why we bought it!).  After closing, we vowed to renovate the backyard as soon as possible – not just for James, but for BabyHTP (the future Henry), too.


So pregnant. So uncomfortable.


But a week after we closed, our HVAC system went kaput. $5,000 later, we were out of backyard renovation money and decided to try to fix it up ourselves instead of hiring a professional (yes, I was 8 months pregnant at the time – I think I was temporarily insane).


Here’s what we started with…


The deck, at closing:


Back left corner, at closing:


Back right corner, at closing:


The first problem was that the fencing situation provided zero privacy (and little security for our dogs – James is named James Bond for a reason).  Furthermore, the elevation of the deck meant that we could see right into our neighbor’s yard. There were over 100 rocks randomly scattered about and over 40 useless brushes and trees.  There was no grass, but a few months later, we discovered there was a lot of groundcover lurking under those leaves.  Once there was a little groundcover, James liked the yard a bit more. Winking smile


The backyard was, quite frankly, a mess, and we never ventured off the crickety old deck to hang out in the yard. 


We hired someone to put up a privacy fence, which helped a bit with, well, privacy.  But to finish the rest of the yard… we were out of funds.  So we tried to DIY it.  Our first attempt at doing the yard ourselves involved moving all the rocks, raking up all the loose debris, pulling up all the plants, cutting down about eight trees, and putting down seed.


Seriously… temporarily insane.


The grass sprouted, and we had a glimpse of what our yard COULD look like… And then, two weeks later, we were hit by a 100+ degree hot spell, and everything died.


Fast forward eight months or so… We decided to call in the professionals.  After attempting to fix the yard ourselves (for less than $250!) and staring at a wasteland for over a year, we knew we needed professional help.  Our bullet list of “help me, please!” items were:


  • Redo the top of the deck and extend it to make it more usable and functional.
  • Tear up groundcover and lay down sod (not seeds!).
  • Remove about 25 – 30 trees and shrubs.
  • Create privacy.


By the time our landscaper arrived, the backyard looked liked this:


The deck, one year after purchase:



View of the ‘yard,’ one year after purchase:



I cannot sing the praises of our landscape designer enough (I was not compensated for this mention; I really loved him and want to tell EVERYONE about him).  His name is Joe, and his company is called Artistic Hardscapes.  He was friendly, professional, and able to work within our (tight) budget.  He listened to our concerns and come up with creative solutions that we never thought of. 


Here are the fun ‘after’ pictures!





Our new deck is AMAZING.  So beautiful and functional.  We can walk right off the back into the yard.  It’s much more child- and dog-friendly.  To save money, we kept the deck’s foundation (which was sound), extended the foundation over the slope, and replaced all the top boards and railings. The deck will be stained in about a month.


Whenever people come over, we spend lots of time outside now!


I was sent this bottle of Eppa, an organic red sangria, to try out.  Oh my goodness – so delicious.  I have never had premade sangria that was this good.  If you see it in stores – GRAB IT!  The perfect summer drink.  The bottle went fast last week.


As for privacy, Joe created four huge planters that hang along the railings and contain creeping vines.  As they grow, they will come together and create a lush privacy screen that will be green year-round.  Cool, huh? So much nicer than lattice work.


He left two of the planters on the end of the deck empty – I’m going to plant herbs.  One of these days…


All in all – we are so pleased with our backyard.  We love it, the dogs love it, and Henry adores having grass to play in.  Artistic Hardscapes did a great job; if you live in Charlotte and need a backyard reno, please consider them!


Cheers to lots and lots of outdoor time this spring and summer!




  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs April 4, 2013, 2:45 pm

    Oh my goodness, he is a miracle worker! 🙂

    Seriously, what a great backyard you have now — perfect for parties!

  • Sarah @ Yogi in Action April 4, 2013, 2:46 pm

    Those are amazing before and after pictures! The after pictures truly are beautiful.

  • colleen April 4, 2013, 2:51 pm

    amazing transformation! a great outdoor space to enjoy.

  • Kristen @ Hoosier Hospitality April 4, 2013, 2:53 pm

    It looks great! Seriously, you guys should be really proud of yourselves. Now I feel like I should be doing something similar to mine. Hrmm…

  • Cindy April 4, 2013, 2:54 pm

    Your yard looks amazing! 🙂

  • Anne April 4, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Looks wonderful! When we purchased our home last fall, our goal was also to have a yard for the dog. She sounds similar to your James. She’s a corgi/shepherd mix who loves to escape. Thank goodness our house came with a small yard that is fully fenced with a privacy fence.

  • Nicole April 4, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Jealous of your beautiful carpet of grass! We’re hoping (if funds allow) to redo our backyard this year. When it rains or snows, it becomes a swamp out there, which is not fun for us or our big goofy golden Geordi. The fix is a pricey installation of a french drain, plus we want everything resodded because the grass is crap to begin with (thank you previous owners).

  • Jacquelyn @justjacq April 4, 2013, 3:01 pm

    omg that picture of you is insane!! too much to handle! Love the deck, they did a great job. My dad owns a remodeling company and my parents recently did a back deck overhaul. One way they extended the deck and gave separate outdoor space was by adding a ground level patio off of the deck. it looks great and is excellent for parties for when people split into different groups!

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats April 4, 2013, 3:07 pm

    It looks beautiful! That’s great that you have a deck and a big table out there now, I used to love when we’d have our family dinners outside on a regular week night during the summer, it made it so much more special!

  • Elisabeth April 4, 2013, 3:13 pm

    Wow! I love the way the deck just opens onto the yard!

  • heather April 4, 2013, 3:14 pm

    *squee*! That is GORGEOUS. LOVE love love the way the deck connects

  • Sarah April 4, 2013, 3:17 pm

    Would you be willing to share how much this cost you? My backyard is a mess (house was a foreclosure, so it was neglected and needs a lot of love) and I’d love to have an idea how much I need to save up.

    • Caitlin April 4, 2013, 3:23 pm

      Sure! It was $6000. But that also included a submerged bamboo blocker because our neighbor planted bamboo that creeps into our yard.

      • Laura April 4, 2013, 8:03 pm

        What is a bamboo blocker? And thanks for sharing the price-I was curious too as our yard needs some help!

  • jen @nutcaseinpoint April 4, 2013, 3:20 pm

    EXCELLENT job with the backyard!!!!

  • Angela April 4, 2013, 3:22 pm

    Looks so great! I too would be out there all the time!

  • Breanne April 4, 2013, 3:34 pm

    Oh wow – it looks amazing Caitlin!!! So glad for you!

  • Emily April 4, 2013, 3:34 pm

    Our dogs are more like Maggie and want to be around the action – and admittedly food – of us nomads. The only time they are excited to go out there is feeding time. Oh wells 🙂

  • Katie April 4, 2013, 3:35 pm

    I lurve it. I love the big, open deck- so many possibilities for parties and fun baby stuff!

  • Ja @Ja on the RUN April 4, 2013, 3:35 pm

    I love love love your backyard!

  • linda April 4, 2013, 3:37 pm

    Beautiful. You will have so much fun spending time outdoors for years to come. Congrats!

  • rachel April 4, 2013, 3:40 pm

    GOEGEOUS deck! i love it!

    and that face Henry is making? lol too cute

  • Rebecca April 4, 2013, 3:42 pm

    I like that the deck goes right onto the yard! We didn’t do that with ours–we have a couple of steps. But it works. So great that you have a functional fun outdoor space!
    My dad tries DIY projects and then ends up making my mom frustrated and they end up calling in professionals. I think they’ve decided that for most things they should just call the pros right away and save themselves the frustration… Hah.

  • Sonia the Mexigarian April 4, 2013, 3:51 pm

    wow, I wish they were here in the Bay area. Our backyard needs a serious relandscaping.

  • Elizabeth @ Southern Color April 4, 2013, 3:57 pm

    Great transformation! And perfect timing for Spring! I’m sure y’all will be enjoying lots of fun dinners on that patio 🙂

  • Caitlin April 4, 2013, 4:04 pm

    WHOA!!! Looks amazing!! Is James in love with the new yard?? Does Maggie dog care or notice?

    • Caitlin April 4, 2013, 4:15 pm

      No. Lol

  • Amanda April 4, 2013, 4:06 pm

    OMG. Henry’s face at the end is fantastic.

  • Reenie April 4, 2013, 4:08 pm

    WOW!! What a transformation! Love how Henry, James and Maggie can get up and down easily. I looks wonderful…. and at a great price. 🙂

  • Anna @ Tough Lipstick April 4, 2013, 4:08 pm

    Wow – what a huge transformation! Living in NYC, I never get to enjoy the comfort of backyard lounging. Seriously jealous – live it up!

  • Julie April 4, 2013, 4:09 pm

    Oh Caitlin, it looks just fabulous! You must be SOOO pleased! 🙂

  • Ally's Sweet & Savory Eats April 4, 2013, 4:13 pm

    I love how you extended the deck over the gulley/slope in your yard!

  • Nadine April 4, 2013, 4:28 pm

    Lookin’ Good!!!

  • Jen Clark April 4, 2013, 4:40 pm

    Awesome transformation! I love the wine you talked about it is delicious!

  • Sara April 4, 2013, 4:50 pm

    Wow! that looks so good, I am so jealousssss… I live in an apartment now, and we are thinking about buying a house soonish and this makes me want to do it! I want to be able to have friends on my porch like that with organic wine. 🙂

  • KSW April 4, 2013, 5:00 pm

    Looks so nice!!

    We redid our backyard last summer and got new sod as well. Don’t forget to water, water, water……like every single day. If you don’t it will all die.
    We were so happy when it finally “took” and we didn’t need to water it everday, only when it was hot and hadn’t rained in days.


  • Megan April 4, 2013, 5:21 pm

    Wow. It looks amazing. What a transformation!

  • Courtney April 4, 2013, 5:48 pm

    Fantastic transformation! And I LOVE the last pic of Henry with his tongue sticking out!

  • Kath April 4, 2013, 5:54 pm


  • Katie @ peacebeme April 4, 2013, 6:00 pm

    Looks gorgeous!

  • Joy April 4, 2013, 6:28 pm

    Wow. That is such a great transformation. I’m so glad you finally got the yard you’ve wanted.

  • Kristina @Run and Assimilate April 4, 2013, 6:30 pm

    I love the planters on the deck!!

  • Stephanie @ Steph's Miles April 4, 2013, 6:35 pm

    So beautiful! It looks like you have my dream house in Charlotte! Enjoy your new backyard!

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat April 4, 2013, 6:37 pm

    Oh wow, how gorgeous!! Great job Caitlin! It looks like you’re going to have the perfect spot for hanging out this summer. I love entertaining and having friends over for drinks and dinner, so in a perfect world, I’d have a beautiful deck just like yours with plenty of green space around it. You must be so relieved that it’s finally done…. and now, you can put your feet up and enjoy a glass of wine!

  • Nina April 4, 2013, 6:52 pm

    Beautiful! What herbs will you plant?

  • Emma @ a mom runs this town April 4, 2013, 7:24 pm

    When are you coming to my house?! We are in desperate need of HGTV/you!

    PS- I’m having a giveaway at my blog until next Friday!

  • Lindsay April 4, 2013, 7:44 pm

    The deck looks great! As does the rest of the landscaping. Enjoy!

  • Elizabeth @ Positive Change April 4, 2013, 7:56 pm

    What an awesome renovation! Your backyard will totally be ‘the spot’ this summer!

  • BroccoliHut April 4, 2013, 8:05 pm

    Looks great!! I don’t think it’s all that crazy to buy a backyard for a dog. In fact, when we were house hunting for our current house, I told the real estate agent that I wanted a fenced backyard for my dog Margot. She had lived in an apartment her whole life (and she’s a Jack Russell Terrier), so she NEEDED space to run, badly!

  • Devon April 4, 2013, 8:08 pm

    Gorgeous! We are house hunting, and outdoor space is super high on our list. Where did you find your deck furniture? West elm?

    • Caitlin April 4, 2013, 9:21 pm

      World Market

  • Anna {Herbivore Triathlete} April 4, 2013, 8:23 pm

    That looks like an amazing backyard! I am totally jealous, I want a deck and grass, lol.

  • Miranda @ Miranda Runs April 4, 2013, 8:40 pm

    Gorgeous yard now! I love it. PS- I love your deck set!

  • Amy Q April 4, 2013, 9:08 pm

    Looks so amazing. What a place to spend the summer.

  • Amber K April 4, 2013, 9:16 pm

    Wow, it looks beautiful! I really want a yard so my nieces and nephews have a safe place to get all of their rambunctious energy out!

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More April 4, 2013, 10:56 pm

    Your backyard looks beautiful! Enjoy every spring-y and summer-y day out there!

  • Maria April 5, 2013, 3:25 am

    Fantastic job. I love that you worked with your money constraints and tried DIY first. That way you can really appreciate what the professionals can do and not have that niggling “why didn’t we do it ourselves” feeling. You must be so proud of your choices, it looks so comfortable and nice.

    I’m in a city with snow still on the ground. Sigh. Those glasses of sangria….. Well, my time will come!!!

  • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed April 5, 2013, 8:16 am

    Congrats, it looks amazing! I almost can’t believe it. Landscaping is no joke, it makes such a difference. I definitely want a nice big yard when we look for a new house. We’ll need space for the puppy (puppies when we get a bigger house???) and future babes to play!

  • ellen April 5, 2013, 11:35 am

    It looks great!!! I wish we lived closer my husband could be your landscaper he does fantastic jobs! Our yard looks like your before pictures right now, because he has ripped the whole thing up but hasn’t had the time to put it together. I love what you guys have done.

  • Alex @ Raw Recovery April 5, 2013, 1:22 pm

    Wow, your backyard looks amazing! I really love the new deck. I think that is really creative and it seems like you don’t have to worry about Henry as much since there isn’t a big drop off or a dozen stairs. Enjoy it!

  • Jelena@ FabLifePhd April 5, 2013, 5:20 pm

    Wow, this really looks pretty. I can’t wait to have a house with a deck. This year I hope to pretty up our rooftop/balcony and spend more time outside

  • Aerevyn Harteis April 6, 2013, 9:32 am

    What a transformation!

    In the before pics, what’s noticeable is how small the yard is. And afterward it feels so multi-functional and useable. It’s like a different yard. Awesome!

  • Jolene (www.everydayfoodie.ca) April 8, 2013, 12:37 am

    Absolutely GORGEOUS yard!!! You guys really have an incredible home!

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