3 Amazing Backyards & What Makes Them Work
A Formal European Garden
Being a Coloradan means spending ample time outdoors—and we don’t just mean skiing, running, hiking, biking, and attending concerts under the stars at Red Rocks Amphitheater. On top of the numerous outdoor activities available to us at every turn, we also get to enjoy the Centennial State’s gorgeous weather wherever we go—and recover from our athletic endeavors in our own backyards, lounging by the pool or nestled up by the outdoor fireplace to indulge in a few more hours of Colorado air.
Colorado’s bluebird skies, unrelenting sunshine, and truly divine summer evenings translate to an absolute need for accessible outdoor spaces. For many homeowners, the outdoor square footage is just as (if not, more) important than the interior square footage, as they want to entertain their friends and family in the pleasant breezes while burgers sizzle on the grill and children and pets romp in the grass.
Many of us have been to our friends’ and neighbors’ backyards for al fresco dining, family barbecues, or drinks by the pool, and we can all agree that not all outdoor spaces are created equal; some hit the ball out of the park, and others just fall flat.
As its owner or its guest, a truly incredible outdoor space will leave you so content you’ll never want to go back inside. What takes a backyard from ‘meh’ to absolutely outstanding is, of course, the layout and use of the land, but also something a little more nebulous: optimizing the magic of the outdoors.
We took a close look at the outdoor wonderlands of three Colorado homes and then consulted the experts at Lifesape Colorado, one of the state’s leading landscape architecture, construction, and maintenance firms, to uncover what makes them so luxurious.
This traditional backyard in the Denver Country Club is a gardener’s paradise and makes good use of the Colorado sun. A separate pool house—outfitted with a swim spa for aquatic exercise and an indoor-outdoor fireplace for drying off—creates a European courtyard feel, amid the foliage and terra cotta.
Crushed-stone pathways navigate from covered to uncovered blue stone patios, with a reflecting pond and stepping-stones for good measure along the way. Next to the terrace sits a custom wall fountain and bountiful plantings, including a hybrid tea rose garden.
In this modest sized yard, what makes the design work so well is the smart layout of plants and walkways, according to Director of Design LeAnn Ostheimer. “Before, this space was consumed with overgrown plants and a large Catalpa—it was an aging shade garden,” Ostheimer says. “After—the backyard enjoys much more sunlight, and there is still ample shade in the pool house and under the terrace.”
Lush perennial plantings in whites, lavenders, and greens flow behind manicured boxwood hedges. New trees were carefully selected to stay within scale of the yard’s size. “It’s simply formal in all the best ways—just like a European garden.”
The summer days get hot in Colorado, which means that if you have a pool, your backyard is the place to be. This home’s outdoor living space is nestled on a massive green lawn in the Denver Polo Club and all three tiers of its design are devoted to the sights and sound of water.
The upper patio and steps leading to it are crafted of quartzite and lined with limestone walls. A large stone fireplace sits at an angle and provides some nestled warmth for chillier evenings.
On the center terrace sits a pool house with a bathroom and kitchenette for preparing snacks and beverages. “The raised, stone planters and the soft lawn create such visual interest and help break up the spaces,” Ostheimer says.
The lower terrace is the pièce de résistance, with water features flowing across the swimming pool in both directions, and a large focal-point fountain at the opposite end—a separate vessel that creates the illusion of connectivity.
“This space had been just a vast lawn before. Adding a pool to a space really elevates the way you live on your property,” says Ostheimer. “It changes the dynamic of entertaining completely, as well as enjoying the space with family and friends.”
If you’re accustomed to the resort life, then this outdoor living mecca is right up your alley. While it is definitely fit for a king, its 5,000 square feet of flagstone-covered patios is also fit for a kingdom, with the capacity to host over 200 people.
There are three terraces to this sprawling backyard; the first offers ample seating and a commercial-grade fire pit seven feet in diameter.
The middle terrace houses the large swimming pool, water features, hot tub, and pergola—a covered space complete with a fireplace, ceiling fans, lights, dining table, refrigerator, granite countertops, bar stools, retractable awnings, and a pop-up television. Everything is automated, so that one can control all systems with the touch of a button.
The third level one-ups the other patios with a 7,500-square-foot championship-style tennis court, modeled after the US Open in New York. Beyond the court sits more lawn, the perfect spot for playing baseball with friends and family.
“The scope of the property and resort-like amenities isn’t the only thing that makes this backyard so spectacular,” says senior designer Dan DeGrush. “While there is plenty of space for large-scale entertaining, there are still so many niches that can live intimately for a family of four to gather and enjoy the outdoors with each other.”