Before & After: A Small Backyard Gets a Cottage-Inspired Makeover

These empty nesters’ aging outdoor space was revitalized and transformed into a peaceful garden for entertaining and cozy reflection.

Nestled into Denver’s Hilltop neighborhood, this home’s back patio was in need of a change, to match how the homeowners used the space today. The homeowners are empty nesters who desired a backyard that met their need for a larger entertaining space and their desire for a more cottage/garden feel that had a casual elegance. The result is a major outdoor-living upgrade—complete with a reconfigured flagstone patio, gorgeous brick fireplace, a cottage-style pergola, and a one-of-a-kind water feature—all surrounded by lush plantings and a hint of Zen. Take a tour below.


The original space consisted of a small patio with a metal shade structure overhead, and a more open lawn area. The steps along the edge of the patio made arranging furniture a challenge as well as a bit hazardous.


The design team tore out the original configuration and built a more intentionally designed space in larger proportions. The patio was lengthened, the entry to it reset with one set of stairs, and a black metal railing was added along the perimeter—allowing the area to feel protected yet still preserving the views of the revitalized perennial and shrub garden around the perimeter. Existing trees and plantings were kept where possible and enhanced with additional layers of shrubbery and flowers. A wooden pergola, brick fireplace, and stepping-stone path with steppable groundcovers add to the atmosphere of a tucked-away cottage-style oasis.

The path bends from the front to the back of the house. For that storybook feel, the path’s gaps are filled with thyme and colorful plantings abound.

A Japanese maple and the homeowner’s Buddha statue add a touch of Zen to the space.


The old metal trellis had seen better days on the original patio.


A new wooden pergola sets the stage for one of the space’s main focal points: a brick and flagstone fireplace, the perfect spot to cozy up with a drink in hand on cool Colorado evenings.


Before its makeover, this large brick wall loomed over the space without any visual interest.


Another statement piece, this precast concrete water feature adds a touch of whimsy and sounds of trickling water to what had been a blank canvas. To anchor the fountain, the design team incorporated a flagstone arch, echoing the design of the fireplace. The herringbone pattern of the surrounding brick creates the illusion that this fountain was a part of the original structure. A friend of the homeowner hand-painted the designs on the fountain—creating a truly unique effect.

What had once been a lackluster backyard is now a dream setting for morning coffee, afternoon reflections, and evenings around the fire with loved ones for years to come.

Troy Shimp is a Senior Designer with Lifescape Colorado, a Denver-based landscape architecture, construction, and property care firm. View their profile or reach one of Lifescape’s designers at 303-831-8310.

Content for this article provided by Lifescape Colorado.

Categories: Landscaping & Gardening