Backyard Bonanza

A small, mundane lot becomes a compelling destination for family-friendly fun

A Brookville, Maryland, couple with three active kids wanted to turn their small lot into an al fresco playground for guests of all ages. So they tapped Don Nesmith of Land & Water Design, Inc., to create an ambitious plan for the back and side yards, featuring zones for a pool, water slide and spa; a sport court; an outdoor kitchen; two dining areas; and a lounge area with a granite fire table.

The existing backyard sloped eight feet from the property line down towards the house. “My vision was to put the pool at the bottom of the slope so the water slide could empty into it,” explains Nesmith. He designed a fieldstone retaining wall at the bottom of the slope; above it, lush landscaping de-emphasizes the fiberglass slide.

Techo-Bloc pavers connect all the spaces. There’s an ipe deck near the back door, and ipe pergolas cover one of the dining areas and the kitchen, which is equipped with Viking appliances. Stone Forest granite fire bowls illuminate the lounge area. On one side of the house, a 25-by-35-foot sport court is a magnet for neighborhood kids.

Weeping Douglas fir, Austrian pine and leyland cyprus create privacy along the property line, while viburnum and euonymus add texture. Above the pool, ornamental dwarf fountain grass and miscanthus combine with aster and spirea, softening the hardscape. Perennials such as Black-Eyed Susans, hydrangea and verbena add color.


Award: Grand Award, Outdoor Living Area. Landscape Architecture: Don Nesmith, RLA, Land & Water Design, Inc., Haymarket, Virginia. Photography: George E. Brown.