I’m currently working on a multi-faceted yard makeover in West Ashley that has required the clearing of brush and the creation of stone paths and a centerpiece fire pit area. Eventually, the project will require the installation of topsoil and sod, the creation of a bench area on the marsh, and the installation of shrubs and beds. Right now, I’d like to focus on the completed stonework and hardscape work phase of the project.
The couple I’m completing this project for are recent retirees from another part of the country who have chosen to live out their lives on a beautiful marshfront property full of coastal Lowcountry icons: Spanish moss-covered live oaks, wax myrtles, pampas grass, yuccas, etc. Here’s the view from their backyard. Impressive, huh?
Unfortunately–or fortunately, depending on perspective–, the house and the yard had been neglected for several years. This enabled the couple to buy the property at a bargain price, but it has also required a significant amount of work to both the house and the yard. The former centerpiece of the backyard, a formerly-stately sea bell mounted on rotten wood obscured by overgrowth, was a metaphor for the yard as a whole: It used to look great, and it possesses the elements to look great again.
The couple, who moved to Charleston in large part due to its proximity to the ocean, decorated the interior of the house using a beach motif: colors and textures inspired by sand and sea. As retirees who have moved to a beautiful waterfront property, they made additions to the house such as a large back porch, a sun room, and a hot tub so they could spend time enjoying their backyard’s archetypal Lowcountry vista.
These additions allow the couple to enjoy the view from the house, but they don’t allow them to enjoy the backyard itself. Furthermore, the yard flooded terribly, with depressed areas abutting the house.
So, taking all of this into consideration, I proposed stonework and hardscape work that would enable the couple to enjoy their backyard and eliminate flooding. First and foremost, the design would use colors and textures found on the Lowcountry coast:
- 250 feet of stone paths made of Tennessee river rock–which mimics the color and texture variation of beach sand–that connect key areas of the property (including the future bench area by the marsh)
- A swath of Tennessee river rock surrounding the house, which would reduce flooding and create a coastal motif that frames the house
- A large, circular fire pit area in the center of the yard made of blue-green flagstone, gray granite blocks, and fine blue-gray gravel, which mimic the color variation of seawater in this area (the fine gravel also mimics the texture of sand), surrounded by Tennessee river rock, which mimics the color and texture variation of sand
With the addition of the fire pit, the yard would employ three classical elements: earth, water, and fire.
I try to incorporate readily-available materials and plants in my designs. Fortunately, the previous owners left granite blocks in the backyard.
After a couple of weeks of sketching designs, digging trenches, sourcing materials, shoveling rocks, and setting stones, I was able to deliver the couple practical, aesthetically-pleasing backyard stonework and hardscape work just in time for Thanksgiving. The couple and their family were able to enjoy their first holiday in the house sitting around an outdoor fire, watching the sun set over the marsh.
The stonework and hardscape work are now integral parts of the backyard. They allow the couple to enjoy the backyard itself, not just the marsh view behind it.
Now, on to the next phase of the project. I’d be happy to provide a free consultation for YOUR project.
Seth Mason, Charleston SC