Disclaimer: I partnered with Yardzen for this post.
Remember my home goals list that I debuted at the start of this year? Well, our backyard was a big project on that list! And I’m happy to say that the project is officially kicking off right here and now. It may be frigid outside, but gosh darn it, I am dreaming of warmer days ahead where I can lounge in our backyard with a cocktail in hand.
But before we get to the design plan for our new backyard, we need to back way up and take a look at this space over the last two years…
Our Backyard – April 2019
Here are two photos from our MLS listing. We were drawn to this house because it has that nice side yard, which is a big plus in the city of Chicago.
However, it wasn’t the prettiest backyard on the block. The grass was in terrible shape; the deck needed to be stained; and we had three different kinds of fencing – wood, iron, and chain-link! Yikes! Our goal was to make it as best as we could and save our pennies to someday do a total overhaul back here. I stained the deck and we added some furniture to spruce up the space.
And the biggest change was adding a new white vinyl fence in the fall of 2019. It made a huuuuuge difference immediately.
Our Backyard – Summer 2020
Last summer, we added a little bit of landscaping in the front of the house, including a DIY window box, but we only did some upkeep in the backyard. We didn’t do anything crazy, knowing that summer 2021 would be our year to really take things to the next level.
Figuring Out a Backyard Design Plan
While we’ve talked about the backyard a lot over the years, we didn’t have a concrete gameplan for what we wanted to do. I’ve never designed a yard and we all know that I’m not the best gardener in the world. Sure, I could pick outdoor furniture, but I had no idea what kind of plants, trees, or bushes would work in our climate. I wasn’t really sure where to start.
Enter Yardzen! I started following Yardzen on Instagram about a year ago as I was perusing for backyard inspiration. I was instantly intrigued by their mission. They’re an online landscaping company and they can model your yard without ever stepping foot on your property, which is pretty good these days, right?!
They use photos and videos you provide, combined with data, plant science, and technology to map, measure, and model your yard! Think of it as a virtual interior design service…except for your backyard. They’re also committed to sustainability and include climate-adapted and habitat-supporting plants in all of their designs. Love that!
I immediately signed up to create a backyard design plan and I’m not gonna lie, it started with a lot of homework on our end…
Yardzen Review: Getting Started
Once you’re all set up with an account, you need to provide lots of photos and inspiration for Yardzen to work with. I took tons of photos of our yard from every single angle and I even created a few videos while walking through the yard, talking about what I like and don’t like about the space. Meanwhile, Finn measured everything to give them accurate measurements to use for their plan.
We then took some of their online quizzes to nail down our overall style and plant preferences. Plus, we used their budget tool to figure out which items might work for our space. Their online tool was really easy to use and we ended up uploading all kinds of extra information, just to give them lots to work with! In fact, Finn even made a PowerPoint with some of his favorite inspiration shots for our own yard and shared it with them. (Can you tell he is excited about this?!) It took us a week or two to gather all of this information and it was really helpful for Finn and me to sit down and talk through exactly what we wanted for the space.
The Design Process
We received our first round of designs a few weeks later and we were so pleased with how they brought our vision to life. It can sometimes be hard to convey what’s in your mind so someone else understands it, but they understood us, our vision, and our style. We reviewed their first-round and gave them a few notes on what we liked and didn’t like. They then went back, tweaked it, and presented us with our new backyard plans!
Our Yardzen Backyard Design Plan
Okay, I’m going to share all of the renderings, and then we can chat about each section of the yard.
The Stairs & Dining Area
Our main goal was to remove our deck and instead install stairs which lead to a larger paved area. We’ve always felt like our deck was an awkward size and we’d prefer to be on the same level as the grass where Rory will likely be playing. We also would like to remove the grass and add stone so we can have a large dining table and place to hang out. Another goal was to utilize the space near the garage a little better. (Right now it just feels like a ton of siding!) The Yardzen team added pretty planter boxes, a bench, and a trellis to help camouflage the garage a bit.
The Lounge Area
This side yard area was Finn’s baby. He really wanted a spot that felt super relaxing and away from the house. Plus, we both wanted to add some shade somewhere in the yard and this seemed like the best spot for it. They suggested a pergola attached to the garage and we had them add a swinging daybed and lounge furniture. It makes for a cozy little oasis next to our garage.
The Side Yard
Our final request was to keep as much grass in the side yard as possible. We know this will be a fun spot for Rory to play (I imagine a water table or slip and slide over here during the summer months!) so we didn’t want to add too much landscaping.
Yardzen provides all of these gorgeous renderings, but more importantly, they also provide CAD plans that you can review with your contractor to bring the vision to life. Plus, they give you a list of all of their recommended plants, lighting, and furniture for the space. If you have your own contractor, or plan to DIY it, you can go that route, or Yardzen will even share local experts to get your project done.
What Happens Now?
Well, we are still in the early stages of this project and we are getting some estimates from local contractors and landscape architects. The design plans have been so helpful when we’ve met with these experts because they can visualize what we want to do in the yard and it makes for less guesswork.
Of course, we want to get started right away so we can have our yard done for summer, but many of the experts we’ve met with are booked up for the next few months – and here we thought we were way ahead of schedule! We’ll also have to get permits if we go the pergola route, so that’s another logistic taking some time. So, I don’t have exact details on when things will happen, but I will be sure to keep you guys updated!
So there’s my honest Yardzen review. If you have a yard project, I highly recommend checking them out. Their services are offered in many states around the country and they just opened to Illinois homeowners today! They offer different packages, depending on your design needs and the size of your home.Casey