Wittman Estes Designs Sunken Courtyard in a Sun Soaked Backyard

Wittman Estes Designs Sunken Courtyard in a Sun Soaked Backyard

Wittman Estes recently transformed a steep hillside landscape into a lush social garden. Situated on a lot with over 40 feet of grade change, Laurelhurst Hillside Garden weaves together a series of vibrant new gardens and outdoor living spaces for an active young couple's home. Organized around a series of concrete and steel terraces, the landscape design encourages guests to enjoy intimate garden experiences and outward views to the neighborhood and Lake Washington.

The main entrance to the house sits over 20 above the street and was cut off from view, creating a challenge for guests as well as the owners. The backyard, with existing mature Japanese maple trees and occasional views to Lake Washington, rose steeply from the back deck and was not readily accessible from the home. The Roddens asked that their landscape be designed in a way that would allow a more gracious connection between the house and outdoor spaces so they could be outside and enjoy the full extent of their property.

The couple and their two daughters wanted a way to be outdoors and socialize, cook, and relax with friends and family. Wittman Estes imagined a series of interconnected spaces for both the front and back yards, and envisioned a terraced landscape with a variety of open spaces woven into lush plantings. In the front, a new custom mailbox and house number demarcates the entrance and starts at the street to create a more gracious entry for guests to climb the hillside and enjoy the lush plantings and views along the path to the front door. Wide landings paved with custom pre-cast pavers are linked by steel and concrete steps, and bracketed by 3' tall carbon steel planters with billowing grasses.

In the backyard, an ipe hardwood deck opens out from the kitchen and dining room, and steps down to the focal point of the landscape: the sunken courtyard. Featuring custom hardwood screens, plate steel retaining walls, ipe wood benches and handmade cushions by La Fabrique, the courtyard is both intimate and expansive. With a fireplace in the center, the space offers a cozy refuge for small groups of friends to gather, while pathways connect the courtyard to the deck, the landscape terraces below, and the front entry landscape down the hillside towards the street. Ascending once more from the patio, wood steps rise to an elevated garden with wide views from a relaxing hammock.

Photography: Miranda Estes

Wittman Estes

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