Who: Paul L.
Where: Leonia, New Jersey
We love to entertain, but our backyard was no place for a party. We wanted something with good plantings and a place to relax. I didn't have much experience, so I studied magazines like This Old House, where I found an organically shaped, broken-bluestone patio with steps on two sides like the one I wanted. Then I talked to contractors and people at stone yards as I pieced together the design. After getting estimates as high as $30,000, I became my own general contractor—and laborer. The hardest part was leveling the yard.