young boy and girl standing in front of above ground pool
Photo: Linda Oyama Bryan
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Before: Blank-Slate Backyard

Susan didn’t grow up gardening, and when her two children were young she had no time to do much outside the home her husband, Dave, built 38 years ago. Their suburban Illinois yard was mostly lawn. But when the kids outgrew an aboveground pool, Susan decided to replace it with a patio.

Instead of hiring a stonemason or a landscaping crew or even consulting a how-to book, she just ordered up a load of brown flagstones and moved them one by one in her wheelbarrow, setting them down on the well-packed sand base on which the pool had stood. Some of the slabs were really heavy—she guesses 50 to 70 pounds—but with her teenage daughter working alongside, Susan was able to create a level surface by scooping out sand where needed to accommodate the different thicknesses. “It was amazing to me,” she says. “When you looked at that pile of flagstones, you’d think they’d never fit together. But they did, like a jigsaw puzzle. We just scooched them in.” She didn’t have to make a single cut.

Shown: Susan Martin laid a do-it-yourself stone patio where her children's aboveground pool once stood.
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