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Backyard Remodel: Creating Outdoor Rooms for Entertaining

A homeowner turns a sloping backyard into a series of outdoor rooms designed with friends in mind

Group of friends in backyard patio in front of fireplace
A massive granite fireplace on a concrete patio makes this spot popular year-round. In summer, guests tend to gather here for stories, games, and piped-in music after dinner on the deck.
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

It takes more than a smile to make guests feel at home—and no less so when you’re headed outdoors. A backyard needs places for people to sit, sup, and converse. Buck Davis had precisely that goal in mind when he set about transforming the barren area behind his tiny Atlanta bungalow. The sloping yard, extending 80 feet from the house, offered only a few trees, weedy grass, and a chain-link fence.

Half-Improved Slope to Entertainment Haven

Backyard sloping downward
The first round of work left the lowest area of lawn leveled but otherwise unimproved. A stone wall went in to retain the higher, middle section of turf.
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Buck began by yanking out the fence, leveling the lowest portion of the slope, and adding a retaining wall to support the elevated middle section. Then he began creating his entertaining zones: a deck nearly as wide as the house, followed by an “Adirondack area” paved with flagstones just below it.

The finale: a patio on the lower lawn with a granite fireplace to draw visitors. From the design (mostly his own) to the landscaping (mostly by his garden-pro cousin, Wayne Vassey), Buck couldn’t be more pleased. “I wanted my yard to nurture the people I love,” he says, “and it does.”

More Outdoor Room Elements

Stone wall in backyard before remodel Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

The lower lawn was the first to be leveled, with a stone wall delineating the middle tier of the yard.

Stone pathways

Stone pathway from patio to house Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Stepping-stones lead in a straight shot from the fireplace patio to stone steps, then on to the deck stairs, connecting the three spaces.

Seating: Room & Board

Brick pillars

Bricks pillars in backyard Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

A pair of brick pillars with ball finials anchors the flagstone seating area between the deck and the stone wall. Matching brick posts support the corners of the deck and echo original columns on the front of the 1930s bungalow.

Homeowner Tip: “To tie all the spaces together and add atmosphere at night, I ran commercial patio string lights all the way from the fireplace to the deck’s brick pillars.”

Buck Davis, Atlanta

Custom cabinets

Red custom cabinets in backyard Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Custom red cabinets brighten the outdoor kitchen area, some with media-style doors that slide back when open, so guests can grab a plate and serve themselves. An ice chest fits under the island counter to save the cost of an outdoor fridge.

Custom red cabinets: NeatNooks, Atlanta

Deck lounge

Deck lounge Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Seated guests can stash drinks and even plates on cube-style side tables that Buck designed. Votive candles twinkle from DIY shelves on the privacy fence behind the railing. To keep the candleholders in place, Buck used a Forstner bit to drill recesses into the 2x4s. A dining table and grill area sit on the deck’s other side.

Dining chairs: Pottery Barn

DIY chandelier and Cedar dining in backyard Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

DIY chandelier

Buck fashioned a custom outdoor chandelier using commercial string lights, a wire basket, plastic clips, and chain.

Cedar dining

Eight feet long and 31 inches wide, the dining table crafted from cedar 24s sited near the fireplace can seat a crowd.

Table and benches: NeatNooks, Atlanta

Grill station

Grill station in backyard Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

The grilling station is on one side of the deck, which spans virtually the width of the house. From there, homeowner Buck Davis can serve guests at the nearby dining table and catch a glimpse of what’s happening on the fireplace patio at the far end of the yard.