An Urban Oasis on Worcester Square maximizes space in the South End - Boston

Originally a small, poorly laid-out yard providing access to the parking area behind the building, but little by way of outdoor living space.

The client needed a thoughtful landscape design.  We created an attractive courtyard which not only accommodates an eating area and grill, but also visually extends the interior living space of the home.

Design Challenge:

Originally, the landscape had no usable space and was generally pretty dreary.

The door of the living room faced a narrow set of crumbling concrete stairs leading to a gate on the right side of yard. The posts supporting the decks above cut the yard in half, resulting in two small, unrelated patios connected by a narrow walk. Neither patio was large enough to serve any functional purpose or provide enough area for outdoor living.  One half was rendered useless by the walk pattern to the gate, the other by an air conditioning unit.

An older fence, topped by stock, diagonal lattice was in bad repair.   The original 6" cladding was out of scale with a small, urban yard, and felt heavy.

The landscape design had to address an unattractive, cinderblock garage on neighboring property that dominated the right side of yard.

The existing patios and walk were constructed of poorly-installed 12"x12" flagstone pavers that had become sunken and uneven.  This stonework was out of scale and context, and added another element to the visually complicated landscape.

Budget was a consideration.

The landscape design had to be creative. This yard is small, even by urban standards, and has very little light and no water available to the courtyard.

Design solution and installation:

We excavated the entire yard to provide usable space on the same level as the living room, visually expanding the indoor living space. The design called for the support posts for the decks above to be integrated into the planting area. The exposed concrete footings are clad with materials consistent with the overall design.

We designed the fencing to re-locate the gate to left side of yard, consolidating the practical considerations of egress and the air conditioning unit. We installed a new, shorter fence across the back of the yard, making the patio less enclosed.  The new fencing is clad with 4" boards, topped with custom mahogany lattice to better scale to such a small yard. We stained the fence black to create negative space and draw the eye to the mahogany decking and trellis work. This makes it stand out as the primary landscape design feature. We installed a similar fence at the height of the neighboring garage, blocking the unattractive view and providing continuity to this urban yard.

Because the fence is shorter than before, we installed a custom landscape screen behind the table to block the site lines from neighboring buildings.  We provided a design that gives  privacy only where it is needed, but does not overwhelm the patio.  It also creates a focal point to the yard and hides utility wires when viewed from the interior living area.

Landscape lighting softly floods the screen from below, casting elegant shadows from the plant material overhanging and hiding the fixtures.

The patio uses cut brick installed on the narrow side.  The brick is consistent in color with the building, ties in with the color of the mahogany decking and scales well with the small yard.  We provided visual and textural interest with an innovative herringbone brick pattern that actually makes the patio feel deeper.

To minimize cost, we constructed the retaining walls out of pressure-treated landscape timbers, stained to downplay the material and to visually simplify the yard.  Minimizing the number of materials visually expands the space, allowing the custom trellising and garden areas to stand-out as the primary landscape features.

The gardens are planted with low light-tolerant plants that can survive with average Boston rainfall or minimal additional watering.