This backyard nook in a Frontenac home was a design challenge from the start, with a 10-plus-foot wall towering over the small space. Richard Poynter of Poynter Landscape tells us how he and his team turned a towering wall into the focal point of an intimate, comfortable space.

Outdoor Art: The trick with landscape is to take advantage of assets that sometimes appear to be deterrents, Poynter says. “We wanted to do something art-related on one wall because we had this bit palette, so to speak.” Three granite slabs were affixed to the wall and outfitted as water features, allowing a curtain of water to cascade down. Planters sitting on top use seasonal flowers that add color, while vines will grow to frame the granite.

Lighting the Way: The icing on top of this space is the ‘ceiling’ created by colored lights. “The walls were pretty tall, so it felt like it kept going up and up, even though it was enclosed,” Poynter notes. “This made it more intimate.” The lights create a soft ambient light and colors can be changed out seasonally.

Flagstone Foundation: “The problem prior to the renovation was that the area was so enclosed and didn’t drain well, so it was damaging the previous floor,” Poynter says. The new floor is made from flagstone, and uses varied elevations to help water drain away from the house.

Playing with Fire: A fire pit serves as the focal point for an intimate central seating area. “Fire is a gathering point for everybody,” Poynter says. “You can have all the video games in the world, but you cannot stop an 8-year-old from poking a fire with a stick. That’s one thing that is still the way it was 500 years ago.”

A Step Above: Raised planting beds mean that ground cover doesn’t need much height to have an impact. Adding more interest is a locust tree, which will grow to be open and airy rather than dense and shady, providing a level of enclosure without suffocating the small space.

More Design articles.