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A Courtyard Transformation

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*Winner of a 2015 WLCA Gold Award in Residential Landscape Design and Construction


“Night and day difference” is how many people have described the landscape renovation that took place at this property in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  The homeowners were unhappy with their previous courtyard because it lacked space and it did not fit with their desire to entertain.  The clients’ main objective was to transform the courtyard into a useable space that fit their lifestyle.  The clients also desired a fire feature and requested that the design incorporate as much existing material as possible since their budget was capped at $60,000.

From the beginning the landscape architect knew drainage was going to be a major challenge of the project.  An existing catch basin was found, but it was not initially clear where it discharged.  Some exploratory work by the crew confirmed that it could be reused to serve the new space.  All surface water within the courtyard was directed to the catch basin, as well as the water feature overflow pipe.

Another major challenge of the project was figuring out how to address the different elevations within the space.  Each door that opens up to the courtyard is set at a different height.  This made it difficult designing for the steps and drainage.  The landscape architect set very precise proposed grades and the crew followed them exactly during installation.  The end result minimized the number of steps which in turn maximized the amount of useable space for the homeowners.

Perhaps the most difficult design challenge was figuring out how to incorporate materials from the old space into the new design.  The landscape architect decided to repurpose the irregular bluestone in decorative inlays within the space.  This helped to define the major spaces of the design: the entry walkway, the upper patio and the lower fireplace patio.  The rustic outcropping pieces were incorporated into the design as sitting stones.  The homeowners liked the juxtaposition of the rustic stones with the clean lines of the new patios and inlays.

The end result was a complete transformation of the space.  The ample room and clean, contemporary look was exactly what the client was looking for in this renovation.  The courtyard is now used regularly by family and friends, especially the new fireplace on cool Wisconsin autumn evenings!