Seattle Summer

Backyard Inspiration: 4 Gorgeous Pacific Northwest Patios

These outdoor spaces will inspire you to host a patio soiree, cultivate a vegetable garden, and take every meal outside this summer.

By Darren Davis June 12, 2017 Published in the July 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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The custom greenhouse, staple of a serious gardener.

The Home Nursery

In garden design, it’s important to leave room for growth. Any space meant for a green thumb should be able to shift with the ebb and flow of Pacific Northwest growing seasons. “The hardscapes and layout are really just a framework,” says Jason Henry at Berger Partnership, who designed this backyard garden in Magnolia. “Everything else, the perennials, the vegetables—things like that come and go.”

Add layers of hedges, trees, and garden beds over the framework. From there the owner can manipulate the plant life from spring until winter. With storage hidden behind the greenhouse and a fire pit with informal seating among all the green—marked by a surface change from crushed rock to blue stone slabs—the garden also functions as a place to lounge and admire the fruits of your labor.


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The Urban Squeeze

Sweeping acres of croquet-ready lawns aren’t exactly the norm in Seattle. Landscape designer Scott Eckley explains how to get the most out of a tiny space, like the yard at this North Beach home (above).

  • Keep plants and other visually interesting elements at eye level. You generally don’t want to attract attention to the ground.
  • Walls keep the deck intimate and offer privacy, but consider the material. No one wants to stare at cement all year.
  • Every element must serve multiple purposes. The black box bench acts as informal seating and a surface for potted plants.
  • Choose individual components, especially furnishings, that feel oversize on their own. It’ll all jive once the decor comes together.
  • Resist the urge to open things up. Obstacles and barriers divide the space into “rooms” and inflate the sense of scale.
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Gnome if You Want To

In defense of a much maligned garden totem.

Yes, that piece of driftwood does bring a bit of ocean into your edible garden. But have you considered some gnomish magic instead? The ubiquitous little guardians of suburban lawns may look out of place in obsessively understated Seattle, but lighten up a little. Not everything has to be a tasteful homage to nature. If it’s going to rain and rain (and rain), then every home should come equipped with a seasonal affective -disorder–proof friend adorned in Crayola colors. Just avoid lawn flamingos, because Florida. Seattle Pottery Supply,


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Focal points and flexible seating are key to a patio made for partying.

Image: Lara Swimmer

The Summertime Host

Space planning is all about defining functions, and the residents of this Mount Baker home had just one in mind when it came time to remodel the backyard: parties. Each design element primes the patio for serious socializing under the sun or stars. “There needs to be a focal point that is indelible” in backyards meant for entertaining outdoors, says architect Tyler Engle. In this case, the fireplace. In another home, maybe it’s an outdoor kitchen or even a Ping-Pong table.

All surfaces and seating—from the dining table to the lounge chairs—can be moved, or removed entirely, depending on need. Even the hot tub serves a party purpose, and not an obvious one: When covered, it becomes a stage for children’s impromptu performances.

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Image: Lara Swimmer

How To Hot Tub

Thinking of taking the plunge and installing a little bit of luxury? A few tips:

  • They are more expensive and complicated to install, but a built-in hot tubwill always lookmore intentional.
  • Built-ins should blend into the surrounding surface, with enough room on the edges to dip your feet in or pull up a chair.
  • But do consider an aboveground tub in a location with a covetable view, especially on a rooftop.
  • If you opt for something aboveground, celebrate it! Make it a focal point.
  • Consider a vessel that is simple and aesthetically clean, akin to a Japanese soaking tub, or a stainless steel model. 
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A wide sliding door creates an optimal transition between inside and outside.

The Living Room

“The most typical approach to designing an exterior is just put some outdoor furniture there and call it a day. But our climate provides such a great opportunity to extend the indoor living experience outside. Think of it as creating another room, a complementary room. When you get into that frame of mind, it’s not just a deck. There’s a physical connection there.”  —Kyle Gaffney of SkB Architects on his own Queen Anne condo

The Dos and Don’ts of Indoor-Outdoor Design 

  • Do establish a clear and expansive passageway between interior and exterior. 
  • Don’t settle for a small screen door.
  • Do choose outdoor elements that harmonize with indoor decor. 
  • Don’t buy lawn chairs just because they’re durable.
  • Do use contrasting surface materials to break up the exterior, as you would an area rug indoors. 
  • Don’t leave a concrete patio bare.
  • Do prepare for bad weather with slipcovers and canopies. 
  • Don’t cover everything with an awning. It’ll feel claustrophobic.
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