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From front to back
Outdoor living project combines aesthetic and functional needs

Photos by Jim Charlton

September 2016


Open French doors from the family room frame a view of the bluestone walkway to the gas fire pit ó a centerpiece for a variety of backyard focal points and activities.

For homeowner and landscaper alike, meeting aesthetic and functional needs is ultimately important.

"The key to a good landscape is listening and giving advice," says Mike Manke, landscape architect for LandCrafters in Wauwatosa and New Berlin. "You have to look at the homeís architecture and also the architecture of the neighborhood."


The front yard is designed for simplicity as well as preserving recreational space, with a herringbone-designed front walk, an enlarged front stoop and a combination of colorful plantings.

Taking that into consideration, Manke created a multifunctional plan that carves out attractive, specific areas for a Whitefish Bay expanded saltbox home within a typically modest space.

The projectís scope was varied. A front yard was in need of a new stoop, walk and expanded driveway paired with simple plantings and more play space for family members. The backyard plan homed in on outdoor dining for the family of eight, at minimum, and entertaining space for more ó all within a confined space that butts up to nearby neighbor lots. In addition, the family dog also needed a patch of the outdoors.

"There was a laundry list of needs we needed to meet," Manke says.


An arbor with a picket fence consistent with the homeís saltbox architecture divides the front yard and backyard.

Now complete, the front yard is dominated by a diagonal herringbone pattern paver front walk leading to a mortared front stoop. Flower beds are confined to just outside the stoop and along the front of the house, providing color that gives way to plenty of front lawn.

The best view of the projectís showier backyard starts at the family roomís French doors, looking straight out the back and to a bluestone patio/walkway leading to a raised gas fire pit. On both sides of the center walk to the fire pit is a detailed pergola with LED downlights that illuminate two critically functional spaces: a formal dining area and a cooking space that accommodates bar-style seating with nearby grills and a pizza oven inspired by a family trip to Italy.

Beyond the fire pit is an additional raised landscaped area framed by a stacked limestone wall. The space, fronted by a row of evergreens and a birch tree, serves as an additional seating area, and nearby annuals provide understated color.


The formal dining space features LED lighting, a recessed panel column that mimics an interior architectural element, and in the foreground, covered condiment storage.

Connecting the front to the back is a side pathway with a matching white arbor and picket gate that complements the 1925 saltbox architecture. Itís also the perfect exercise area for the family pooch.

Manke says the projectís biggest challenge was working with a typical Whitefish Bay-sized yard while meeting a number of needs. He says the family is happy with the outcome.


Strategic LED lighting washes over the homeís front exterior and a lush arrangement of boxwood and ground cover.

"The front yard allows the kids to toss around a football or whatever they want to do, while the backyard accommodates the large family and extended family for their active outdoor entertainment needs," he adds. "From a professional perspective, my favorite part was the kitchen area. The joy of doing this work is the family using it. It was a unique set of criteria that had to be complete in a highly aesthetic way. This is a landscaping investment for the long haul." M

Bar-style seating offers alternative informal entertainment.
The raised gas fire pit and a planting area with a short masonry wall create a nice gathering place at the rear of the property.



This story ran in the August  2016 issue of: