We’ve been itching to finish out the backyard since we moved in two years ago. During our first summer in #thefauxhouse, we were committed to finishing the inside of the house, leaving no resources for the outside. The next summer, we hired someone to create a backyard plan that we would then execute. We realized two things—we needed to cut down and trim a couple trees. (I begged our builder to keep as many as possible during the build.) We also realized that the backyard we wanted was well above our expertise level, which is extremely low. So, we focused on the tree situation and waited. Here were are now. It’s our third summer in the house, and the backyard is happening (and nearly done)! If you follow my Instagram stories, this is old news.
Look at that gnarly before. We live in the city on a long narrow lot. Our backyard is unique in that it’s surrounded by three garages—ours, the 3-flat apartment next door, and a parking garage for the large apartment building behind us. We got clearance from the landlord of the apartment next door to build right up to his garage, which was incredibly generous. (Side note: Many decades ago, their garage was built too close to the property line, so had we put up a fence on the property line, it would have sat right on top of their garage, making it impossible to access the exterior if needed.) In a lot of ways, this space is like a Brooklyn backyard—urban, narrow, and, if you ask me, just right.
Did you watch Trading Spaces back in the day? Genevieve Gorder was my favorite designer. I always appreciated how intentional her designs were. She’d take inspiration from the homeowners wardrobe, like a necklace, or other elements around the house, to build a beautiful yet functional space. Our necklace (inspiration), came from an outdoor pizza oven (!!), the modern lines of our house, and the wild growth that takes over Minnesota dirt after a winter thaw. Minnesota Modern Backyard.
We knew we wanted three living spaces—a dining room, a kitchen for the pizza oven, and a living room for coffee drinking and bonfires. But since we had zero experience with hardscaping or landscaping (well, I practiced on the front yard and killed half), we had to hire help. We scoured the internet and got a bunch of quotes, but no one really jived with our aesthetic. Out of desperation, Kev took to Instagram and found Wilde North. Matt’s bio was outfitted with “landscape artist.” An artist was exactly who we were looking for.
Matt, a Minnesota native, took all our ideas and needs and created a Minnesota-friendly backyard, taking into account the winter freeze and the wild summer growth. He took inspiration from a pin I sent of a black fence. Little did I know, the fence had not been stained black. It had been charred, which is an ancient Japanese technique of preserving wood called Shou Sugi Ban (Show Shugee Bon). You can buy Shou Sugi wood but it’s super expensive, so Matt did it himself. When charred, the wood turns a deep matte black. It’s so stunning I had to document it.
I can’t wait to show you the finished backyard! The big reveal with all the juicy backyard details is coming soon. Off to pick a stain for the deck, learn how to make pizza in an outdoor oven, and plant an herb garden in my planters. If you’re in the Twin Cities area, you can get in touch with Wilde North on Instagram by sending him a DM.
Where could I get that pizza oven ?
Hi! There’s a link buried at the bottom of the post. Here it is for ease: https://www.fornobravo.com/product-series/primavera-series-wood-ovens/ . Its’s made by Forno Bravo. We have loved it. It survives well even in the bitter cold Minnesota winters. Let me know if you have any other questions about it!
What oil are you using after it is burned and sanded ? I was thinking boiled linseed oil.
Beautiful and functional design! I have a very similar shape backyard in NYC. May I ask what are the measurements of your dining area and plant beds adjacent to it?
Do you have a list of plants used in the landscaping? I am trying to do a modern landscape plan but blessed with Minnesota winters. Thanks!
Hi Loni! I plan on doing an updated post soon with the plants that survived and the new ones we put in!
I absolutely love your design aesthetic! I think I read the stain color you used on the dinning room deck in the backyard, but now I can’t find it. Could you please share it?!?
I cannot wait to see the finished product. Totally in love with that mood board!!
What a lovely plan, Martha! Can’t wait to see the final reveal. Off to find myself a Summer Snow Hemlock!
AHHHHH!!!!!! Shou Sugi Ban!!!!! My absolute favorite thing in the world. Can’t wait to see more. +thanks for the info on who you worked with – Minnesota know-how IS so important here. Yay.
That’s so great! I’ve never heard of that wood preserving technique, but it looks fantastic 🙂 I love small, urban yards. They’re so intimate and cozy! I have to opposite problem of too much space, but I want to create little tiny areas that give that same feel. Can’t wait to see the finished yard!
This is SO awesome! I really love the shou sugi ban. Do you know how it ages? Thanks!
I love this! I’m obsessed with Shou Sugi Ban technique. Would love to have a similar fence in our backyard. Where is the wood stack from? Looks like the link may be broken in your source list – or is it out of stock? Thanks!
I’m not sure where it’s sold. I more so pulled it for inspiration. Sorry! We’re going to do a wood stack underneath the pizza oven.
How do I copy/paste this into my long, narrow, mpls alley yard?
This layout would be perfect! We’re so long and narrow over here. My husband thought it was pointless at first to do anything. He’s been convinced otherwise now.
Looks amazing. What is the edging material used here? Thx!