diy: welcome to the enclave

(NOTE: In order to get in the right head space for this HIMP Month installment, please read the title of this post in the voice of Axl Rose singing, “Welcome to the Jungle.”)

Weird thing about our house: we don’t really have a useable backyard. It’s narrow, sloped, and adjacent to the neighbor’s driveway…


It’s mostly ground cover with some creeping charlie and weeds mixed in. And beware: I think it is also a Poison Ivy Zone, where Rob had a little “run-in” last year. (Read all about how to get poison ivy here.)

So our acre of land is mostly front yard, side yard, and a wooded area. That left us with a conundrum: where are we going PARTAY? I mean, you don’t move from an apartment in New York City (with no outside space) to the ‘burbs in order to bake casseroles in your oven all the summer. No, you move in order to get your grill on. Well, maybe that’s not the only reason you move, but it’s a pretty signifcant part of the equation.

For the first year in our house, I became fixated on the term, “outdoor room,” which I am pretty sure was coined on HGTV. As in, where were we going to have our outdoor room?

Granted, we have a quaint front porch area enclosed by a pergola, covered with wisteria. (As I documented on the home tome last year, this wisteria is trying to take over the world.)

pergola 1pergola 2

This is a nice outdoor room, and, don’t get me wrong – we do some serious lounging out here: Breakfast? Snack? Glass of lemonade, anyone? But it’s not private, and every time a car drives past, I wonder, should I wave? Salute? Nod in their direction? Flag them down and introduce myself? Usually, I just hide my face in my hands, and rock back and forth with indecision. I’m sure this makes me seem like a neighbor they’d love to get to know. This is all to say that we needed a place more private. Mainly, I dreamt of a space where I could gorge on potato salad without an audience.

Side Yard 1 was a possibility:

side yard 1

In fact, this area screams for a patio: it has a size-able, relatively flat area leading from the sliding doors of our (as yet) unfinished basement.  I think this “room” would look great with some slate and a big modern patio set.  Thing is, this also faces a busy street (we live on a corner), and despite a few trees and this decorative grass (now in heavy metal mode), it’s not all that private either. We could do some plantings or fencing for privacy but all of these options busted the budget.

Side Yard 2 is mostly wooded. It’s by the shed we tried to make more rustic than rusty (recently documented here). For the first year in the house, this area is where we kept our trash cans. The grass didn’t grow very well, and it became a muddy swampland after any rain. It was unattractive and a little depressing over there: I avoided it almost as much as I avoid our scary basement. (This is why I don’t have a photo of this area of the yard back then.) But what’s great about it, is that it enclosed by trees and therefore, very private. Rob thought it would be a perfect place for a hot tub. I thought it would be a perfect area for a table, umbrella, and grill. After I lamented our lack of an “outdoor room” for the 327th time, Rob took action.

Actually, it first just started off as a pathway to cover up the mud swamp where we walked to get to the trash bins. (The magic word to enter this path is: Hydrangea):

rock path

We liked the look of this rock path so well that we decided to extend it into what would become the flooring of our outdoor room. No more unsightly trash bins, here:

enclave floor 1enclave floor 2

Like most of our house projects, Rob needs to get ALL the credit for this one. He dug up what grass there was. Then he hauled in approximately a trillion bags of rocks in three different sizes, and interspersed those with some pieces of slate that he broke into pieces. He guestimates that it cost under $300. He framed it all with some branches he found  around the property.  At least I think this is how it went down – all I really know is that I came home from work one evening last spring to this:

enclave the beginning

On the table, Rob had an open bottle of wine waiting for me and a bouquet of flowers. (Sigh dreamily…) I couldn’t have been more charmed by the outdoor room he had DIY’ed for us. But this was just the beginning of what we would soon begin to affectionately call, The Enclave…

I took my maiden voyage on the gardening express. (It pretty much derailed – I read that deer and bunnies don’t really like marigolds, but something ate them…or was it just something I said?) For someone who had been living in apartments for over twenty years, even the attempt at gardening was a big deal. There was a watering can involved! And a hose! A trowel! Mulch! :

attempt at gardeninggardening attempt 2gardening attempt

We graduated to a bigger table we found discounted online and purchased a grill from Sears with points I had racked up on my credit card. We got a very reasonably-priced umbrella at good ol’ IKEA.

The Enclave is now an ideal place for romantic summer dinners…

waffle feast 1

Sunday morning waffle feasts…

waffle feast

And Fourth of July blowouts (this is the patriotic tablescape from last year)…

fourth of july tablescape

So, this is all just the long way to say that we’ll be in The Enclave this Independence Day.

Where will you be celebrating? Have a great one!

9 replies

  1. Oh how PRETTY! It turned out wonderful. Also fun to “see” the whole story complete with pretty pictures and your incredible writing. You do have a gift, woman! It may not be private… but the outdoor living space in the front of your house is really gorgeous too! I can only imagine whoever drives by is looking because they’re JEALOUS! You have a gorgeous lot.

  2. Thank you! I have had this post in draft mode since last summer. I had so many pics from different angles etc that I couldn’t narrow them down…

    We tried to snag some more privacy on that front porch area with the decorative grasses in pots, but I think passersby can still see that I’m sometimes out there in my PJs! 🙂

    I took a little stroll through your Exterior-Landscape section of your house tour yesterday and my hat is off to you – the courtyard, atrium, etc are all beautiful, so thoughtful, well-designed and cared-for! 🙂 Bravo!

    • no no no…the pergola porch is where we perch on a regular basis since it is right by the front door, while The Enclave is for special occasions, since it is a bit of a trek (we live in a long, drawn-out ranch and it is opposite of the kitchen and the front door!)

      those flowers are long gone…I know someone with your touch could have kept the magic going…but I will try try again! 🙂

  3. What a sweet story and a lovely outdoor room!

    We have a large flower garden in our backyard. It didn’t start out large, but we kept making our outdoor living space larger and larger. Now we have places to sleep, eat and grill in our back yard. Last year we added a courtyard to the front of our house. Like you, I love having a place to relax, read and sip iced tea.

    Enjoy your enclave 🙂

    • Over in the wooded area by The Enclave is where my husband has picked out two trees to support a hammock. If we actually go for it, we will have to consult you for proper hammock techniques and etiquette!

      I envy your flower power! Cheers!

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