On a beautiful summer day in August of 2020, Cheryl and Sean James hosted musician Matt Masters for his Curbside Concerts series in their backyard. Masters strummed away on his guitar while performing on the back deck, facing the pie-shaped lot that overlooks Confederation Park. It was the last event to be hosted on that deck — a month later, the property was a construction site. The Jameses purchased the bungalow knowing it would be demolished. “[The concert] was a farewell-to-the-house party,” Cheryl says.
Today, in its place, is a gorgeous, modern house, designed and constructed by Alloy Homes, complete with a new, multi-level deck and beautifully landscaped backyard that works in harmony with the property’s city-meets-nature setting. Construction on the home was finished in November of 2021, with finishes to the landscaping winding down the following spring. “There’s an intimate relationship between the outdoor space and the home’s architecture,” says Christopher Lemke, Alloy’s co-owner and managing partner, design and real estate services. “When you’re outside, you want the home to reach out and embrace you, creating a welcoming, comfortable outdoor living space.”
The eaves gracefully wrap around a cascading deck, leading to a shaded patio tucked beside crab apple trees that were part of the original property. The deck was designed to highlight the view into the park; likewise, the planting choices were selected to softly integrate with the park’s natural vegetation. “We wanted everything to blend into the background behind the house,” says Nick Baber, owner of Baber Design + Build, who worked with Alloy Homes on the property’s landscaping. “I also wanted to create a more private space in the patio area, because of the natural backdrop.”
For the homeowners, the new home and yard strikes the perfect balance between being in the inner city as well as in nature. “It almost feels like a vacation property,” says Sean. “It’s perfect out here.”
“We designed the deck as a series of surfaces that cascade down to the back yard,” says Christopher Lemke of Alloy Homes. “Each is two feet below the one above it, but only the lower level has a guard rail.” This allows for unobstructed forest views from the upper deck. “The whole build was about the fact that the park is the view,” says homeowner Cheryl James.
“I really wanted to create the opportunity to get down, almost like being in a sunken living room,” says Nick Baber, owner of Baber Design + Build. To provide additional privacy, he built a cedar screen behind the patio area: “Just to give it a little more separation park-side,” he says.
Baber chose a mix of low-maintenance, prairie-friendly shrubs and perennials, including Morden upright yew and little rebel dogwood in the shaded patio garden, and Barbara Mitchell daylilies and Miss Kim lilacs in the sunny garden by the deck.
The lighting serves two purposes, says Baber: to support the view and create privacy. “While looking out from the house, the lighting keeps your focus on the landscaping,” he says. “From the public side, rather than looking in the windows, the eyes are drawn to the up-lit tree canopy.”