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Party in the Back

In this case, we’ll understand if you covet thy neighbor(s). The creative denizens of the capital city are never at a shortage for inventive ideas, transforming the space attached to the place into something you can’t help but peek over the fence at.

Here’s to three locals breaking the mold on backyards:

Living, Vertical

Punta Alley 

Stacy Buttari + Michael Creath

There’s a pillow often perched on a chair right next to the back door of Stacy and Michael’s Short North bungalow that states “Simple is Beautiful.” None such decoration outside, but if there was, it would read…

“Overgrown Lushness When Done Well is Awesome,” laughs Michael.

It’s less of a brag than an accurate self-assessment for the landscape designer whose cloistered 18×20 patio includes more than 550 plants, including an 18-foot palm tree—and a giant, “living” wall. It’s the couple’s very own green monster.

“Somehow it still has a very organic feel and you really can forget you’re a half-mile from High Street,” he said.

While the entire space is impeccably designed, it’s the Living Wall that garners the most eyes. What was upon move-in just an ordinary cinder block facade is now a lush, diverse landscape that no one would suspect was Michael’s trial run in vertical gardening. Utilizing the techniques of French botanist Patrick Blanc—whom we actually got to meet last month—the plants are planted in a moisture retention mat fabric made from 100 percent recycled plastic bottles, irrigated from the top down.

“Mother Nature also deserves much credit as the plants grow harmoniously on the wall, giving [the space] the most natural and organic feel,” he said.

Ironically, Michael used to think he’d end up on a big plot of land in the sticks somewhere, but now his concrete jungle has become a paean to plant-based design.

“Bringing the indoors out and bringing the outdoors in are “in,” fortunately for me since I’m in the plant game,” he said. “People, especially in the city, are wanting more connection with nature. People spend too much time indoors in their lifetime and are wanting to make their outdoors spaces more like living rooms.”

Daily Zen

Christina Christian + David Laswell

CLINTONVILLE

You can call this backyard upgrade the ultimate Ohio move: turn part of your outdoor space into a serene little stone/beach/garden.

Think about it: every day when the newly married couple come home, they can stare out the window through sleet and snow and be reminded of better days to come, or in sunnier times, just sink their toes into the pea gravel and their lips into a margarita.

It’s basically landscape therapy, and even though it’s only a month old, Christina says she’s already made part of her everyday, and can’t help but think what the following seasons will bring.

“The fire pit puts off some serious heat so it will work perfectly on colder days,” she said. “I plan to grab a hot toddy, crank the fire on high, and kick back to watch football games with our outdoor projector in the later months of the year.

The couple and a few friends knocked out the project in a few days, but not without a plenty of sweat and backaches that come with moving around two tons of gravel. Christina also leaned on a friend who works in commercial landscape design, who was a crucial assist in the entire process, from design to material to labor.

“My only guidance when consulting with her on the design was that I wanted to maximize the yard I had while creating intimate gathering spaces for entertaining,” she said. “I think we did both!”

The end-result is the ultimate playground for Christina who grew up in an apartment complex as a kid.

“This is way better!” she said.

Nature’s Playground

Don & Cheryl Lee

Upper Arlington

The Lee family is used to having someone ask if they can come over and play.

But that doesn’t mean it’s just the neighborhood kids.

The sprawling pool and in-ground trampoline is more than enough to draw the attention of the adult community, who often drop by unannounced for a little bit of backyard fun.

“We have an open door policy with many of our friends—so we have delightful surprise visits often,” Cheryl said.

The always-adventurous couple patterned their outdoor space around their own childhood environs, which were full of forts and climbing spaces. In fact, the unique in-ground trampoline feature arose out of the space inspiring a little too much adventure.

“Stage one was a two-story fort with a bridge next to the trampoline and our kids and several adults began to jump from the top of the fort onto the tramp. Safety became an issue when the jumps evolved into flips,” Cheryl said. “When the pool was installed we decided to sink the trampoline in hopes of squelching treacherous teenager endeavors. Plus it looked nice.”

While Don likes to joke that in the backyard they get to remain “as immature as possible,” he also is quick to point that the space also offers a secluded serenity.

“You really don’t know it’s there from the street—the courtyard and fencing helps make it private, and it can be calming especially in the mornings with the layers of bird sounds,” he said. “Cheryl has created several seating areas so every corner has its own unique eye line.”

“We are very grateful to have a place to chill.”

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Travis Hoewischer

I've been working in journalism in central Ohio for more than a decade, and have been lucky enough to be a part of (614) Magazine since the very first issue. Proud to live in a city that still cares – and still reads.

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