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How Doth the Garden Grow: Radical Rehabs, Before and After

If the aim of good landscaping is to make a space look "natural," to bring out the best in the great outdoors without making them appear too sculpted or fiddled-with, then a set of before and after photos will inevitably make that fantasy a little harder to sustain. Still, there's no better way to take stock of all that goes into a well-rehabbed backyard. Below, break down the metaphorical fourth wall of a dozen eye-popping contemporary garden projects, from the so-called "outdoor rooms" of Northern California to the backyard sanctuaries of Brownstone Brooklyn:




Photos via Houzz

↑ Looking for a landscape designer whose "portfolio lent itself to the contemporary aesthetic" of their new house, one Washington couple went with Lisa Port, who made the centerpiece of their backyard a curved steel wall wrapped around one end of an in-ground hot tub.



Photos via Gardenista

↑ This double-wide lot behind a brownstone in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn was turned around by Kim Hoyt Architecture. Now, to reach the backyard garden, one passes through an ipe wood gate and under a trellis connecting two matching sheds.



Photos via Architectural Digest

↑ Upon moving to New York City in 1995, actress, singer, activist, and fabulous penthouse owner Bette Midler founded the New York Restoration Project, which has since acquired over 50 community gardens in underserved communities and rehabbed nearly half of them. Pictured above is Bed-Stuy's Garden of Hope, which was adopted in 2006 by interior designer Ellie Cullman and reopened in May 2008 after a redesign that brought in travertine pavers, hedges of espaliered Euonymus, and a gazebo surrounded by sculptural concrete globes.



Photos via Architectural Digest

↑ Redone in 2003 by the NYRP with funding from a grant provided by the Tiffany & Co. Foundation, Harlem's Family Garden was reimagined by Tiffany & Co. design director John Loring with a number of features referencing nearby Thomas Jefferson Park: cut-metal silhouettes of founding fathers, traditional brick planters with wide limestone caps, and a wrought-iron entry gate based on the facade of Jefferson's Virginia home, Monticello.



Photos via Architectural Digest

↑ Harlem's Los Amigos Community Garden got revised by the NYRP in 2010, with the installation of weathered Cor-Ten steel planting beds and a new front gate lined with rows of wild grasses. A plum tree planted by one of the garden's original members was preserved.



Photos via Architectural Digest

↑ The NYRP design team redid Bushwick's Cooper Street Community Garden in 2012, clearing away a long stretch of broken concrete and adding in 19 new planting beds, a pergola, and a perimeter of vertical frames for climbing vines.



Photos via Apartment Therapy

Paxton Gate, a San Francisco-based garden store run by two landscape designers, turned around this unkempt backyard by adding in raised sections of concrete and wood.



Photos via Apartment Therapy

↑ Another unruly Bay Area backyard reigned in by Paxton Gate, this time with the addition of dark stone pavers and wooden platforms.



Photos via Houzz

↑ Husband-and-wife landscaping firm Outside Space NYC reworked a quarry-like sunken backyard area in Brooklyn's Prospect Heights neighborhood with a waterfall running down the wall, polished concrete planters that keep with the aesthetic, and a circular lawn of artificial turf in the center.



Photos via Gardenista

↑ San Francisco-based Growsgreen Landscape Design turned this backyard into an "outdoor room" by situating a wooden patio at the same level as the threshold of the house.



Photos via Houzz

↑ After their front yard was "all but drowned" in Hurricane Sandy, one couple in Redhook, Brooklyn, hired landscape designers Sean Lewis and Jesse Terzi to turn it into a low-maintenance entertaining space capable of riding out another storm, with a lounge area paved in irregular flagstone and a spacious outdoor kitchen.



Photos via Gardenista


↑ Bay Area-based Pedersen Associates carved this "classic Northern California" outdoor room into a Marin County hillside while still leaving room for their client's "beloved agave." · From Concrete 'Jail Yard' to Lush Escape in Brooklyn [Houzz]
· Before & After: A Brooklyn Townhouse with a Double-Wide Garden [Gardenista]
· Bette Midler's Green Thumb Revitalizes Community Gardens [Architectural Digest]
· Before & After: 5 Gardens by Paxton Gate [Apartment Therapy]
· Divine Proportions Make for a Dream Landscape [Houzz]
· Before and After: 5 Favorite Garden Rehabs [Gardenista]
· A Front Yard Regrows in Brooklyn [Houzz]
· All Outdoors Week 2014 posts [Curbed National]