Brooklyn Garden Playhouse by Grant Davis Thompson

by Shera Nuss

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When it’s summertime in NYC, there’s nothing more coveted than having your own outdoor space — but along with the many perks, comes the obligation to keep it well-maintained throughout the year. Just keeping up with the seasonal cycles of potting, planting, and maintenance alone can keep any invested DIYer on their toes, especially during the warmer seasons. So, what if you want to give your landscape a more drastic overhaul? For one Prospect Heights family who enjoys gardening and relaxing in their outdoor space, taking their private yard to the next level required the help of a talented young firm. This week, we’re excited to introduce the newest member, boutique design & general contracting firm, Grant Davis Thompson, who helped this Brooklyn family transform their outdoor space and create a backyard playhouse for all ages. Palmer Thompson-Moss, principal & owner of GDT, gave us the scoop on the design and construction of the completed project.

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When working on design + build projects, such as this backyard retreat, Palmer collaborates with project designer Isobel Herbold (Palmer & Isobel photographed above). GDT’s great respect for the environment, meticulous craftsmanship, and imaginative design spirit, made Palmer’s team perfect for tackling this garden build-out.

02_theSweeten_GrantDavisThompson-playhouseThe project scope included enclosing the 1400 sqft yard with a new perimeter fence, as well as creating an ‘anchor’ for all backyard activities — a screened-in space for eating, playing, relaxing, and entertaining. Throughout the design process, GDT created drawings, collages, & models, which helped to convey their design ideas to the homeowners. Above is a playful collage they put together in an early iteration of the proposed design.

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For Palmer & Isobel, models, like the one above, are particularly useful in face-to-face meetings with clients; they make it easy for the homeowner to respond to the designers’ ideas.

After a brief design phase, Palmer lead his team to construction on the 6-week project. Here, in the first week of construction, they’ve started with the perimeter fence and have also begun anchoring posts that will support the screened enclosure.

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The completed fence & enclosure feature cedar and copper as the primary materials. Palmer told us, “we chose to use natural materials that could be sourced locally and would age nicely over time.” Looking toward the back of the yard, the ‘playhouse’ structure is nearly hidden through the homeowners’ romantic garden landscape, which adds to its very serene, retreat-like quality.

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On the exterior of the wood-frame structure, GDT added antique lamps that were salvaged from a WWII navy vessel — the 70-year-old, solid brass fixtures were retrofitted with modern wiring to be used here.

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Inside the structure, we can appreciate the opportunity to feel surrounded by nature, despite the reality of the city right outside. For GDT, the choice to use natural & sustainable materials is a common thread in their work; the designers embrace the materials’ natural beauty and proneness to change over time.

“We wanted to create a space to dwell in the yard, to be playful and contemplative, to be able to be outside and inside at the same time.”

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We love the surprise of these clever, super functional built-ins — a sandbox and drink cooler are closed off with decking material when not in use, then uncovered for summer fun. For a direct route from the main house to the playhouse, the designers created a pathway using another local material, New York Bluestone pavers that were salvaged from the neighborhood.

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GDT’s goal was to create a space that improved the quality of life in the yard and that could be enjoyed by all ages — we’re convinced they succeeded in just that!

Many thanks to Palmer for sharing this beautiful project by GDT!

Have a safe & fun 4th of July!

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