A Brooklyn Backyard Renovation Fashions into an Urban Retreat

A renovated Brooklyn backyard blossoms with cedar wood, repurposed flagstone, and an elevated deck

outdoor backyard renovation

“After” photos by Miao Jiaxin for Sweeten

K.V. Harper purchased a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath duplex in Brooklyn’s hip Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in 2013. For a year thereafter, she lived out of a rental in the building while major renovations were underway. Acquiring even an iota of personal outdoor space in New York City is like striking gold. The backyard of K.V.’s new place was dazzlingly lengthy but laden with unkempt sod and dead grass—mainly weeds. A haphazard combination of fencing from neighboring properties also bordered the yard. And all of this was trapped under the debris of disposed of wood, rock, and rubbish.

For her Brooklyn backyard renovation journey, K.V. posted her project on Sweeten to find a general contractor. At the end of the project, interior designers and bloggers, AphroChic, would call the transformation “the ultimate urban getaway.” Sweeten matches home renovation projects with vetted general contractors, offering advice, support, and financial protection—at no cost to the homeowner.

K.V.  hired this general contractor to rebuild the yard which included a stained cedar fence, pavers, sod, and some new wood decking.

K.V. Harper

Laying out the backyard space

K.V. received suggestions from friends, including calls for a pool, but found herself inspired by gardens of Mexico and Brazil. Quiet retreats that are lush rather than luxe; welcoming spaces for relaxation and fun that aren’t overly designed. Hosting friends and barbecues was top of mind.

Her vision for cedar fencing became the defining element of the project. The yard was framed by reddened cedar boards, split into a few distinct areas for lounging and dining, and incorporated natural asymmetry with clean lines. Her Sweeten contractor cleared the yard entirely, pulling up everything until they reached fresh dirt to make way for a clean slate.

Before backyard

backyard renovation

After clearing and leveling the plot, he installed stained cedar fencing around the full perimeter of the yard. He took care to preserve the lone mature tree in the far right corner of the yard. The crew discovered bluestone under the rubbish during demolition and they were able to re-purpose it cost-effectively by the back entry. The upcycled bluestone blocks created a pathway onto square slabs that lead to the right of the yard into an elevated oasis at the very back, where gravel supports a simple perch.

Discovering the green thumb

Although they used fresh sod sparingly, it greatly impacted the yard’s midsection to create a green, lush aesthetic. K.V. admitted that having grass is a lot of work, but because of it, she’s acquired a green thumb, a better sense of gardening, and ambitions for increased plantings next season. A row of mulch runs along the left side of the fencing with annuals, perennials, and blooms, K.V. has a fabulous foundation for her newly acquired greenskeeping skills.

elevated deck

K.V. outfitted her backyard with some necessities for a summer siesta or kicking back with friends and local fare. The elevated seating area in the back includes handpicked Acapulco chairs in bright colors, plus a fire pit and hammock (which she considered tossing until she made peace with the fact that she spent most of her days relaxing here). The paved walkway houses an outdoor table and bench seating, plus a grill.

With a completed backyard renovation in Brooklyn under her belt, K.V. is extra ready for summers in the city!

Ready to get your own slice of paradise with a backyard renovation?

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BACKYARD RESOURCES: Fencing: Stained cedar/fire pit: One Kings Lane. Hammock: Novica. Table and bench: World Market.

Sweeten founder and CEO weighs in on what to know before renovating a brownstone.

Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog, Sweeten Stories, for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation with Sweeten.

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