Mechanicsville Hillside Makeover

Location: Honey Meadows, Mechanicsville, Virginia 23116


With one young son and another child on the way, it was important for this growing family to transform their steeply sloped, unusable backyard. Before contacting Outdoor Dreams, the homeowners met with other contractors who told them it would take $80,000+ in retaining walls to make the backyard usable. Where others saw the need for $80,000+ of retaining walls, Outdoor Dreams created a stunning 3-tiered space full of creativity and function inside that same budget.

The new backyard includes a versatile wood deck, paver patio, fire pit, retaining walls with bench seating, garden boxes, steppingstone walkway, comprehensive landscape and lighting, and a level play area for a swing set. Instead of a hillside nightmare, this new backyard is truly an outdoor dream!

A Deck Designed with Features

One of the keys to optimizing this backyard was adding a third tier of usable space. To do this, we designed a deck with multiple features and functions that fully utilizes every inch of the space.

The unique layout with centered stairs is designed to create nooks for a grill (not pictured) and a sectional sitting area. Additionally, half of the deck is surrounded with gardening boxes for herbs, vegetables and cut flowers.

The bottom of the deck is latticed to provide a visual barrier, hiding the area under the deck which could easily become an eyesore in this tiered design. The lattice also acts as a trellis feature for the planter boxes, creating support for tomato plants, green bean vines and more.

For additional use of the space, an access door was included in the lattice, allowing the homeowners to use the area under the deck for storage. This additional storage has put off, at least temporarily, the need for a shed.


In our 15 years of business, one of the most desired features among homeowners is bench-style sitting walls. Unfortunately, this is also one of the first features to be cut due to budget. Because it requires 2 ½ – 3 times the labor and materials of a traditional sitting wall, bench-style seating can be a very expensive feature.

The one exception is bench-style seating set into retaining walls, as constructed for this project. As designed, this bench only increased the cost of this portion of the wall by about 30%. The cost is well worth the added functionality and aesthetic.

Native Plants provide a Low-Maintenance, Natural Look

Outdoor Dreams advocates landscaping with native plants for multiple reasons.

To start, it’s important for most homeowners that landscapes require as little maintenance as possible. Because they are adapted to the local environment and climate, native plants typically require little maintenance, fertilization, and water in order to thrive.

From a design perspective, native plants have a natural look and create a relaxing setting. The natural look of native plants also helps to create a space that effortlessly blends into natural surroundings, like the wooded backdrop of this project.

Most importantly, the use of native plants is beneficial for the environment. North American native plants are disappearing at an alarming rate due to human activities, such as urban development, agribusiness, and the introduction of invasive species. The loss of native plant communities has reduced wildlife habitat and the genetic diversity necessary for balanced ecosystems that are essential to our way of life.

Composing a landscape with native plants is an easy, effective, and beautiful way to help restore the environment.


With this project, the client wanted a clean space that also blended with the wooded backdrop. To achieve this, we designed a project with a polished casual style and a few rustic touches.

Using native plants was important for creating a relaxed, casual atmosphere as well as blending the space with the woods behind the property. Because the landscape is natural and free flowing, it was important that the hardscape and deck blend but also provide clean lines and structure.

For the hardscape, the design offers curves that are both flowing and geometric, providing a balance of casual and structure. When selecting materials, the Antika pavers and irregular bluestone provide texture and a rustic touch. To create contrast with the rustic elements, the hardscape features clean-lined materials like the Architectural wall, Valencia fire pit blocks, and the BLU 60 Slabs.

Using wood, instead of a plastic material, for the deck gives the structure a natural look and feel. For contrast and additional design sophistication, we used aluminum pickets for the railings and ran the deck boards at a 45-degree angle.

All of these material and design selections helped to create a stunning space that is clean, textured, and relaxing.

Ready to make your Outdoor Dreams a reality?