Project Profile: Bringing a Personal Vision to Life

The isolation at the height of pandemic was challenging, but for Ted Whitehouse, of Whitehouse Landscaping, it was an opportunity to use his skill to create his very own slice of paradise in his backyard.

A night view of the stonework, lighting and ambiance.
A night view of the stonework, lighting and ambiance.
Whitehouse Landscaping

Ted Whitehouse, who specializes in hardscape design and sales, is no stranger to vision.

As a 20-year industry veteran, Whitehouse has worked on countless projects and brought to life numerous beautiful outdoor spaces for clients over the years through his company, Whitehouse Landscaping, which he founded in 2002 with his brother Sam to provide outdoor landscaping and hardscape design services to western Montgomery, eastern Berks and northern Chester County in Pennsylvania.

Whitehouse never considered that he would find the time to create his own personal oasis.

—Enter COVID-19.

The pandemic, as we all know, brought the world to a screeching halt. As things started shutting down, Whitehouse and his wife Becky put the plans they’ve always had to transform their outdoor living space into fruition with the newly acquired weekend free time. Weekends that were once filled with soccer and flag football games with their two sons quickly changed into bonding moments to redo their own yard, a slight glimmer of hope for something fresh in a worrisome time.Backyard decking and a landscape with a central fire pit create a relaxing hangout.Backyard decking and a landscape with a central fire pit create a relaxing hangout.Whitehouse Landscaping

The family has always been very active outside, but prior to the renovation, they spent most outdoor time on their small, deteriorating deck that lacked usability. The backyard that the deck overlooked was partially sloped and often caused issues with drainage when it rained. Overall, the family longed for a space that highlighted entertainment and provided a comfortable zone for leisure.

“The project started with the old wooden deck being removed and getting replaced with a larger composite deck,” Whitehouse says. “Then, what was going to be a pretty simple patio below the deck ended up turning into a lot more.”

The deck was expanded from 10 feet by 12 feet to 16 feet by 20 feet, which allowed for more space overall and enough space for a new sitting area with a propane fire table. Trex materials were used, and the upgraded cocktail railing led to a distinct, useful look with minimal long-term maintenance necessary.

As time went on and COVID-19 continued to hinder other activities, it became clear to Whitehouse that taking advantage of this time could be a blessing and an opportunity to turn the simple space into a longer-lasting one for years to come. With that, he was off and acquired a crew from his company to come in and help to get the preliminary base materials moved. His two boys, Henry (9) and Miles (6), along with his wife, were excited to help—enjoying the process and anticipating the creation to come.

They decided to connect the new deck and a new irregular flagstone patio area with an irregular flagstone walkway. The irregular flagstone was chosen to provide a more natural feel. A fire pit was created using a boulder fire pit ring and a custom-made metal insert was added to raise up the fire and make for easy cleanup.  The fire pit provides a nice focal point and works as a magnet for togetherness that the family really wanted.

“My wife loves puzzles, and after a little training on building dry stacked natural stone walls, she was right at home finding the right stone,” Whitehouse recalls. “My boys would be excited every time a crew would drop off a machine for the weekend.” Most of the machine work was done with a mini excavator, and the base material was moved using a skid loader.

A lower patio was installed under the deck using Techo Bloc Blu 60 HD Slabs and a Techo Bloc Antika/Valet double border that offered an added spot for the boys to play. The patio also works as an extension of entertainment. Additionally, a custom standing table was added around a deck support post to provide a gathering spot for socialization.

Stone outlining the choice plants and foliage.Stone outlining the choice plants and foliage.Whitehouse LandscapingThere are multiple retaining/sitting walls cut into the slope to level the spaces for the two patios constructed by a mix of mountain fieldstone wall stone and ironstone boulders. Then, western mountain flagstone from an existing patio under the old deck was reused to build custom benches for additional seating in an inexpensive way.

This first phase of the project took roughly a year to complete—from September 2020 to September 2021—the family working hard to get the majority done as the world started opening back up and weekends once again started to fill with other activities. Luckily, there weren’t many challenges throughout the project except for the slope of the yard—which required some extra planning in the design—and the occasional lack of extra hands. Being kids, his sons presented challenges of their own, but welcome ones, nonetheless.

“Looking back on the project now, I don’t think there is anything I would change,” Whitehouse says. “I think one of the most enjoyable parts for me was allowing the project to evolve as it went. This is not something I get to do very often when designing and building other people's outdoor living spaces.”

Whitehouse has plans for a phase two of the project, to be completed by spring of 2023. These additional elements include adding an artificial putting green that will be incorporated by the lower patio and a dry creek bed to help with the drainage. He hopes to also install additional lighting and touch up some landscaping.

Although these plans to expand on the project are in place, Whitehouse says he and his family are currently enjoying the reward of their hard work and determination to cultivate a special backyard space just for them.