Take It Outside: Best Backyard Design Features

Best backyard features for outdoor living in Colorado Springs.

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Summer screams for hot-tubbing, barbecuing, entertaining and stargazing in the backyard. With the natural beauty of the local landscape and the moderate climate, this is a perfect setting to extend the comforts of home beyond your back door. Whether you want to relax, dine or play, here’s some inspiration from professional landscapers and a DIYer couple on how to maximize your abode for the ultimate in outdoor living.


The star of DIY Network’s Mega Decks, Garth Hystad, founded his Colorado Springs landscaping firm Mosaic Outdoor Living & Landscapes more than 30 years ago—for a very specific reason. “When you think of Colorado,” he says, “you think of the outdoors.” However, after asking a lot of local folks, Hystad says theory doesn’t always translate to practice. “If they’ve eaten outside 10 times in a year, they are rock stars,” he says. “You live in one of the best states in the country! … That doesn’t even make sense.”

outdoor living deck
Photo by Daniel Lemon, courtesy of Mosaic Outdoor Living & Landscapes

Hystad describes himself as an artist. He says he looks at the outdoors as a theater and focuses on properties as a whole—how to capture the beauty of the environment while integrating with an existing home to create a true outdoor living space. And the more meals a family can eat in that space, the better. This is where moveable glass walls, warm and inviting colors, maintenance-free and realistic-looking decking, and fireplaces all play into Hystad’s designs.

“An extraordinary dining opportunity outside probably starts with a great grill area that is protected from the wind. Not necessarily the elements, but the wind, because wind and a barbecue are not friends,” he says. Eating outside naturally follows, “if you have a space that’s tailor-made to be very flexible,” he says. “What I mean by that is I design outdoor spaces, not indoor spaces that are outdoors. Who wants to go eat in a sunroom? That’s not an outdoor experience.”

outdoor living grill and deck
Photo by Daniel Lemon, courtesy of Mosaic of Mosaic Outdoor Living & Landscapes

Read more about Garth Hystad’s Mega Decks TV show and foster care advocacy in“Brokenness to Beauty.” 


outdoor living water feature terrace
Building a house near a pond or lake isn’t the only way to enjoy water in your backyard. From homes in the Garden of the Gods area to proper- ties out east, Matt Hiner has added soothing and cool elements across Colorado Springs. Photo by Brian Johanssen, courtesy of Hiner Landscapes.

Waterfalls and ponds, fountains and bubbling stones can all add a welcome cooling and soothing atmosphere to your space. As Paul Hiner of Hiner Landscapes says, there are lots of benefits. “The sound of water can drown out noise of nearby traffic or neighbors while also creating a focal point to your yard,” he says. “The soothing sights and sounds help you relax, which can lower blood pressure and help us disconnect from our busy lives.” And he says water features are environmentally sustainable: “Although it takes many gallons of water to fill initially, over the long haul they require less water than the expanse of lawn they replace.”

outdoor living backyard pool with garden of the gods on horizon
Photo by Brian Johanssen, courtesy of Hiner Landscapes

If you’d like to add a Japanese aesthetic—or just something engaging to watch—consider koi. While Colorado Springs’ winter weather does mean doing things a little differently, Hiner says that koi are good outdoor companions. “Our colder climate requires a minimum pond depth of 24 inches, though 30 inches is recommended. Koi are cold-hardy fish and hibernate in the bottom of the pond all winter long just fine,” he says. “It’s important to stop feeding them once pond water temps get below 55 degrees to allow their metabolism to slow down for the winter season. With the combination of an aerator and de-icer, your koi will be happy all winter long, ready to greet you in the spring.”


outdoor living spaces firepit
Photo courtesy of Fredell Enterprises, Inc.

If you want the ambiance—but not the fuss—of a Colorado camp re in your backyard, it’s easy to do these days, says Paul Fredell of Fredell Enterprises, Inc. Of course, atmosphere isn’t the only bene t to a re pit in your backyard. “Evenings are always a little bit cool, so … [fire pits] extend your season,” Fredell says. They allow friends and family to hang out a bit longer, and they also offer lighting in subtle, warm colors.

Fire pits can be setup to use either natural gas or propane, with manual or remote control ignition, and they come in a wide range of styles. You can choose to match your home or complement the surroundings. Or, like the one featured in these photos, make it a focal point for your outdoor space with some other modern art to boot.

outdoor living fire pit
Photo by Melissa Hiner, courtesy of Hiner Landscapes.

“Outdoor living has become a huge factor in new home sales, and upscale home sales especially, so by creating intimate outdoor rooms, you can really, really make your yard more user-friendly,” Fredell says. “The era of a great big open lawn because the kids need it—that lasts for about eight years, and then the kids have outgrown it, and the lawn is beat. So people are creating these outdoor living spaces, and it’s amazing the different materials that you can use.”


outdoor living backyard entertaining setup
Photo by Tom Kimmell

Tom Kimmell and Leslie Klein aren’t landscapers by trade, but their DIY backyard shows off their successful partnership of researcher (Klein) and doer (Kimmell). Over the course of many, many hours and a lot of sweat for about a year, the couple turned a tiny slate patio, small deck and chain-link-fenced yard into a cozy entertainment hub for their whole downtown block.

outdoor living diy pizza oven
A pizza oven may be the most unusual component of Tom Kimmell and Leslie Klein’s downtown backyard, but it’s their DIY style—along with warm lighting and lots of seating. All help to make an inviting, entertainment-ready outdoor space that is a true extension of their home. Photo by Tom Kimmell

They’ve got the requisite built-in grill, hot tub, fire pit, fountain, mini-fridges and covered dining spaces. But on top of that, they have a full-sized pizza oven, complete “with a door made from a piece of a Toyota truck,” Klein says. Their only regret? “That we didn’t build it bigger,” Kimmell says. It can be a slow process when you have 20 neighbors over and pizzas come out one at a time. But they do cook in about four minutes each, Klein says.

The backyard is filled with lots of creativity, art and elements important to the couple. They repurposed rock from the original patio into a fountain. Klein is a former Olympic kayak racer, so they figured out how to DIY old boat-making techniques to bring aquatic curves to some of the wood elements. The two mountain bikers installed a carport that not only matches the rest of the structures, but allows clearance for their cars to park with bikes on the roof racks.

And yes, there is a garden. But the couple only grows two party-supporting foods: tomatoes and basil.

Ready to DIY your own backyard party space? Learn more about Kimmell and Klein’s process.

Parade of Inspiration

Looking for more building, remodeling and landscaping ideas? The HBA Parade of Homes leads you on a self-guided tour of showcase homes around the city. Just prepare for amenity envy.

Aug. 2-20, 2017

Details and tickets at cshba.com.

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