Backyard Envy 1

A project by RSL Outdoor.

When designer John Herron from RSL Outdoor began this residential, landscaping project in Boulder, his whole goal was to create space. But a steep slope on the edge of the backyard created a challenge.


“It had a condensed, small footprint because there was this pretty steep slope coming into the backyard that didn’t allow for really any space for an outdoor living area,” Herron says.


The team decided to carve into the hill by using moss rock boulders to push everything back. This made room for an outdoor living area and brought more light into the space. Because of this — they were able to incorporate a fire pit, hot tub and water feature running down the hillside whereas before there did not seem to be any room at all.


Herron notes that most clients in Colorado still want to maintain a natural, rustic feel in their spaces as opposed to the modern look that is often seen. To achieve that aesthetic in this project, Herron used moss rock and flagstone in the hillside and for the patio area. Both are local products and softened up the look of the outdoor space.


To create a seamless transition among outdoor and indoor living spaces, they made the patio level with the threshold whereas before it was a step down below the door. This way, one could walk straight out onto the patio from the kitchen without interruption.


“It was more about getting things leveled out and creating an open space, so it felt like when you left the kitchen and great room, you could just walk flat, straight out into this new, outdoor family room space,” Herron describes.


Although finding space for all the different design elements proved challenging at the beginning, Herron found they were able to incorporate numerous features by working with the once steep slope.


“We were able to use [the fire pit] as a feature but also as a utilitarian wall to hold up the hillside,” Herron says. “We ran the water feature behind it. It looks really natural. When you stand in different areas of the yard, you can see that water feature — it looks like it’s right out of the hill, naturally running down. I think those were the successes of the challenges all put together.”


Fire Pit

This feature serves not only as a fire pit to gather around at backyard parties but helps to hold up the hillside that once overwhelmed the space.

Moss Rock + Flagstone

Both are local products and softened up the look of the outdoor space.

Water Feature

A small waterfall feature is seen running down the hillside at the back edge of the yard. With the addition of this feature, a small slice of nature is available just beyond their backdoor.

Hot Tub

A hot tube was added to the outdoor living area and disguised by flagstone. The light, soft appearance of the flagstone enhanced the rustic aesthetic intended for the space.