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Backyard makeover gives Chestnut Hill family year-round space

The backyard renovation at Elizabeth Benedict’s home in Chestnut Hill turned a not-so-useful hill into a patio. Michael J Lee
The backyard renovation included a pizza oven. Michael J Lee

For seven years, the backyard of Elizabeth Benedict’s 1910 brick colonial consisted of a great big hill. The yard at the base of the hill “was no more than 10 feet deep,” says Benedict, who shares the Chestnut Hill home with her husband and their four children. “In the summer, the kids did slip and slide down the hill, in the winter they sledded down it,” she recalls. “That’s all they could do in the backyard.”

After completing several renovation projects around the house, the Benedicts were finally ready to address the backyard. “For a while we envisioned digging into the hill and making it a hobbit hole,” says Benedict. “It morphed into a patio and a cabana. We wanted to create a place that stretched the living space from inside to out with several different areas.”


By digging into the hill and adding grade, Medfield firm Yerardi Landscaping & Design and Newton’s New England Property Contractors transformed the Benedicts’ backyard into an enchanting multifaceted, two-level oasis.

Now, a sizable bluestone patio contained by a native fieldstone retention wall provides an area for seating and dining. Boulders serve as stairs to the second level. Not only do the boulders look more interesting, they serve as additional retention. A perennial garden was planted into a portion of the hill. “I never had flowers before,” says Benedict. “Now I have blooms all season: peonies, hydrangeas, lilies.”

The steps lead to a vegetable garden and a lush lawn, expansive enough for the kids, ages 6, 8, 11, and 13, to play soccer. Atop the cabana is a deck designed for sunbathing. The cabana consists of a four-season room replete with a kitchen fitted with a two-burner gas range, dishwasher, refrigerator, and sink. There’s also a flat-screen television and a much-loved pizza oven.

The bluestone patio floor extends into the room to blur the boundaries of indoors and out. It’s really easy to maintain and make it feel like part of the yard. A sliding glass NanaWall enables the room to be entirely open in the warmer months; even when the wall is closed in the winter the room is filled with natural light. A sectional from Room & Board is made of indoor/outdoor fabric.


The cabana. Michael J Lee

“It looks pretty, but it’s not a precious space. Kids can come here dirty from soccer or the beach, it doesn’t matter,” Benedict says. Adding interest and nostalgia, photos from family trips — transferred to black and white and encased in black frames — hang on the wall behind the sofa.

While the outdoor dining table is by the tony Janus et Cie, most of the other items are more affordable off-the-shelf pieces. “I’m all about the high-low game,” says Benedict. The sofa and chairs were found at www.onekings
lane.com. The table is from West Elm. The cabana kitchen is fitted with Ikea cabinetry.

The chimney accommodates an outdoor fireplace that the family uses all year long. “In the winter we roast marshmallows and make s’mores in the snow,” says Benedict. Also in the colder months, an all-weather ping-pong table comes out when the outdoor furniture is put away, and the kids play tournaments adorned in their winter gear.

“Now, we have a place to sun in the yard, the kids have space to play. We have a garden and a table that seats 12,” says Benedict. “We are out here together as a family all the time.”


Jaci Conry can be reached at jaci@jaciconry.com.