Inspiring Artscapes

Before & After: Dreaming Big in a Small Outdoor Space

Publish by Publié par Jonathan Hendy on le Jul 13, 2017 11:52:32 AM

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Pharmaceutical rep turned hardscaping aficionado, Darren Allen is in the business of healing cramped metropolitan backyards. His ability to condense relaxing and expansive features into narrow, urban spaces has secured him a spot as an industry connoisseur. Today, we’re going to be handing you his 4 vital keys to a successful hardscape project.      


Allen’s approach is people oriented. What truly connects him to his clients is how he shares his passion: “We communicate with clients via email, Snapchat, WhatsApp and more. My clients are always tied to their phones and they appreciate receiving pictures or short videos of the construction site during the day.”

The fact of the matter is that if you supply homeowners with an army of visual aids, updates, and check-ins along the way then you minimize divergences in visions. In doing so you maximize efficiency, profit (no impromptu re-cuts coming about because your homeowner doesn’t like the curve you included on the flowerbeds), and clients’ peace of mind.

At the end of the day, a client should be zen long before you give them their sanctuary. Because if they love the journey you take them on, then they’re more likely to tell their friends to hire you as a “travel agent”.   


“The greatest influence on our designs is size of property, people & function. Nowadays, people want the full experience in their backyard; they want to enjoy outdoor living.” Allen affirms that as contractors, designers, and industry specialists, our job is to think about how we can combine all these features together into every project we deliver.

For example, take this cramped Toronto backyard Allen recently worked on with his company Golden Mean Landscapes.


The homeowner of this property is a busy businessman. He travels a lot, so when he’s home he takes advantage of his time off by either relaxing in his backyard or using it to host friends and family. When Allen met him, his backyard consisted only of a tired old deck. He didn’t want a lot of greenery because he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep up with maintenance. Now, his backyard is set up for entertaining; speakers, spa, BBQ, fire pit area, and more. Golden Mean Landscapes built a place with all his demands in mind.


Material selection was, evidently, a large component of creating this contemporary look. The homeowner was on the lookout for “something modular and clean - with structure and character.” With the help of his contractor, he eventually opted for Techo-Bloc’s 30x30 Aberdeen slab.

See Allen’s portfolio for more tips. 


In the residential urban areas Allen is used to, creating spacious, manoeuvrable spaces always proves to be a challenge.

The most common obstruction? Large trees. The greater obstacle? Environmental conservation. Many of these trees are decades old and are therefore protected by the city. In the spirit of sustainability, Golden Mean Landscapes often incorporates raised concrete work into their designs so that surrounding tree roots can continue to thrive. Allen recommends that homeowners and contractors alike hold to this principle of conservation all throughout their outdoor renovation journey. “It shouldn’t be about new vs. old, but rather new and old.”



The two major pointers that Darren would give a homeowner: “Before starting a backyard renovation project, no matter the size of the project, you should have a design. It is a vector for communication. The designer, the contractor and the client all have a basis from where the project is going to move forward. Without the designs, mistakes can be made easily and the homeowner doesn’t get the expected final result. By having the drawings at the beginning of the project, you save a lot of headaches at the end. As a homeowner, you need to invest a little bit more money upfront, but in the long run you save a lot of frustration and miscommunication thereby preventing costly mistakes.


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