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A Pleasant Ridge backyard evolves into a family ‘playground’ that’s especially enjoyed during the fall


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The Bolaches enjoy some family time around the fire.

Photos by Joe Vaughn / Styling by Tanya Zager Chisholm

The Bolach family is crazy about their backyard. Come fall, Laurie Bolach, her husband, Mark, and their children — Samantha, 4; Spencer, 13; and Tyler, 9 — extend their summer s’mores tradition right into pumpkin and cornstalk season. The Bolaches, who’ve lived in Pleasant Ridge for a dozen years, say their property wasn’t always so family-friendly. “It was pretty much just grass and there was a huge tree with a lot of old limbs, which was dangerous,” Laurie recalls. When they decided to overhaul their 1925 home’s backyard and began looking for a designer, they first shopped in their own neighborhood. “We looked at other landscaping projects and saw signs for Four Seasons Garden Center in yards that we really liked, so I called them,” Laurie explains. The couple and Four Seasons’ Lyn Duffy decided to transform the yard in three stages, including adding a patio, pillars, a fire pit, and a grilling station.

Working with Duffy, a senior landscape designer who’s been with Four Seasons for 12 years, the Bolaches decided their first priority was to create a grill and small patio area. Because of the ages of the children, different features became important. The Bolaches wanted a fire pit and needed it to be kid-friendly; hence, they chose one that’s taller than the standard height. Because the backyard is on the small side, scale was important. The grill area and fire pit flow well together, but aren’t constructed of the same materials. “We wanted to mix up the elements, which adds personality,” Duffy says. They also introduced low-maintenance Unilock pavers and added an arborvitae green wall for privacy.

For decorative autumn touches, Duffy and Laurie added pumpkins from Eastern Market and filled planters with cornstalks, broom corn, eucalyptus, oak-leaf hydrangea, coralbells, shrubs, and perennials. “It’s nice to think out of the box — we blended things from the markets with what was already available in Laurie’s summer planters,” Duffy says. Restoration Hardware pots and planters work well for these creative motifs. On any given night in the fall, it’s not unusual to see Mark grilling burgers, dogs, brats — you name it. “I’m up for experimenting on the grill,” he says. Adds Laurie: “We love to entertain, and this is such a social neighborhood. We designed the backyard to be inviting, so when people drop in they can relax.” Hardly a night goes by, in fact, when there isn’t a neighborhood impromptu cocktail hour or barbecue potluck headed up by grillmaster Mark. While looking out toward the fire pit, Laurie says, “We’ve even had New Year’s Eve parties out here!”

PARTY TIME: Outdoor gatherings are extra special with inviting accessories. Pillow covers, wood bowls, mercury glass candle holders, porcelain hurricanes, tealights, placemats, throw, enamel dishware, Ikat bowls, agate coasters, and reclaimed wood tray from West Elm, Birmingham, westelm.com. Roasting forks from REI, Troy, rei.com

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