One Room Challenge: Pit to Paradise

Here it is: the One Room Challenge!  This is our third time to participate.  Last fall we renovated our master bathroom, which just about killed us.  This spring, we renovated our kitchen, which still makes me smile every single day.  In what I think might be our last ORC, we're going to try to turn our backyard from a total pit into a beautiful retreat for our family.  

I love that our backyard is spacious, private, and shaded, but basically everything else about it is terrible.  Let's take a before tour!

For starters, when we bought the house a year ago, the backyard was probably 66% paved.  The left side, beyond the big raised flower bed, is all flagstone, which used to extend all the way under the phase one tree house.  We originally planned to relocate the flagstone to create a patio along the back of the house, but after starting to pull it up we discovered that it's really too thin to create a lasting surface.  The rest of the backyard is covered in assorted styles of pavers.  That means our first job will be to dispose of probably a literal ton of retaining blocks, pavers, and stones.

When you go out our back door and look to your left, you're greeted by this lovely sight.  Breaker box, abandoned tools, and a massive HVAC unit.  It's not my favorite.  We plan to disguise all these utilities and build a vented cover for the air conditioner.

When you look to your right, you see a concrete graveyard and the end of our zipline.  We plan to pave this section with bright white concrete pavers set in a grid, edged by dark grey gravel.  

Just beyond the zipline is our swingset, which is currently the only habitable piece of the backyard.  If you stop swinging, the mosquitoes will pick you up and fly away with you.  We're hoping our drainage improvements will help that problem, but I also plan to plant some mosquito repelling plants.  

I've got big plans for this ugly little corner!  We're planning to install a designated potty area for our sweet lab mix, Bella.  We try to keep up with scooping her you-know-what, but we still feel the need to warn guests to watch their step just in case. This is probably my favorite part of the entire design.

Here we are back on the left side of the yard, looking away from the house.  We're eliminating the raised bed and making everything you see here a play area with wood mulch.  It's huge, and it's going to include tree house phase one (pictured), phase two, the swingset, and a ninja warrior style DIY obstacle course.  In case you can't tell, we're still dealing with residual parental guilt from our previous renovations.  Ha!

It's kind of tough to see in this picture, but behind that monstera (I think?) plant is a big cable box.  Obviously we don't love that being in the middle of a children's play area, but we have to find a way to conceal it without obstructing access, as it's an easement.  I think we've figured out a decent solution.

This is our phase one tree house.  So far it's really only used as a zipline platform and an occasional picnic spot, but we've got big plans to make it more fun and functional.

Everything on this side of the yard will be graded to drain properly around the side of the house, and we'll add shade resistant grass.  We had really hoped to hire that out, but our quotes were $4000 and $5000, so we're going to have to DIY.  Ugh!

The back of the house won't see any major changes, but I do plan to paint the back door, utility boxes, and the tile porch.  We'll also replace the sad light fixture and add additional lighting.

Fun side note: I started removing pavers on Monday, and within about fifteen minutes I had already tweaked my back.  It's going to be a tough five weeks!  

Aside from the built-in motivation and deadline that comes with the One Room Challenge, my favorite part is following along with what all the other crazies are doing.  If you're participating, please comment so I can come cheer you on!  And click here if you want to go see what all the other participants are up to.

Thanks so much for reading!


  1. Ooh! This looks promising!! I'm excited for you -- especially for your tree house! We have a pirate ship in our backyard, so I'm allllll about the backyard transformations! XOXO

  2. That is going to be an amazing yard to play in! I feel you on the stones- every time I dig a new area of the garden, I'm finding more and more broken bricks and rocks.


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