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Home & Garden 5 Tips for Carving Out a Chic Entertaining Space in a Small Urban Backyard

10:15  11 september  2021
10:15  11 september  2021 Source:   architecturaldigest.com

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a dining table in a garden: Artist and designer Josh Young and his husband Ignacio Martinez renovated their backyard in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood to turn it into an entertaining-ready hangout spot. © Photo: Josh Yöung Design House Artist and designer Josh Young and his husband Ignacio Martinez renovated their backyard in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood to turn it into an entertaining-ready hangout spot.

Every time fine artist and designer Josh Young of Josh Yöung Design House shares a snapshot of his Washington, D.C., town home with his nearly 100,000 Instagram followers, his penchant for well-styled and layered neutral spaces becomes more and more clear. This aesthetic translates to the home’s exterior, which features a lush backyard garden that evokes the quintessential country house experience—all the while being located a mere three miles from the White House.

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When Young and his husband Ignacio Martinez moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C., last year, finding a home that also featured an outdoor space was a top priority. Previously, the couple had been living in a downtown high-rise. Upon relocating, they once again landed in a vibrant neighborhood. Their historic Capitol Hill town house also offered a promising backyard.

However, the existing outdoor area initially lacked panache—but Young and Martinez were up for the challenge. “Although the backyard was small, the layout was perfect, and we knew the space had potential,” Young says. The mismatched plants and awkwardly positioned patio would of course have to go. “It essentially wasn’t acting as anything,” Young says of the original setup. “Not a yard, not a patio, not a garden, nor a lounge area. It was lost and needed some serious TLC.” Young overhauled the yard with a few design upgrades and a suite of new accessories that helped transform it into a calming oasis in the heart of the city.

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Dreaming of creating your own backyard getaway like this one? Keep these five key tips in mind.

Take cues from faraway locales

Young frequently draws upon the six years he spent living in Milan when it comes to his design. “One of my favorite things about the courtyards, gardens, and parks in Milan is their use of pea gravel,” he says. “I love the warm neutral color, texture, and even sound of walking on it.” Although the couple considered opting for brick or tile flooring, the aforementioned gravel ultimately proved to be the winning solution. “Even though it seems like such a small and silly detail, having it really juxtaposes beautifully with the city surroundings and makes us feel like we’re in a countryside garden,” Young comments.

a group of people sitting at a table with wine glasses: Woven chargers and napkin rings from Williams Sonoma are paired with blue-banded porcelain dinnerware. Glass hurricanes filled with candles add a romantic glow. © Photo: Josh Yöung Design House Woven chargers and napkin rings from Williams Sonoma are paired with blue-banded porcelain dinnerware. Glass hurricanes filled with candles add a romantic glow.

Pay tribute to your surroundings

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Young’s current location, in the heart of D.C.’s storied Capitol Hill neighborhood, influenced his traditional approach to garden decor. “We sourced and incorporated a variety of vintage cast iron urns and planters, and were disciplined on keeping a neutral, calming palette of greens and whites when selecting plants and flowers,” he says. “The garden complements our home, built in 1885, but also feels fresh and is an extension of our interiors.”

Chargers, dinner plates, and candle holders from Williams Sonoma shine atop the table, which is flanked by rustproof aluminum chairs coated in a charcoal finish. “I really love the lines and silhouette of Williams Sonoma’s Calistoga collection, which added just the right amount of contrast to the garden,” Young says. “These pieces really helped elevate the entire space and added just the right amount of traditional and modern elements.”

a room filled with furniture and vase of flowers on a table: Rustproof metal chairs from Williams Sonoma’s Calistoga collection surround a bistro table, perfect for intimate dinners. © Photo: Josh Yöung Design House Rustproof metal chairs from Williams Sonoma’s Calistoga collection surround a bistro table, perfect for intimate dinners.

Keep functionality and lifestyle top of mind

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Young and Martinez had to determine whether they wanted the small backyard to function as a place to lounge or one in which to dine. “Due to the size, we really wanted it to be either/or, so that the space felt intentional and not overcrowded,” Young says. Given the couple’s love for entertaining, it became clear that a dining setup was paramount.

“The key lesson is that you don’t need a large yard to create a huge impact,” Young reflects. “When dealing with a smaller yard or patio, you really need to hone in on your intentions for the space, and how it can best benefit you in your daily life or routine.”

a vase of flowers on a table: A console table comes in handy as a defacto bar. © Photo: Josh Yöung Design House A console table comes in handy as a defacto bar.

Style around a focal point

One must be mindful with regard to styling too. “Establish a clear focal point for the setting and then build around it to help accent and accommodate,” Young says. In his own yard, a vintage marble and wrought iron console table can be styled to serve as a minibar but looks equally elegant displaying potted flowers. Across the way, the couple incorporated a longer table purely for entertaining purposes—they transform it into a buffet when hosting.

Integrate natural elements

The yard’s natural elements informed Young’s decorating process as well. “We focused on creating an environment that felt intimate, sophisticated, and one that would envelop our guests amongst all of the greenery and flowers in the garden,” he says. And he also turned to nature in a way that was quite literal—by affixing a salvaged antique street lantern to the garden’s 150-year-old maple tree. “Suspended eight feet from the tree, the lantern grounds and centers the space,” Young says. “This really helped give a sense of formality to the setting in an otherwise casual environment.”

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Even in the absence of guests, Young greatly appreciates his newfound backyard retreat—which is directly accessible from his basement art studio—as a much-needed respite. “It really has become a refuge and oasis from our day-to-day lives in the city,” he says. “I find it to be the perfect escape for me when facing a creative block.”


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