What?! No Deck?

These Edina, MN homeowners chose this property for the backyard view and lake access for canoeing. The original house had some problems. It wasn’t an ideal space. So, they razed it and built the home of their dreams – downsizing in the process. This project won an award for Excellence in Landscape Design in 2015 for this suburban backyard from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA).


  • Access from the sliding doors to the yard
  • Creating retaining walls appropriate for the scale of the home.
  • Retaining walls could not block the neighbors view of the lake or impede the high water mark
Creative tiered patio design Minneapolis mn

Tiered paver patios and a modular block retaining wall design – complete with dining spaces, a fire pit, outdoor lighting, and drip irrigation - and everything accessorized with colorful and textural material choices.

This suburban family loves the outdoors so the space had to work with their lifestyle. In the backyard, they were looking for dining spaces, a fire pit, and enough yard space for their children, friends, and dogs to enjoy. It seemed simple enough until Mr. Homeowner said “no deck”. He disliked the enclosed feeling, the deck railing at eye level, and the cluttered look of storage under the deck. He also wanted visual appeal on the lake side so he insisted no deck. The drop from the sliding glass doors to the ground is about 8 feet! This required thinking outside the box.

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Issue #1: Backyard Access

Solution: A new modular block retaining wall replaced the existing failing wall sitting on the property line and holding up grade. The tiered walls were sized and constructed to create usable spaces without the need for larger, engineered walls. To build the new retaining wall, we work from the neighbor’s property. As a courtesy, the designer offered the neighbor a free perennial garden design to everyone’s satisfaction and delight.

Seating around the built-in firepit

Issue #2: Saving the Neighbor's View

Solution: Extending the tiered, modular block retaining walls out too far from the house and could block the neighbor’s view of the lake. The homeowners and designer sat in the neighbor’s lower level family room and determined just where the walls had to turn the corner to preserve their view of the lake.

Retaining walls and steps fit into a tight footprint

Issue #3: Making Room For Steps

Solution: The limited retaining wall extension meant getting creative with the retaining wall steps. A cap-wall block-cap combination meant the 7-inch risers fell within the outdoor step requirements.

Best Management Practices

  • Gentle grade away from the house was laser-level-checked daily.
  • Materials on-site were kept organized and covered to prevent run-off.
  • Sleeves and piping were preplanned for irrigation, lighting, and gas for the paver patio fire pit.
  • Drain tiles and ports were installed within the retaining walls.
  • In an age where the majority of American families are eating out more often than taking dinner together, this family does just the opposite. They have a perfect lakeside spot for fabulous Sunday family dinners, s'mores at the fire pit with friends, a relaxing cup of coffee in the morning...maybe a glass of wine in the evening.
  • Plantings: daylilies, junipers, crabapple, phlox, spruce, hydrangea, Alpine currant, and astilbe
  • Hardscapes: Belgard Laffit pavers, Anchor Artisana modular block retaining wall

Improve Your Life Outdoors

Meet with A Landscape Designer or Architect

Your perfect outdoor living space begins with a simple conversation. Let’s talk about your outdoor living space!

Schedule a Meeting

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