Pandemic backyard makeovers: How one CT couple joined the trend

Stratford residents Joe and Cyndi Adams planned to give themselves a present after their 2019 wedding: a spacious backyard patio for relaxing and entertaining family and friends. 

And just as they put their dreams on paper, along came the COVID-19 lockdown, giving them even more reasons to extend their living space to their backyard.

And they’re not alone.

“So many people are at home now,” said Jenna Miles, of Ophelia + Adele Home, a Middlesex County-based design firm working across the state. “People are looking for ways to entertain safely at home and to make it functional. They want spaces that are defined.”

When the Adamses bought their Stratford home in 2017, the backyard, which extends 180 feet back from the house, was a blank slate.

“Before it was just grass and a small sidewalk from the driveway to the [basement] door,” said Joe Adams.

Now the couple enjoys an almost 800-square-foot stamped concrete patio complete with an attractive seating area around a propane fire pit. A table with umbrella for working and summer dining, a vegetable garden and plenty of grassy space for their chihuahua-dachshund mix, Lucy, to scamper complete the oasis. 

Cyndi’s green thumb has kept them in homemade tomato salsa, ketchup and zucchini on the grill from their large garden, which also includes plenty of mint.

“Mojitos were the drink of choice,” Joe said of summer 2020.

The patio has also provided an outdoor spot for Cyndi, a first-grade teacher, to work from home. As the pandemic progressed, they even purchased a projector to watch Netflix outside.

Adams figures the whole project — which included a front walkway — cost about $13,000 minus the furniture and odds and ends such as planters to bring more warmth and greenery.

 

Alice Eckerson, a principal designer at South Norwalk-based Eckerson Design Associates has noticed more demand for rectangular pools.

Alice Eckerson, a principal designer at South Norwalk-based Eckerson Design Associates has noticed more demand for rectangular pools.

Bruce Eckerson of Eckerson Design Associates of South Norwalk

As for overall backyard trends, Alice Eckerson, a principal designer at South Norwalk-based Eckerson Design Associates has noticed that many of the New Yorkers buying homes in Connecticut are looking for properties that come with a pool. She’s seeing more demand for rectangular models that can be fitted with automatic covers to close for children’s safety and when the homeowners are away. That said, slides, waterfalls and lazy river designs are also popular features, she said. 

Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are popular as well as they can be used as a way to safely gather with friends. Entertaining areas often include built-in grills, warming drawers and refrigerators to make the most of the outdoors throughout the year, Eckerson said.

“It extends the season for when you can use the yard,” she said.

Fire pits have been a backyard trend in Connecticut during the pandemic.

Fire pits have been a backyard trend in Connecticut during the pandemic.

Total Pool and Patio in Newtown


Landscaping trends tend to skew toward native plants and easy-care set-ups. Eckerson’s firm encourages clients to consider earth-friendly alternatives to larger grass lawns.

Miles and Eckerson agreed that families are looking for ways to keep kids safe and entertained outside. Some work in dedicated areas for an extended swing set or add a shallow “sun shelf” to a family pool.

While it’s the realities of the pandemic that made many homeowners look at their backyards with fresh eyes, Miles said she thinks many are thinking of long-haul solutions and enjoyment. Some are re-thinking hectic schedules jam-packed with music lessons, team practices and planned play dates.

“I think it’s changing into a way of life,” she said. “We don’t have to go, go, go. People may be more content to be at home.”