Backyard Bliss with an Outdoor Makeover

An outdoor makeover complements this Maple Grove family’s sociable lifestyle.
A waterfall, firepit, outdoor kitchen, paved patio, pool and sport court allow this Maple Grove family to host large groups during any season.

To many Minnesotans, the luxury of warm summer months means the occasional retreat to the backyard for a barbeque. With this in mind, a Maple Grove family has found a way to make the most of the outdoor season while planning a backyard makeover. Their recent remodel transformed an outdoor space into a central hub ideal for gathering friends and family together on a regular basis.

Designing the layout for the space, homeowners Cindy and John had a few ideas in mind. Their plans began with a pool and a sport court—a concrete slab overlaid with durable plastic for playing a variety of sports. Since their kids are active, they focused on creating a recreation area they could use. “We made the decision to put in the pool knowing it will provide a space for our family to spend time with friends. Our kids are growing so fast, we knew the investment would be loved and used for many summers to come,” they say.

Ed Reichow and his team at Task Masters completed the backyard remodel in the spring of 2015. “They gave me the elements, and everything else I dreamed up from there,” Reichow says.

That dream evolved into a beautifully landscaped backyard featuring all the elements the couple was looking for. When stepping foot into the yard, an intricately paved stone patio leads the way to the swimming pool. Situated nearby is the cabana and bar for serving outdoor drinks; an additional patio table with seating sits close by for entertaining guests. To the side, the vibrant blue-and-green sport court allows for a pick-up game of basketball. A waterfall feature, trees and shrubs add serenity to the environment.

One of the couple’s favorite aspects of the remodel is the versatility of the space. Guests regularly enjoy socializing in the area, whether it’s the kids using the sport court, family coming over for dinner or adults having a happy hour cocktail. They love the deck, patio and bar as natural gathering places. “We wanted to be practical with the space; to have a place to set out food and to share drinks,” they say. “The space is really about congregation.”

The outdoor kitchen and bar allow Cindy and John to host multiple families while enjoying some of their favorite foods. “Both of us like to cook in a nice, casual manner. We don’t often do big dinner parties; we’re more of the backyard barbeque type,” the couple says. “We like teriyaki salmon on the grill with veggies, or steak and chicken kebabs. Those are pretty common things for us to do.”

With their second-, sixth- and seventh-graders actively involved in sports, the area provides an ideal setting for team gatherings. The kids’ teams come over several times during the summer for pool parties, celebrating with a classic barbeque meal of hamburgers and hot dogs. “Tacos in a bag”—traditional taco toppings heaped into a Doritos snack bag and eaten with a fork—is another popular request. The kids especially love an ice cream sundae bar with toppings by the pool on a warm day.

“One thing we started doing is having infused drinks by the pool, so that’s been kind of a fun thing to do,” John says. The family enjoys fresh fruit varieties like pineapple, strawberries and raspberries.

Reichow remarks on the trends he sees when it comes to outdoor kitchen and dining spaces in the Metro area. Nearly 20 percent of the remodels his team does include a kitchen installation, usually with a grill and fridge feature. A more elaborate kitchen setup often has beverage centers and storage units. “People are making more investments; they want a destination to be able to come outside, and the outdoor kitchen gives them that,” Reichow says.

While some of the kitchen installations are for new home constructions, the majority of the requests come from current homeowners wanting remodels. “People sometimes don’t know exactly what they want until they live in the space for a while,” Reichow adds.

As the seasons change, the family has found ways to enjoy their backyard regardless of weather. In the summer, the roofed cabana provides a shady spot to sip a cool drink, while installed heaters provide cozy seating in the fall. As the leaves turn colors, the fire pit is the perfect complementary activity, with the added fun of roasting marshmallows for s’mores, of course.

Even in the winter months, the family strives to make the most of the backyard with year-round fun. Once the snow is cleared away, the sport court is perfectly usable for getting active outdoors with a “hoops and hot chocolate” edition of basketball.

When asked to name a favorite aspect of their outdoor living space, John is ready with a reply: “I sit back and love the fact that it keeps the kids around; they can enjoy the space and have fun.”

Reichow is pleased with how the remodel turned out and that it complements the family’s lifestyle. “I get a lot of requests for them [kitchens] now,” he explains. “People like to enjoy the time outside because it’s such a short window in Minnesota.