Faced with the challenge of changing grades and embedded anchor points, Eric Ellington of Glen Allen Grounds used his expert design skills to create a beautiful outdoor living space. This project is the 2019 HARDSCAPE HERO of the YEAR’s first HARDSCAPE HERO win of 2020.

“We started the project after a business partner introduced us to the homeowners. As it turned out, they were old friends that knew my father and late aunt, so the whole thing just lined up. As soon as we realized that, our whole relationship changed,” says Ellington.

The team at Glen Allen Grounds first had to demolish a multi-level deck and gas fire pit. The old deck was anchored to two aggregate walkways, a doorway, an additional elevated deck, the driveway and a stair set leading to the yard.

“The homeowners decided to upgrade to a patio for several reasons. They spend a lot of time outside with friends and family and felt like their existing deck was restrictive and uncomfortable. They didn’t have a dedicated area to grill, and they didn’t trust the gas fire pit enough to even use it,” explains Ellington.

So Ellington and his team designed a patio that would meet all of the existing anchor points while also addressing the yard’s severe elevation issues and incorporate several features, including a seating wall, fire pit, garden, outdoor living room and small topiary.

The yard had several changes in elevation, including a dramatic, sweeping aggregate walkway. Ellington and his team addressed these changes by using a combination of gravel and retaining walls to create a series of level terraces, allowing the whole patio to flow from one space to another without feeling disjointed.

After conquering the elevation changes, the team worked to make sure the patio would meet all of the existing anchor points.

“It was crucial that the patio line up with the rest of the structures. We were using a laser, a string line and still triple checking everything as we went,” says Ellington. Despite their thoroughness, he says his crew still had to rebuild and readjust a few things on the spot in order to make it perfect.

“That’s just the nature of the beast. We wanted the patio to feel like it had been there as long as everything else, so we tweaked and made the cuts necessary to make sure it was perfect,” Ellington says.

The homeowners were extremely satisfied with the final result, and Ellington says they loved watching the project come together.

“The husband is a doctor on night shift, so he was home a lot during the day. He was great to my crew and made them feel at home while watching us work. It feels good to be acknowledged and appreciated by our clients. It makes all the difference,” says Ellington.

The finished product is a beautiful patio, with transitions that interlace perfectly to create a relaxing and flowing outdoor living space.

The winning project was completed using Chatham Natural, Diamond® 10DS, Dublin Freestanding and CottageStone.


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