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A Well Composed Renovation
By Vanessa Angell, Techo-Bloc





At this expansive residence in Bergen County, N.J., Ryder Landscaping Design of Unionville, N.Y., designed and built a new backyard entertainment area with Techo-Bloc slabs, pavers, wall stone, caps, coping and steps. These curving steps were made with stone from the manufacturer's Aged Cap collection in Champlain grey. Also included in the install was a fireplace constructed from FireRock products.


''What a great use of space!''

Landscapers beam with pride when they hear this comment after completing a job because it typically means they have managed to include a ton of features, furniture and fixtures while avoiding an outcome that looks cramped or cluttered.

However, the challenge with this backyard in Bergen County, N.J., was different. The homeowner, Kim Granatell of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" fame, had an overabundance of space to work with but was concerned that the improvements she envisioned might make the vast expanse behind her already imposing house too grandiose and impersonal. She was on a mission to recreate the comfort and intimacy of a smaller space.

"This was a renovation project," Granatell reveals. "I did have a pool and fire pit, but that was it, so it's very different now. I changed it because I never liked it from day one and I always knew I was going to change it."

To make her desire a reality, Granatell relied on Ryder Landscaping Design of Unionville, N.Y. She already had architectural plans drawn up for the new backyard landscape when she first contacted Ryder. This included completely replacing the existing pool.

"I thought the pool was amazing and quickly suggested that the pool be renovated and restored instead of replacing it," said Darren Ryder, owner of the landscape company.

Not being particularly taken by the plans, Ryder requested to present some new ideas. Granatell agreed so he quickly created a digital image design and shared it with her.

"She was thrilled," Ryder remembers. "She then spent some time discussing with me some ideas of her own to add to my images."

Inspired by Aspiration and Necessity
According to Ryder, the job was just as much of a need as a want. When the original backyard was created ten years ago, Granatell was in the hospital so she didn't have much input with what the design would be.

"It wasn't done properly," he says. "It was pretty much falling apart; heaving and splitting. It was just a very bad design."

As far as Ryder was concerned, the walls were too close to the pool. There wasn't a sitting area around the pool. The outdoor kitchen was too close to the house. There was a wooden deck off of the house.

He sums up, "I felt the layout was all wrong for the beautiful home it accompanied."

A crew of three men started and completed the job. They demolished and removed the existing landscape and hardscape of the backyard, except, as mentioned, the pool to which they added a sun deck. The redesigned layout had spaciousness in mind.

As explained by Ryder, "If you were a guest at the house you could enjoy the fire at the outdoor fireplace while eating at the outdoor kitchen and be able to have room to lounge by the pool."




The fireplace was built with moss stones from Firerock. Aged Caps were used for the mantle. Ryder reports that one major challenge was to have the fireplace and the spa match the same material that the walls, pillars, steps, and kitchen were made of. The landscape crew had to cut and snap off two-inch pieces of Champlain grey wall stone and then veneer the entire face of the fireplace and spa. All corner pieces had to be custom made. The stone manufacturer actually turned Ryder's creation into a new product.





The pool was the only part of the original backyard that wasn't completely demolished but it was restyled. A sun deck was added by installing rebar and bending them to shape the frame, which was then layered with Gunite. The spa and spillover were built in the same fashion. Natural-colored Bali coping encircling the pool has a rounded-off bullnose edge on the inner side for safety and to create softer, more elegant lines.





The patios and paths are overlaid with a mix of Monticello slabs in azzurro, rock garden brown, and chocolate brown colors, framed with a single or double band of Antika pavers in sandalwood and further defined with a single band of Parisian pavers in chocolate brown. The lanterns on the pillars are from Murray Feiss' Castle collection in Grecian bronze. All of the outdoor furniture is from Source Outdoor, an upscale outdoor furniture manufacturer and distributor located in Miami, Fla.


Created with Accord
Techo-Bloc products were a key element in maintaining overall harmony while highlighting individual areas.

A winding path is clad with an artful mix of Monticello slabs in azzurro, rock garden brown, and chocolate brown colors, framed with a single band of Antika in sandalwood and further defined with a bolder Parisian paver in chocolate brown. This paver creates a heavier visual line to guide the eye along the twists and curves of the top-notch workmanship.

The theme and functionality of the pathway sets the stage for the rest of the backyard - two pavilions descending from the rear of the house.

The upper pavilion hosts the lounging and dining areas, which are framed with Mini-Creta walls and pillars in Champlain grey that contain each of these spaces and help create a cozier, more intimate feel. These areas are situated at both ends of the house, separated by a small promenade that runs from the patio door straight down curving steps made with Aged Caps to a lower pavilion. By opening out into a semi-circle that follows the curvature of the walls enclosing the dining and lounging areas, the wide steps enlarge the visual field while supplying a somewhat majestic feel to the home, in conjunction with the adjoining walls and lantern-topped pillars.

The lower pavilion hosts outdoor entertainment features like the pool, barbecue, and a FireRock fireplace, which is nestled at the bottom-left side of the steps and uniquely incorporates the same Champlain grey three-inch and six-inch-wide blocks as the walls it stands next to.

Everything meshes, everything flows naturally. A small sitting area right below the fireplace forms a perfect outdoor refuge for snuggling up with a brandy and book on chillier summer evenings.




The upper pavilion is framed with Mini-Creta walls built with three-inch and six-inch-wide blocks in Champlain grey. The pillars are constructed of the same material. Aged Cap in Champlain grey top the walls and Pillar 24" in Champlain grey top the pillars. The planters are called Lion Head Troughs and are supplied by Elegant Earth, a garden furnishing supplier with retail stores in 43 states, and a factory in Alabama that sells exclusively to the trade. According to Ryder, the homeowner does a lot of the planting and plant maintenance. In these troughs, she installed petunias.





The kitchen-sized outdoor cooking area and small dining bar feature a granite counter atop a custom-built base made with three-inch and six-inch-wide stone from the Grill Island collection in Champlain grey. The counter top was installed in four separate pieces. For appliances, Ryder used the existing ones, which are all Viking products: a gas grill and rotisserie, a double side burner and a refrigerator. The electric hurricane candle lanterns are from Frontgate, an outdoor home furnishings store with retail outlets in North Carolina, Georgia, and Ohio, and a complete online catalog. Once the counter top was installed, Ryder built the backsplash. He carved out the stone to make it look like the granite is embedded in it.


The nearby kitchen-sized outdoor cooking area features a grand granite counter atop a wall where the grill island adjoins a sink and small eating area. This area extends right along the side of the yard furthest from the house and overlooks the inviting split-level pool.

This is where the concept of dividing according to functionality really comes into its own, with a raised hot tub only a few steps from the entertainment area. The spa overflows into the pool so that anyone relaxing beside it can enjoy the soothing sound of falling water.

The three-colored slabs, with two bands of the same lighter-colored bricks and one band of the darker-colored pavers that flow throughout, span the rest of the yard. The design delineates the space with an even wider frame. This banding continues around the pool to define its shape in a bold and visually stunning way.

Bali pool coping has a rounded-off bullnose edge on the inner side for safety and to create softer, more elegant lines for the pool.

The job took the three-person crew five months to finish. The only subcontracted portions were the framing and Gunite finishing of the spa and the pool, and the installation of the countertop.

Ryder reports that one major challenge was to have the fireplace and the spa match the walls, pillars, steps, and kitchen. As a solution, the landscapers cut and snapped off two-inch pieces of blocks used in those features, and veneered the entire faces of the fireplace and spa. All corner pieces had to be custom made.

"The stone manufacturer loved my idea and turned my creation into an actual product to buy," he says with delight.

The overall effect of the color palette and textures created by the Techo-Bloc product range complements the house's expansive, yet thoughtful backyard.








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June 17, 2019, 8:33 am PDT

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