Touches of Whimsy

1780 0

A Lake Quivira backyard makeover that delights the imagination.

Story by Jeanie Erwin   |   Photos by Matt Kocourek




Developed in the 1920’s as a unique residential and recreational community, Lake Quivira has lived up to every romantic expectation of a recreational retreat. For nearly a century it has remained a bulwark against the busy lives led outside this lakeside haven.

The best things in life, however, are sometimes defined by the smallest things; such as a space that has evolved from one’s own imagination. One Lake Quivira homeowner set out to do just that with help from expert landscape designer Kelly VanElders. Wanting a backyard space that was more than just a place to enjoy an occasional barbecue, VanElders and the resident created a meaningful and invigorating space that delights the imagination and the soul.

“Lake Quivira is a residential lake community. Each home was a custom home and so reflected the needs and design preferences of the owner. This gave the community a very eclectic and authentic feel which it retains to this day; even though many of the original homes have been either modified or torn down for new structures,” VanElders explained of the community.




Since recreational pursuits are so close at hand, the resident wanted a space that was more about peaceful relaxation derived from nature.

“The backyard was a blank slate except for a few existing oak trees,” VanElders began. “It is built on a rather steep incline with about a 20-foot incline from front to back of the property. This caused some drainage challenges which had to be considered and addressed in the design.”

The result was a timeless design that looks both pulled directly from nature, yet intricately designed. The property lends itself to an undulating and freeing design that leaves the straight edges and symmetry so common to most designs, behind.

“The lawn area is oval shaped and includes the addition of spruce and magnolia tree to complement the existing oak trees. We also included some perennials and shrubs to highlight and accent but not overpower the design.”



The patio area is a seamless extension of the lawn and avoids the abrupt disruption with a curved edge transition.

“The patio incorporates natural stone and, for the outdoor fireplace, the exact same brick as incorporated into the home structure. The wall and the flooring use sandstone. Except for the floor and the low wall seating hearth directly in front of the fireplace, there is no smooth surface.”

The back wall which incorporates the fireplace, serves as an additional retaining structure but also a beautiful point of interest, with a rough natural face and many recessed areas to add beauty and function.

“To the left of the fireplace as you face it is a circular end cap which serves as a planter, or as a beverage center. Above that and moving to the right is a storage area accented by silver doors. To the right of the brick fireplace is a 24 inch deep area to store cut wood. Throughout the wall area are small 5 inch deep areas meant to hold candles for additional ambiance,” described VanElders.




The natural stone flooring also holds unexpected touches.

“The owner wanted to include a subtle touch that many may not even notice, or know the significance. As you look at the flooring, you will see many natural variations of color and woven into that design are three-inch quartz stars that reflect the position of Orion’s Belt in the night’s sky. It is intended to add interest, but be subtle enough that would be missed with only a cursory view. Like every other feature of this backyard design, it is like a gift that you find with observation,” VanElders concluded of the Lake Quivira gem.



Landscape Architect: VanElders Design Studio

Contractor: AKA Masonry

Custom Iron Fencing: KC Forged

Wood fencing: Guier Fence

Irrigation: Ryan Lawn and Landscape

About The Author