Meander down the stone steps behind this Traverse City home to discover a backyard designed for soaking up every precious minute of Up North summer—and then some. With the help of a local landscaper, this forested lot was transformed into the best backyard ever.

This article was featured in the April 2017 issue of Northern Home & Cottage. Subscribe for stunning home ideas delivered to your door. 

Summer is short at 45th parallel north. It makes the business of landscaping interesting, and Bob Drost, of Drost Landscape, has been adapting to April blizzards and early fall frosts for 25 years. He loves the challenge and the satisfaction that comes from a project completed with equal doses of creativity and teamwork. Just as important is a client who shares his goal of creating a harmonious extension of a home into this beautiful landscape, and then enjoying it as long as the weather allows.

Drost found such a client on the west side of Traverse City, with a gracious Craftsman-influenced house and a beautiful, yet underutilized, forested lot. Open space was minimal, and it became a soggy mess every time it rained. The kids wanted a place to play outside, and the parents wanted to cook and relax outdoors.

When Drost met with the clients, he says, “The ideas just flowed. I could see a lot of potential in this site.”

So did the clients, and they were ready to invest in a plan filled with features to maximize their enjoyment of the outdoors: stone steps hugging the house, native plantings to blend with the woods, a flowing stream and waterfall, a natural stone hot tub, a massive stone hearth and a full kitchen. It’s all mingled within a generous stone-paved entertaining space, both open and covered, and a small grassy area overlooking a wooded ravine. Now the backyard is where everyone wants to gather.

“My clients were phenomenal,” says Drost of the shared vision he had with the homeowners. They put a lot of thought into the details, and Drost’s team made their ideas real, from excavation to hand-chiseling the capstone on the hearth. The homeowner tells this story: A rectangular stone had been chosen to cap off the hearth and to control sparks. Once the hulking piece was in place, however, it seemed too geometric and clean atop the jagged, rustic hearth. So stone mason Dustin Drost set to work with a chisel and roughened it by hand.

The effect of such a luxurious space in the woods is surprisingly natural, with the design wrapping around the house and emphasizing the lot’s natural contours. The project’s signature material is its golden-ivory U.P. limestone with a cobbled texture. Drost has been using this stone in Lower Peninsula projects longer than any other landscaper.

The rough limestone contrasts with the sleek stainless and granite components of the top-of-the-line Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet kitchen, where suppers and pizza parties happen spring through fall. In winter, the family enjoys grilling and soaking in the hot tub. Other modern amenities include wireless speakers and a projection system for showing movies on an inflatable screen.

Even without the high-tech features, the space has an irresistible draw as sounds of the brook and waterfall mingle with bird song. The pumps that serve the water features are cleverly installed underground, behind a Bilco door, enhancing the natural sound and look.

Drost considers this one of his best small-space projects to date. When he visited after his crew had wrapped up all the details, he says, “I left here so pumped! This business, for me, is all about the thrill of doing it. Everyone on my team has their special skills, and this is where they all come together.”

Now, it’s also where the family and their friends come together.

Diane Kolak is a freelance designer and writer from Lake Ann.
Photography by Dave Speckman.

Northern Home and Cottage Resources

Landscaping Design & Installation
Drost Landscape, Petoskey, 231.348.2624.

Mapleridge Construction, Chris Miller, Williamsburg, 231.384.0388

Outdoor Kitchen
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet

Water Feature
Easy Pro Pond Products, Grant

Bulk Materials
RW Popp Excavating, Traverse City

Rental Equipment
Alta Equipment Company, Traverse City

Plant Material/Hardscape
Great Lakes Landscape Supply, Cedar Springs

Hardscape Products
Emmet Brick and Block, Petoskey

Concrete Services, Traverse City

Hot Tub Helicals
Helical Pier Distribution, Howell

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Photo(s) by Dave Speckman