ISSUE 22  |  Outdoor Living

Landscape Architect Visit: A Lush NYC Backyard by Robin Key

June 03, 2014 10:00 AM

BY Michelle Slatalla

The typical townhouse backyard in New York City is a rectangle 20 feet wide by 36 feet deep. So, how do you turn a measly box like that into a garden that feels private, lush, and irresistibly usable?

The goal for a young family in downtown Manhattan was to create a modern outdoor room that works well both as a play space for kids and a party space for adults. The solution, a design by New York-based Robin Key Landscape Architecture, was to use a unified color palette and plants that would provide year-round interest:

Photographs by Francine Fleischer.


Robin-Key-Landscape-Architecture-Greenwich-Village-Townhouse-GardensitaAbove: A peaceful color palette includes bluestone pavers, zinc on the retaining walls, and a bleached cedar fence.

700_robin-key-2Above: Espaliered shrubs turn the fence into a focal point.

700_robin-key-3Above: In the back of the lot, where the trees and neighboring buildings bathe the area in shade, the sorts of plants that thrive include Solomon’s seal (L), Japanese painted ferns, and a white-blooming ground cover (R).

manhattan-patio-garden_robin-key-8-gardenistaAbove: The view from the house, which is located in Manhattan’s West Village.

700_robin-key-10Above: The steps down from the main garden to a lower level create a sense of more space.

700_robin-key-1Above: Three floors above is a rooftop terrace where crape myrtle trees in containers are planted with perennial grasses.

For a Brooklyn backyard, see Steal This Look: Modern Townhouse Garden on a Budget. Read more about Robin Key Landscape Architecture in our directory of architects and designers on Remodelista.

N.B.: This is an update of a post originally published October 22, 2012.