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Hand Built for a Brooklyn Brownstone
By Andrew Soto, LC/DBM


A Brooklyn brownstone needed its back lawn replaced to accommodate a redesigned patio and garden area. ADM Landscape Corporation was hired for the job. The lawn was dug up by hand and replaced by concrete pavers set in sand. Concrete masonry units filled with concrete were used to build seatwalls and cedar lattice fencing was custom made to enclose the entire area.


Sweet autumn clematis provides an added layer of privacy as it grows into the spaces between the lattice. The cedar panels were custom made by Wayside Fence of Bayshore, N.Y., and assembled on site by ADM's carpenters. Plants such as mini joy sedum give life to the garden bed increasing in color and texture as they grow.


The posts for the cedar lattice fence were installed using concealed galvanized post anchors secured to an existing concrete block wall and seatwall. The seatwall is finished with Profit Ledgestone veneer and granite coping. A dry rock pond, plants and flowers add character to the garden bed. The pond is lined with a fabric filter and filled with a quarter yard of Mexican beach pebbles.

After their children left home for college, a New York architect and her husband decided they needed to renovate. They began their endeavor with construction on the first floor of their home and ended with the creation of a private outdoor getaway, nestled in the heart of Brooklyn.

The homeowners wanted an outdoor space where they could relax with guests and enjoy the sunshine. Brooklyn, being the largest of New York's five boroughs, is not known for having large backyards. However, the homeowner had just enough space to build this unique urban project.

Getting Started
The homeowners decided to hire Andy DiMarino of ADM Landscape Corporation. DiMarino worked with Brooklyn landscape architect Liz Farrell for the design of the build.

Based in Kew Gardens, New York, ADM has worked on brownstones in all of the state's five boroughs. They specialize in the design and construction of multi-level decks, rooftop gardens, and outdoor living spaces for smaller properties.

At Face Value
Prior to the construction of the patio and garden, cyclone style metal fencing enclosed a lawn in rough condition. A closer look at how this project came together reveals much about the efforts expended throughout its construction.

Since the homeowner renovated the property's interior first, and the only access point to the outdoor work site was through the house, prepping it to accommodate the exterior construction was very important. To this end, the floors and walls were completely covered to protect them while work on the patio and garden area was underway.

This restricted access limited the types of tools and equipment that could be brought in to complete the work. The existing lawn was dug up by hand using shovels. Five gallon buckets were filled with soil and carried by the build team, one by one through the property. Only handheld tools such as cut-off saws were available for use on the construction.

The patio area was paved with concrete pavers over a compacted gravel and sand base. The pavers are held in place by a type of edging restraint known as a "haunch." An existing concrete block wall was used to mount the framework for the cedar lattice enclosure and seatwall. The seatwall was filled with concrete and covered in ledgestone veneers and topped with a granite coping.

Existing fence posts were wrapped in cedar to match the rest of the woodwork and the staircase leading to the patio. The cedar latticework provides privacy and a place to secure an existing climbing hydrangea the homeowner wanted to preserve.

"The cedar fence was left all natural and unfinished," said Andy DiMarino, ADM Landscaping. "It maintains itself very well and gets a great tint to it over time."

All Said and Done
The size of the build site, the very tight and compact work environment, and the age of the building all contributed to make this build as labor intensive as it can get. The project required six full-time crewmembers working by hand over the span of eight weeks to complete.

"This project was very similar to what we normally do as we have worked on many brownstones: each is very unique in their own way," said DiMarino. "This one turned out to be a very unique small space made very usable."

As seen in LC/DBM magazine, January 2017.

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December 11, 2018, 2:08 am PST

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