Woodworking Blog

Techniques and Insights Behind the Art of Fine Woodworking

Getting out of the wind – A Backyard Oasis



A client told me that she loved where she lives but, In San Carlos, even when the sun is shining, it can be cold and windy in the backyard.

She and her husband had lived in their home for many years however they were never inspired to do anything with the back yard, until now.

The yard was 75% covered with a concrete patio made up old exposed  aggregate slabs that had been heaved up by tree roots and all of the wooden header boards in between them had long since rotted away.

In one corner of the yard was a poorly built existing lattice structure constructed over an indented portion of a 4′ high stone wall, creating a grotto of sorts.

I suggested building a green house in the same spot so that they could get out of the wind.

I said “let me see if I can find any bone yard windows to
build a green house with”.
In the following weeks I asked others in the building community if they had any windows laying around. One builder said he had five windows in storage for ten years and wanted to get rid of them. Michael said we had some at our shop. There I found a pair of doors and two tall windows that had been in the racks for years. I now had almost all of the windows needed, but still needed a few more. Michael came to the rescue again with four pair of perfectly sized leaded glass window sashes.Finally with a lot of planning and a little luck we ended up with a beautiful little house.
The size of the structure is dictated by the size of the scavenged windows.

All post and beam construction, all joints notched in together for added shear.

3×4 rafters, because they look better than 2×4’s.

Roofing is made up of 4×8 sheets of multi wall polycarbonate panels

Front of structure is built over the existing patio slab and the back corners rest above the existing dry stack stone wall.

These folks were so excited about the new structure that it prompted them to finally do something with the rest of the yard. Now they have a beautiful garden.

That’s all for now, I will update other projects as they progress,

Chris Brabant
Construction Superintendent
A note from the Homeowner:
What you see in the attached link is a combination of my vision, a picture from years ago (saved in one of my old journals) a casual conversation with a friend who is a contractor, and his quiet determination (and artistry) that my dream would materialize.
The Highlights
Made from salvaged windows & doors
Vintage leaded glass windows
Built into the existing rock retaining wall (for that indoor/outdoor feeling)
Crystal chandelier on a dimmer switch (oh how I love this!)
Polycarbonate panels for the roofing
Living Wall
The Result
It was finished in 2013, although stylizing it is an ongoing delight.  Our backyard and our lifestyle is transformed.  Yes, it protects and shelters us.  But it’s also a sanctuary where we journal, dine, meditate, entertain, work, read, stretch, nap and just plain sit in contentment.
I have receipts, facts, figures, and plenty of stories if you’d like more particulars.
I hope you and your readers enjoy this as much as we do.
All the best,
Belmont, Ca.