By Cheryl Rade

Do you have a cheerless patio, a ho-hum deck, or a drab-looking shed? Has your overgrown backyard taken on a life of its own? Perhaps it’s time to convert your lackluster outdoor space into a stylish, livable area that is sure to increase the appeal and enjoyment of your home.

That’s just what River Road–area resident Jeremy Block did two years ago when he and his wife, Shari, decided to convert their unruly backyard into a modern-day showplace. “When we first moved here, there was nothing in the backyard but concrete and a dysfunctional shed, and it wasn’t a good use of space,” he says.

Today, however, that same area boasts a huge L-shaped, wood-covered breezeway that features an oversized sectional sofa, a gas grill, and a wood-fired oven called a Green Egg. In addition to that, there’s a large hot tub, a child’s play structure, and a freestanding pergola that provides cover for a dining table and chairs.


“We added another 300 square feet to our living space,” Block says, noting that his family (he and Shari have one grown son and an 8-year-old daughter) enjoy spending as much time as possible in their outdoor oasis. “We eat dinner out here quite a bit, and it’s a great place to entertain,” he says. “This is our own tranquil environment; this is where we make most of our memories.”

The backyard makeover was not an easy task, according to Block, but it was well worth the effort. “We did a lot of landscaping, and there was so much concrete to remove,” he says. “And the demolition—that was an unconsidered portion of the project.”

He credits Rainbow Valley Design and Construction for helping to accomplish his home’s transformation, as well as Emerald Pool & Patio, from which he purchased many of the patio furnishings and accessories. Regarding the latter, Block was so impressed by the company (as they were with him) that he went on to join Emerald’s sales team.

Lytton Reid, designer and builder at Rainbow Valley, advises that more and more homeowners these days are interested in creating unique outdoor living spaces, just like the Block family. A lot of that has to do with living in the Pacific Northwest, he says. “What makes it so popular here is that our climate makes it so inviting to be outside.”


Outdoor kitchens, spas, plantings, expanded patios and decks—these are just a few of the many ways to enhance unused areas. “Our goal is to provide a comfortable living space, and add beauty and value to your home,” Reid says.

Jane Gilbert, co-owner and vice president of Edgewater Home Furnishings in Eugene, explains that designing outdoor living spaces is all about the flow from the inside to the outside. “Lifestyles are becoming more casual,” she says, noting that many people today are taking vacations (otherwise known as staycations) without leaving their homes.

“They want to make their house their own little retreat,” she adds. “Financially, it makes great sense to maximize your outdoor space. We live in the Northwest and we want to embrace the elements.”

Speaking of embracing the elements, probably no one does it better than Heidi and Indar Bhan, whose newly built abode off Clear Lake Road displays all the characteristics of a palatial playground.

Designed and decorated by Edgewater’s Gilbert, the Bhans’ 6,300-square-foot residence, situated on 15 acres, features a grand entrance highlighted by two metallic spouting elephants that spray water into a well-stocked koi pond. Heidi says that the elephants, which each weigh several hundred pounds, are the perfect pond accessories. “Indar loves elephants and so do I,” she says, noting that her husband was raised in Fiji. “We have elephants everywhere.”

And that’s just the front of the house. The backyard features a massive patio complete with an outdoor kitchen (with both gas and wood-fired grills), a fire pit (for the kids to make s’mores), a hot tub, and a rectangular swimming pool with a water slide.

“We even have patio speakers to provide music,” says Heidi, who, along with her husband, owns Island Fence in Junction City, as well as Island Cedar in Harrisburg. “It’s fun to have parties here, but what I love most about [the patio] is to be out there cooking.”

Having livable outdoor areas is perfect for the Bhan family. “We love to be outside; we’re very outdoorsy people,” Heidi says. “There’s just such a sense of freedom.”

Edgewater Home Furnishings | 155 Division Ave. | 541/484-1962 |

Emerald Pool & Patio | 1885 Hwy 99 N | 541/688-1090 |

Rainbow Valley Design & Construction | 785 Grant St. | 541/342-4871 |