We all live for Minnesota summers. While many locals head up north for weekend cabin life, it’s not always realistic for families who, like Dawn and Gary Jurkovich, have weekend work commitments and are busy with children’s activities. Instead, they wanted to bring the vacation retreat into their own backyard, and used local Northwoods Landscaping to make it a reality.
The Jurkoviches are an active, fun-loving family who built their Dancing Waters home in 2007. Gary is the worship leader at Crossroads Church in Woodbury and works weekend services. Dawn, a financial advisor, works in downtown Minneapolis for North Rock Partners. Their daughters, Olivia, 12, and Sophia, 10, are competitive dancers with Larkin Dance Studio, with demanding practice schedules. The family has loved using their neighborhood pool. However, they dreamed of creating a backyard escape that would give them even more freedom to relax together.
“I always wanted my own pool,” Gary says. “It’s nice not having to pack up and worry about finding a place to sit.” Adds Dawn, “We live in such a fast-paced world. We cannot see ourselves working, being taxi drivers, and food service people to our kids all week long and then getting in the car to drive somewhere up north so we can enjoy family time. We wanted to create our own little resort in our backyard.”
Inspired by a vacation to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, the Jurkoviches wanted a contemporary backyard retreat to relax and unwind. They turned to Northwoods Landscaping, a company based in Woodbury and founded in 2001 by local resident Jason Adams, which specializes in design and installation of hardscape and landscape projects. The design features a new pool, around which the team at Northwoods created a landscape worthy of an upscale tropical resort. The plan included a patio, walkways, a water feature, fire pit and landscape plantings, as well as lighting.
“Dawn liked contemporary, but we also had to fit the style of the house, which isn’t super contemporary,” Adams says. The original backyard had a simple patio under the four-season porch and some planting beds along the house.
(The goal of the space was to serve as a place for entertaining, as the family enjoys throwing parties.)
Dawn shared how the vision of a new backyard retreat became a reality. “I would look at Houzz.com and I would go through and save an idea book, and then Jason and I would meet and I would say, ‘Okay, this is the concept I’m thinking of’ or ‘These are three elements I would like.’ And then he went crazy and designed it all,” she says.
While the pool was important, the goal of the space was to serve as a place for entertaining, as the family enjoys throwing parties. “We love that we can be together with the kids and the adults,” Dawn says.
Adams designed a landscape plan to create a resort-like atmosphere. A walkway of large square stamped concrete tiles is surrounded by an inlay of azure Mexican beach pebbles. The walkway leads around beds of perennials, such as ornamental grasses, purple iris and walkers low toward the poolside, which has coped edges of stamped concrete. “We did everything at 90-degree or 45-degree angles with straight line plantings to keep the contemporary feel,” Adams says, instead of more traditional curved beds.
Dawn and Gary admit to not being garden savvy, so planting perennials that are not overpowering was important. “Low maintenance was a goal,” Gary says. Adams also chose trees for their contemporary look. A row of skyrocket junipers, teardrop-shaped evergreens with silvery blue foliage, and a grouping of slender quaking aspen add architectural interest.
The design included a traditional cut pattern Kentucky blue stone patio. The outdoor living room is decorated with sophisticated but casual lounge furniture where the Jurkoviches can entertain friends and enjoy watching their girls swim or practice their dance routines.
The focal point is a gorgeous pondless water feature. The rectangular design is made of stacked stone and built upon a trap rock retaining wall with individual boulders, each weighing more than 2,000 lbs. Water pours onto a bed of Mexican beach pebbles. The design is accented with modern planter pots containing flowers with big pops of color. “You see these beach pebbles a lot at the resorts in Mexico; they’re expensive, which is why you don’t use them everywhere,” Adams says.
The property really shines at dusk. The family frequently enjoys sitting around the modern linear gas fire pit, matching the stone of the water feature. Low-voltage lighting evokes the blue tones in the water feature, and up-lighting maximizes the sculptural qualities of the trees. Path lighting as well as lanterns and candles provide a sophisticated evening ambiance. Dawn says, “It’s a zen feeling back there.”
All these elements combined with the Cuban rhythms of Buena Vista Social Club on the sound system and the mouthwatering smells of the smoker and grill going make this backyard retreat complete. “It’s all the senses we’re going after,” Dawn says.
As far as its return on investment, the Jurkoviches’ backyard is now a destination for friends and family to make priceless memories and lots of laughter. “We have client parties, dance team parties, birthday parties, family events, work events—a little bit of everything,” Gary says. “With the amount of use, it’s been worth it. There are people over all the time.”
Adds Dawn, “We had a girls’ weekend, and we kicked [Gary] out. We called it Las Vegas weekend and had it catered in. It was super fun. We couldn’t find time to go to Vegas, so we brought Vegas here.”
(The focal point of the landscaping is a gorgeous pondless water feature. Water pours onto a bed of Mexican beach pebbles. The design is accented with modern planter pots containing flowers with big pops of color.)