Creative Solutions: Backyard Magic

Small Home Gazette, Fall 2016

Creative Solutions: Backyard Magic

When they purchased their bungalow in 2011, Minneapolis homeowners Ruth and Phyllis had already made a key decision about the backyard: The dilapidated basketball hoop would have to go. “The backboard was in tatters, and we are more oriented toward backyard gardening and entertaining than shooting baskets from the backcourt,” says Ruth.

backyard patio

A nice backyard patio occupies a former basketball court.

So, they set about removing the concrete squares that formed the half-court. But a strenuous attempt to lift out the 16-inch-square by 6-inch-thick blocks with a crowbar soured them on the idea. “The squares were in decent shape, and we realized that if we centered an outdoor rug over the blocks, it would make the patio more attractive,” Ruth remembers. 

Removing the backboard and pole that held it proved to be another insurmountable obstacle. The pole was actually a pole-within-a-pole, with concrete binding the two poles together, and an enormous concrete footing anchoring both poles deep in the ground. So, what do you do with a 7-foot pole next to your new patio? 


The weathervane sits atop the pole that formerly held the basketball hoop. The owners had hoped to remove it but its concrete pole-within-a-pole connection and underground anchor led them to explore other options. The weathervane is one of many artistic flourishes the homeowners have added to their bungalow.

“We remembered an old weathervane we had picked up at a salvage yard years before,” Ruth says. With a bit of PVC pipe and some hardware, the old weathervane was joined to the pole.  But the transformation wasn’t quite complete. It was still just a flat patio in the middle of the yard with a weathervane on a pole.

The patio needed boundaries to provide that intimacy and coziness that bungalows exude. Stacking concrete blocks along opposite sides of the patio and topping them off with wood box planters gave just the right ambiance.

“We use the patio frequently and love that we introduced some artistry as we worked through the conversion from a small basketball court to an outdoor room,” Ruth says.

planting boxes.

A cozy patio with a decorative weathervane works very well for these Minneapolis bungalow owners; far better than the basketball court and hoop that occupied the space when they moved in.

Other Examples?

If you know of other creative solutions to make bungalows more livable, send them to us at Whether they save space, provide modern convenience with an historically-appropriate appearance or simply make the best of a difficult situation, we would love to share them in the Small Home Gazette.