Case Study

Matching a Modern Home in Old Westham

January 3, 2021
Matching a Modern Home in Old Westham


The Old Westham neighborhood, nestled right next to the University of Richmond, gets its name from a small trading town called Westham, which flourished from the mid-1700s to around 1800. Though the oldest house dates back to 1827, the development of the neighborhood began in the 1930s. A large part of Old Westham’s appeal today comes from its variety of architectural styles, which include Colonial, Cape Cod, Tudor and even the occasional Mid-Century modern home (like our clients’). The neighborhood is also loved for its beautiful mature landscaping featuring traditional favorites like pines, dogwoods and azaleas. With friendly neighbors, churches, restaurants, and retail within walking distance, it’s a wonder why anyone ever leaves. 

Client Needs

Client Needs

Whether biking through trails, working in the yard, or simply lounging, these two busy doctors love to unwind outside. Unfortunately, their small existing patio only had enough room for a dining table and an extensive koi pond prevented its expansion. To create the additional outdoor space they wanted, the homeowners decided to make use of a small, difficult area that had been left open by the previous homeowner. This area was difficult to grow grass, always stayed wet and became a regular mess when their dog ran through it.

Design Phase

This project posed a couple of difficult design challenges. To start, this little clearing was a small space that the client wanted to put large features in. Unlike larger spaces where options and creativity are unlimited, tight areas are like a puzzle where there is only one, carefully designed solution. Though options were limited, the end result was a stunning and efficient use of space.

Build Phase, Challenges, and Finish

Designing a tight space is difficult, but not nearly as difficult as building in one. This densely wooded and fenced property provided numerous obstacles, no wiggle room to maneuver and only one narrow path of access. Bringing in over a hundred tons of gravel, stone, concrete and block quickly wore down our only path and, coupled with wet weather, led to constantly stuck equipment. Additionally, we were unable to bring in every piece of our normal equipment, making the placement of the boulders and boulder fire table incredibly difficult. Though we went in with a well-thought-out plan, constructing this outdoor living space was an incredibly difficult process.

Features in this project:

Natural Stone Patio

Outdoor Kitchen with Bar Top Seating

Wood-Burning Outdoor Fireplace & Wood Boxes

Gas-Burning Boulder Fire Table

Complimentary Landscape

LED Lighting

Sitting Walls and Boulders

Additional points of interests

Though difficult to build, the trouble area is now a stunning outdoor living room that brings tons of enjoyment.

An Inspired Fireplace

At Outdoor Dreams, we pride ourselves in being able to create original fireplace designs as well as replicating other designs brought to us by clients. During the design process, the homeowners sent us a link to a picture of a fireplace they liked. Though the pictured fireplace was of a structure far too big for the client's space, Outdoor Dreams was able create a replica design that fit the scale of their project.

A Second Fire Feature

Though it looks like it was always meant to be, the boulder fire table was a late addition to the space. While picking out materials at the stone yard, our clients fell in love with this unique feature from Fireboulder. The design was quickly adjusted to accommodate the feature and our utility plan was updated to provide gas. With this feature included in the space, our clients are now able to enjoy the ease and convenience of a gas fire as well as the unbeatable ambiance of a wood fire. Additionally, the added heat source allows the space to be enjoyed on even cooler evenings.

Stunning Stone Simplicity

One of the most striking aspects of this space is the use of 24"x36" Blue Ice slabs from Oakville Stone. Blue Ice is an absolutely stunning stone slab that features a natural cleft texture and light blue coloring. The use of one large size in an offset, running bond pattern creates a clean and elegant design that is stunning in its simplicity.

No Need for a Table

Along with the fireplace, one of the clients' "must-have" features was an outdoor kitchen. Including a built-in grill, rotisserie and hidden trash can, this structure also features an expansive area for bar-top seating. To elevate this structure into a stunning feature, an upgraded granite (Silver Pearl with a Honed Finish) was selected.

Before -> Rendering -> Actual

Click or drag through these photos to watch this project go from trouble area to conceptual rendering to an outdoor dream.

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