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For the yard, ditch the lawn and go solid

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Courtyard of a Toronto home by Denegri Bessai Architects. David Wellington recruited architects Tom Bessai and Maria Denegri, who live right behind him, to replace his crumbling garage. He got a new garage, a beautiful one, but also a total remake of his south-facing yard that put a hard edge back on it.

Jesse Jackson

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A view of the dining room. From his back door, Mr. Wellington – a TV producer who often works at his kitchen counter – can look across his backyard and beyond. “In the summer, I put both doors up and pull out the car, and I can watch the kids all the way out to the alley,” he says.

Jesse Jackson

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A beautifully proportioned cedar deck stretches the full width of the house. Unusually wide guards cradle your hands, and a custom-made railing in swooping steel guides you from the house quickly down onto the ground. With a nice dining set, Mr. Wellington and his son can sit there for dinner; when it’s time for hockey, and in the winter months, it’s a clean slate. “It’s a real space, and it gets used constantly,” he says.

Jesse Jackson

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Mr. Bessai points out the small of list materials: plywood, cedar, glass, steel. There’s nothing luxurious here, but they are arranged in clear, consistent compositions, built beautifully by contractor Craig Shields.

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The garage goes across the 19 foot width of the yard, and from the lane it looks typical, with concrete block structure and some handsome cedar siding. But Denegri Bessai designed the inside with clean details and custom cabinets made of Douglas fir plywood instead of the usual mess of shelving. And they added a second garage door – this one with panes of glass – to open into the yard. “The garage is a filter between alley and yard, and also a room within itself,” Mr. Bessai says.

Jesse Jackson

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