McLean Virginia Landscape Design & Construction

2023 Landscape Contractors Association Grand Award Recipient

The story of the project as told by the client.

Vacation at Home for the Busy Travel Team Family in Mclean, VA

Kristie Helfrich’s family rarely had time to vacation together due to their busy schedules. With four high-energy kids on different sports travel teams, they spent a lot of time on the road.

The Helfrichs decided to make better use of the blank expanse of their backyard by turning it into an athletic field where the kids could work off youthful energy–and weary parents could relax in the shade or sink into the spa and enjoy a staycation.

“We loved the sketches Howard prepared because he offered possibilities for our space that we hadn’t even imagined, and now they are some of the most used aspects of the yard.
“We had no idea the yard could look this way. Our architect saw what we were missing and helped us arrive at the perfect result for our family.

A Backyard Design with Something for Everyone

After they purchased and remodeled their home, the Helfrich’s realized they weren’t making the most of the backyard. Not even close. It didn’t work for anyone in their busy, athletic family.

They started out thinking they would add a “sports court” with some plantings but realized this wouldn’t be enough.

In discussions with senior landscape architect Howard Cohen, it soon became clear there was much more potential to be exploited. Fresh ideas caught the imagination of the family and were translated into a plan for a multi-purpose outdoor environment that the family uses year-round.

Building on a Solid Beginning

At the beginning of the project, the backyard had an existing small patio, fire pit, and dining area.

The landscape architect worked with the family to integrate some of the existing features while introducing refinements to make the entire yard function seamlessly as a whole.

Rugged Solutions for Rugged Play

The family wanted to maximize the space for activity. Work hard; play hard – they knew this was no yard for the delicate.

The backyard design is built to withstand the punishment of stampeding feet, bouncing balls, and high impact on the surfaces.

“We love the hardscapes and sturdy greenery – they are perfect for the heavy use our athletes put to every corner of the yard.

A Hardcore Workout Calls for Serious Cooling Down

Athletes need a place to relax and unwind after a hot workout, and the family loved our idea of a pool. Knowing the path from field to water would be frequently used; we used a combination of hardscape, synthetic turf, and careful plantings to keep the pool free of debris.

An expansive terrace accommodates comfortable furniture from which parents cheer on the athletes while enjoying their day off from team-parent duties.

A Boulder Diving Ledge Invites Adventure

This is not a timid family. They loved the idea of scrambling to the top of a boulder waterfall and diving ledge for a plunge into the deep end.

Surrounds found the perfect boulder combinations to complement the new spa and renovated fire pit patio.

“We hadn’t even thought about a pool, but when I told them I like boulders, Surrounds took it one step further and gave us cliff-jumping in our own backyard.

It’s Time to Party

When it comes to entertaining, the family friends say, “Why would we go anywhere else?” 

Little do their friends realize that the low-maintenance design means it takes less than ten minutes to tidy up before the company arrives.

“People will come to our house and say, I literally feel like I’m on vacation right now, which is pretty unbelievable given that we live adjacent to downtown McLean.

The ROI is Priceless

The investment went towards making the most of family time by making the most of backyard space.
The design team worked with them to find a balance between budget and inspiration, dreams and practicalities. The result is money well spent.

“I can’t put a dollar sign on it for the memories that we’ve already made in the yard. It’s far exceeded the investment to me.

What’s next?

Schedule a consultation and start our simple four-step process!


We walk the property together, talk about the possibilities, and agree to a plan of action.



We listen to your ideas, pitch some of our own, pick the best ones, and put them together in a landscape design plan that fulfills your wish list.



Enjoy the show as our skilled craftsmen transform your property. Relax while we manage every detail of construction.



Bask in confidence. Know that our meticulous garden care team will protect and nurture your newly installed landscape in the seasons ahead.


READY TO GO? Schedule Consultation with a registered landscape architect

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