Backyards can serve as close-to-home getaways, or shelter for neighbors

Our backyard sanctuaries represent an increasing investment in amenities, and in community.

JUST INSIDE THE GATE that leads to Heather and Sam Allard’s backyard in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood, Southern California awaits.

A wide ash-gray deck extends deep into the yard, creating a huge platform for all the goodies Sam has tricked it out with, including an L-shaped seating area, a wall-mounted TV and a whirlpool tucked in a corner.

The centerpiece is a round swimming pool, lined in shades of blue and recessed into the deck, creating the illusion that it was built into the grounds. Lounge chairs surround the pool, perfect for supreme beings of leisure to take in the yard and, in the distance, a peekaboo view of Lake Washington and the Cascades.

Just to the west of the deck, a cobalt-blue Ping-Pong table sits on bright-green artificial turf.

The BLOCK Project aims to build a backyard cottage to house a homeless person on every block in Seattle. The first one is being built in Kim Sherman and Dan Tenenbaum’s Beacon Hill yard. (Lauren Frohne & Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

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The easy-breezy vibe is very David Hockney, an effect greatly accentuated by the intense summer sunlight on this particular 85-degree day, which gives these blues and greens a dreamlike intensity.

“It was a nasty yard, with a dead pine tree in the middle — nothing was really level back here,” Sam, 38, says of his yard of four years ago, when he started its dramatic face-lift.

Its reincarnation represents just the sort of life Heather would live, if every day were a pool party.

As owners of the nearby sports bar Rookies and the adjoining bar behind it, aptly called Backyard, the Allards spend most of their time catering to others. It comes with the business. Here, they can kick back and treat themselves.

“It’s nice to host people here but also, for me, to kind of escape,” says Heather, 42.

Backyards are more than extensions of living spaces. Set far from the street, usually closed to the outside world, they serve as inner sanctums for relaxation, scenes of fellowship among family and friends, settings for gardens and picnics, a place to get away without actually going anywhere.

The backyards of my own youth in Kentucky play through my head as I stare into the Allards’ brilliant pool — scenes of me playing hide-and-seek and Wiffle ball with my…

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