An Idyllic Retreat in Michigan Makes Room for Prized Koi

This idyllic retreat combines lush plantings, statues and moving water for a serene backyard scene

Barry Harrison wanted to transform his small vacant yard into a lush private garden that would provide a healthy habitat for his prized koi. He also wanted a space that could help earn money for The Greening of Detroit as part of the Detroit Garden Works Garden Tour.

He and Arturo Sanchez, co-owners of interior and furniture design firm Art | Harrison Interiors, hit the drafting board and then the workshop to come up with unique and clever ways to create a 25- by 42-square-foot backyard oasis that screens out a city park, provides comfortable seating and the relaxing sounds of water, and gives his koi plenty of room to swim around.


Patio at a Glance

Who lives here: Barry Harrison

Location: Birmingham, Michigan

Size: 1,050 square feet


One of two large granite slab bridges leads to a gravel patio. You are lured across by a 1960s statue of a temptress that Harrison picked up at the Brimfield Antiques show.


Birmingham 1Art | Harrison Interiors & Collection, original photo on Houzz


He and Sanchez adapted these luxurious chaises for the garden with an all-weather finish.


Chaises: The Lewiston Chaise, Art | Harrison Interiors


Smaller granite slabs create a 2- to 3-foot-deep moat all the way around the gravel patio, which is a great habitat for Harrison’s prized koi.


Birmingham 2Art | Harrison Interiors & Collection, original photo on Houzz


Bamboo and this whimsical garden folly screen out an adjacent city park. Designed by Sanchez and Harrison, the fanciful shed has copper pipes just off the front of its barrel-shaped roof, which spout water down into the moat. The structure serves as the fountain’s pump house as well as a cleverly concealed potting shed.


Birmingham 3Art | Harrison Interiors & Collection, original photo on Houzz


Around the back of the folly, a vintage cast iron bull statue stands guard over the potting implements — and over Harrison himself at the moment.


Harrison also keeps vintage gardening tools, watering cans and cloches back here.


Birmingham 4Art | Harrison Interiors & Collection, original photo on Houzz


This large obelisk provides more ingenious hidden storage, hiding an air conditioning unit and larger garden tools, like rakes and hoes.


Related: Outdoor Storage Solutions for All of Your Needs


Birmingham 5Art | Harrison Interiors & Collection, original photo on Houzz


Stag horns and ferns mark the entrance to the great room. A marble-topped French console helps the space serve as an outdoor foyer.


Related: Functional Console Tables to Take Outdoors

Out front, a foot-deep space at the side of the driveway did not offer much room for plants, so Sanchez and Harrison whipped up sketches for this screen of plants in clay pots. The two design indoor furniture at their firm, so this was an interesting departure. The pots are filled with succulents that don’t require much attention.


Birmingham 6Art | Harrison Interiors & Collection, original photo on Houzz


The screen nudges you off the driveway and around the side, down a granite flagstone path to the private garden.

Most of the plant palette is simply lush green, including easy-to-care-for plants like petasites, Baltic ivy, angelina, creeping Jenny and ferns.

Sign up for our Newsletter

A California Garage Transforms and Opens Up to a Stunning Pool

A Minimalist Connecticut Pool House Opens Out to Stunning River Views