A terraced paver patio is key to making the most of a sloping, narrow yard of a home in Kalamazoo, Michigan. And it demnstrates the importance of thoughtful design to enhance beauty and function. (All photos courtesy Jake Grevenstuk.)

Jake Grevenstuk’s Instagram handle is Jake.of.all.trade. His trades include real estate, property management, design, landscape design – and whatever need arises. For example, devising a one-man-method to get poured concrete into an extremely narrow residential courtyard so he could lay his uniquely designed terraced paver patio. (Read below.)

As owner of Spacecraft Landscapes in Kalamazoo, MI, he describes himself as both designer and “laborer.” His firm recently took on a labor-intensive project to reimagine a sloping back yard space that was all of 13 feet wide.

We imagined cocktails and a little fire up top and formal dining area below. I love creating spaces like these! Having great clients helps immensely, so Jeff and Carol get a big shout out too.

Jake Grevenstuk

Owner, SpaceCraft Landscapes

Grevenstuk has a background in horticulture and carefully planned to preserve a mature dogwood tree while creating a series of outdoor rooms, for relaxing, entertaining and dining outdoors.

Grevenstuk was working with an existing sand base patio that critters had burrowed through, making it very uneven. Railroad tie steps, a small concrete section, and then a gravel section over time had become a mess and was difficult to traverse and truly enjoy the space. The owners’ imperative was making the confined space more intentional, enjoyable…and safe.

For the terraced courtyard, Grevenstuk’s imagination paid off and his labor pulled it off.

“I came up with the sketch to help sell the job and honestly, I used it as a construction document too,” said Grevenstuk. “You always have onsite adjustments, but it came out basically as drawn.”

Truly, a jack of all trades, Jake Grevenstuk did most of the project solo.

Grevenstuk said the goal was to make the outdoor room more surefooted and safer. The original steps were different heights in rise and slippery wood treads and uneven surfaces caused problems.

But safety can be beautiful, too.

“I had some handrails made and installed on the existing timber steps at the upper end of the courtyard to enhance safety, said Grevenstuk. “I wanted a classic and charming aesthetic for the neighborhood.”

Grevenstuk incorporated multilevel zones to make the elevation change to the second egress point in the courtyard and enhance the separate spaces for entertaining.

“We imagined cocktails and a little fire up top and formal dining area below,” said Grevenstuk.

There was a lot of digging involved for concrete forms, all the way down the space. But even with heavy machinery, Grevenstuk uses a deft artist’s touch.

“There was this outstanding Kousa dogwood tree – a beautiful specimen – in the middle,” said Grevenstuk. “Really, she’s the star of the show here ­– just gorgeous. It was my priority to not hurt this tree’s roots during the project.”

The concrete was a challenge. And here’s where Jake took on yet another trade.

“I thought about how to do this for way too long, but ultimately got to the right spot and was able to install it exactly how I wanted,” Grevenstuk explained his approach to the concrete challenge.

“I knew I had to do it in stages if I was going to do it myself,” said Grevenstuk. “There was a confined entry so I would have had to pump it in a single pour from the road, which seemed too costly.”

“It was slick and effective!” Working alone in a tight space, Grevenstuk decided to mix concrete in smaller bataches. Using a MudMixer, he devised his own chute using PVC sewar pipe.

Ingeniously, Grevenstuk devised a solution.

“I ended up mixing 4 pallets of 168 80# Quikrete sacks and ran it through a MudMixer machine,” said Grevenstuk. “I engineered a PVC chute to reach the distance to the forms and picked the machine up with the mini skid to get enough fall on the shoot.”

Necessity proved to be, once again, the mother of invention.

“It was slick and effective! I will utilize the same technique again in the future because it worked great being able to match the radius of the upper patio with the lower patio.”

All this concrete action, though, was merely to set the stage for the star component: Pathway Full Range pavers laid in a herringbone patter using ThinSet mortar.

“We used the Pine Hall Brick Pathway pavers because they have such great range and tone,” said Grevenstuk. “This really complements everything around it. We also needed a 4×8 for the herringbone pattern for a classic look.”

Grevenstuk’s mortared approach worked well. He credits the porous clay surface for great adhesion to the concrete base with ThinSet. He even used some pavers vertically on the terrace faces. He filled the paver joints with polymeric sand. 

“I love creating spaces like these!” said Grevenstuk. “Having great clients helps immensely, so Jeff and Carol get a big shout out too.”

And to Grevenstuk’s satisfaction, the finished courtyard is about as close to the sketch as it gets.

Jake-of-all-trades Grevenstuk admiring his herringbone pattern with Pathway Full Range clay pavers.