In late April, viewers of PBS’s This Old House were treated to a series of transformations on a reveal episode of the show’s latest project house, an 1894 Victorian that the crew brought up to modern standards.

The differences were apparent both inside and outside the house. Walking up, the entryway was changed from a trip-and-fall front walkway to a perfectly executed combination of pavers and granite steps; and from a weedy, overgrown backyard to a clay paver patio that made an urban oasis just outside a brand-new kitchen.

The landscaping, walkway and patio was made possible by the skill of the craftspeople, Landscaper Jenn Nawada and mason Mark McCullough and Rumbled Beale Street pavers from Pine Hall Brick Company.

In a segment taped earlier this spring, host Kevin O’Connor and Nawada opened the reveal episode of the 1894 Victorian, dubbed, “A Modern Victorian,” by showing how designers used creativity to transform the outside of the home.

Please take a look here:

The homeowners did not have a budget for landscaping, so Nawada transplanted oversized rhododendrons from the front of the home to the back, both to improve the curb appeal and to act as a natural buffer.

Likewise, a Japanese maple, mostly buried in a weed-covered patch of the backyard, was moved out front and replanted, as a backdrop to fresh sod and mulch.

Also in the front yard, McCullough removed a trip hazard from the walkway between the house and the street, by taking up what was there – and measuring and installing new clay pavers precisely, so it was level at the bottom step and sloped down precisely to the sidewalk. He also jackhammered out two short walls on either side of the entryway and installed solid granite steps.

Those carried a rise and run of precisely 18 inches, which McCullough said is the perfect height to step comfortably from ground level to the porch of a house.

(Please take a look here at 1:15 for the stair installation and 21:42 to see the running bond paver installation.)

Out back, O’Connor described the patio that Nawada and McCullough installed as being appropriate to the house itself and matching the walk out front. O’Connor noted that the patio has a place to sit, a place to grill and leads naturally to the back door.

“They will finally be able to use their backyard,” said O’Connor.

Nawada said the new patio amounts to a backyard oasis in the city. She said the 45-degree herringbone pattern of the Rumbled Beale Street pavers invites visitors outside.

“It’s really another room,” said Nawada. “Patios provide open space that makes usable space and they make the whole house feel bigger.”

The installation

In late February, the PBS program This Old House treated viewers to a look at the installation of the patio.

Please take a look here, starting at about 17:25.

The idea was to give homeowners Derek Rubinoff and Robyn Marder a place to escape and relax. Pine Hall Brick Company provided five cubes or 520 square feet of Rumbled Beale Street clay pavers for the project.

This Old House patio project
String line to line up herringbone pattern

Above photos: Anthony Tieuli.

The West Roxbury Beale Street pavers will clean up to show a range of shades.

On build day just before Thanksgiving, crews excavated the site and put in a solid base of crusher run and compacted it. They started out with field mockups, to show different patterns. After reviewing basketweave and a 90-degree herringbone, they settled on a 45-degree herringbone, with a sailor course to define the edge.

Of the three, the 45-degree angle, all enclosed by a sailor course, won out. The plan is to use more of the pavers for a matching walkway out front from the street to the front steps.

“The homeowners really want their backyard to become an oasis from their busy, everyday urban life,” said Nawada. “So we are creating a substantial sized patio in a small back yard.”

In a lesson that mixed geometry and paver installation, Nawada and McCullough started from a corner and used mason lines, a square and a speed square to get the angles right, to set the first three pavers in place. Everything else in the patio was laid from those first three. Full pavers were placed up to the sailor course and pavers were cut to fill in the spaces.

Above photos: Anthony Tieuli.

Nawada noted that making a cut meant that the remainder of the paver could be flipped over and used to fill adjacent gaps, which meant that done correctly, almost nothing was wasted.

The video shows the placement of the pavers, laying them down, cutting them to fit with a circular saw cooled by a garden hose and tapping them into place, until the final two pavers.

“Check out this space,” said Nawada. “Look at this design pop – it’s an extension of the house. You can put your barbecue here, your table and chairs over here.”

McCullough said that there was more than enough space on the patio.

“Look at the room we have over here,” said McCullough. “You can have a party right here.”

“I would call this an urban oasis, valuable space on a city lot,” said Nawada.

Jenn Nawada and Mark McCullough

Photo: Anthony Tieuli.

The house

Nine years ago, Rubinoff and Marder bought their home, a single-family Victorian that was built in 1894 on former farmland. It was the first home built in a new subdivision and for much of its life, was a single-family dwelling.

Fifty years after it was built, the second floor was converted into living space for extended family. When it was converted back, the kitchen cabinets upstairs were taken downstairs but not reattached. The original pantry and wainscoting are worn out; the original windows were refurbished or replaced. Additionally, the wall was opened up between the dining room and kitchen and a a master suite, a bathroom and a walk-in closet were added.