Life's a playground
After living in downtown Chicago for many years, Mike and Darcy Moore wanted some breathing room and a safer place to raise their three children.
Cars whizzed by the house.
Strangers passed by the front door.
The backyard was the size of a vegetable garden.
'You'd be in the guest bedroom and if you opened the window you could touch the building next to you,' Mike said.
After relocating to Lake Oswego in 2001, the family took their time to develop their flat lot that overlooks Lakeridge High School and Luscher Farm on one side and Mount Hood on the other. Situated on about two acres, the Moores' property is a place to play, entertain and let their dog Micky roam free.
After being cooped up in Chicago and spending much of their time indoors, the family is enjoying their recreational property. Originally half the size, the Moores bought the lot next to them when it became available a few years ago and added on to their backyard.
'We weren't planning on having this big of a lot - trust me,' Darcy said. 'But it's nice having it because it makes our house more private.'
The yard is divided into different areas for different activities - a covered and open patio for entertaining, fire pit for evenings outdoors, large vegetable garden, horseshoe games, tennis court and plenty of lawn.
A loop-shaped cement track circles a tennis court in the backyard.
'The idea was for the kids to bike, skateboard and roller blade, and they do all the time,' Darcy said of their two 12-year-olds and 8-year-old. 'When they're going crazy inside I can say, 'go run four laps' to get the energy out.'
Neighbors use the pathway when walking their dogs, and Darcy's sister comes over when exercising, they said. The kids sometimes decorate the path with sidewalk chalk like they did on Father's Day this year.
Because the pathway begins near their driveway sometimes people unfamiliar to the area think it's a continuation of the road.
'Cars have come clear through our yard,' Mike said. 'It's funny. It's happened five or ten times that we've seen. We'll just look outside and someone will be driving past our fountain.'
At that spot - and rounding the path's first curve - cars have to decide if they'll back up or drive the whole loop.
'When they get to the fountain they know they're in trouble,' Darcy said.
The tall contemporary water feature - first spotted at a landscape show in Portland - has a large drop. The couple said they saw so many fountains that had a gradual slope but this fountain made a statement. And it can be heard from their patio clear across the yard.
After debating between a swimming pool, tennis court and sport court to dedicate the middle of their yard, they opted to pick up their rackets.
'We've got friends who play (tennis) so they call us and say, 'hey can I use the court?' They can park close by so it's really easy,' Mike said.
Darcy is an avid tennis player, and the kids also use the court for lacrosse.
'It's fenced in so no balls go over the fence,' Mike said.
This summer is the first that all these elements are ready for use. Soon the family will buy horseshoes to take advantage of the four lanes set up near the vegetable garden. Darcy planted pumpkin seeds in one garden and is waiting for them to seed. A patio near the house features a basketball hoop and vault so the kids can practice their horse vaulting.
Landscape guru Kip Nordstrom from Lake Oswego helped Darcy choose ornamental containers filled with seasonal color while Mario Navarro at Distinctive Landscaping took the family's wish list and incorporated into one large, free-flowing space. Atlas Track and Tennis in Tualatin installed the tennis court.
The panoramic view sometimes makes for some interesting entertainment. Each year the Festival of Balloons in Tigard sends a rainbow of color over the valley for the family to view. And one year, the Moores had front row seats from home - literally.
'It was about 6 a.m. on a Sunday and I'm laying on the sofa in the house and all of a sudden this hot air balloon goes right by the window,' Darcy said.
The family rushed to see how close he was.
'This guy was losing altitude and he landed by the fountain,' Mike said. 'We could hear him turn on the gas and he was getting closer and closer. He hovered for a little while and then landed. We got some great pictures.'
Because the yard is pretty flat, Mike and Darcy said they can watch the kids play from the patio, court, while gardening or working from home.
And as for opening a window and touching the neighbor's house like in Chicago, they said they enjoy sharing their yard with the neighborhood but don't miss the lake of privacy.
'I think this is exactly what we wanted,' Darcy said. 'We wanted more space. (I suggest) taking your time and really thinking about how you'd like to use the space and what things you can do with it. We took three or four years and hired professionals. But we use the space every day.'