The challenge: Kristine and Rick Moulton were looking to create fun-filled outdoor spaces for their two children and their friends. Living in Corcoran, in the northwest corner of Hennepin County, "We don't have parks nearby," Kristine said, "and their [the children's] friends live far away. We wanted our house to be where everyone wanted to hang out."

The designer: Heather Grossmann, Mom's Landscaping & Design, 952-277-6667,

The back story: The Moultons built their house more than 10 years ago, with the intention of landscaping the 3-plus-acre site later. After living in the home for several years, they began enhancing their yard in stages, a process that took several more years to complete. To create their outdoor paradise, they turned to Mom's and BellaWood Builders, its remodeling division. "They had a blank slate to work with," Grossmann said of the Moultons' site. "They plan to stay in the house a long time, have it be home base for the kids, with spaces to entertain hundreds of people."

Taking the plunge: The first project was to add a pool, poolhouse and deck. "With kids, we knew we wanted a pool," Kristine said. "People put in pools and don't use them — we did it early enough when the kids were still young" (they're now 10 and 15). Even though the house had been built with a future pool in mind, siting the pool was the most challenging part of the project, according to Grossmann. "The grade was a big component, and working around things we couldn't move," she said. "They had an existing septic tank, so we had to site the pool without disturbing the septic system." (The following is a "before" photo.)

Planting for privacy: The Moultons' large lot was formerly farmland, without a lot of trees near the house, and they wanted to screen their new backyard from public view. "Privacy was a priority," said Kristine. To create it, the Mom's crew planted an arborvitae hedge and a living wall of 25-foot Norway pines, layered with other plantings. The hedge "adds a nice backdrop to the whole space," Grossmann said, while the mature pines "create instant privacy."

Outdoor kitchen: Planning to host — and feed — large gatherings, the Moultons wanted an outdoor food-preparation area. Their new outdoor kitchen is on the deck, near the house, and includes a 36-inch grill with rotisserie, a sink, icemaker, granite countertops and LED backlighting for ambience. There's also a warming drawer. "That's one of their favorite features," said Grossmann. "You can cook the food, put it in, and it stays warm for hours. People can help themselves." (Here's the backyard after the makeover.)

Let the games begin: The Moultons' dreams for their backyard included a Gopher-themed sport court, an in-ground trampoline and gaming areas for bean-bag tossing, bocce ball and a putting green. "We sunk the sport court behind the pool, so when they're on the deck, they don't have to look at the netting," Grossmann said. The trampoline includes two surfaces with an I-beam in between, so users can jump from one to the other, or bounce independently at the same time. Both the sport court and the trampoline have been big hits with the Moulton kids and their friends. "Our son uses the sport court, and our daughter uses the trampoline," Kristine said.

Welcoming entry: The Moultons' front yard also got some visitor-friendly enhancements as part of the makeover. The original driveway, long and straight, was reconfigured to include a turnaround circle, so guests could come and go more easily. The front entry was reworked to add a new front porch, complete with handpainted columns, Moroccan-style copper lights and window boxes. "They wanted the front to be super-welcoming," Grossmann said.

Mood lighting: Lighting was an important part of the project. The family now has lights that illuminate evening activities, set a festive mood, even change the colors of the fountain in front of the house and the water feature in back by the pool. "What's nice is having different zones of lighting," Grossmann said. "If you're using the fire pit, you can turn the lights off in that area, and still have the landscape illuminated."

Finishing touches: To accent the outdoor spaces with plants, Grossmann opted to make a statement. "I did blocks of color," she said. "It's such a big space, it's more powerful to have bigger mass plantings." She chose mostly hardy native plants, for their low-maintenance character and long bloom periods, with ornamental grasses to add visual interest all four seasons. Tropical plants add punch to containers.

Bug free: The Moultons' land is near a marshy area, bringing lots of mosquitoes and black flies in the evening. To prevent them from spoiling the outdoor fun, a misting system was installed to disperse repellent. "It goes off at night, you can control it by remote and remist when you need to," Grossmann said. "Now they can use it [their outdoor spaces] after dusk."

The result: Creating the ultimate outdoor retreat was expensive. "It cost more than our house, over a million," Kristine said. "But it's worth it. We can host so many things ... school parties, family gatherings. We wanted our house to be where everyone wanted to hang out, and it's happened." The family enjoys their enhanced home when they're hosting a crowd, but also when they have their yard to themselves. "My favorite thing is it's beautiful, so tranquil, with the fountains," Kristine said. "It's like your own arboretum."

Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784