Arlington Boulevard: Historic Home Refresh – Part 3


In this third and final article about the remarkable remodeling done in several stages to a classic Ann Arbor home, the backyard gets a makeover.

Arlington Boulevard
Historic Home Refresh
– Part 3 –

All photos by Jeff Garland, architectural photographer.

Our company, Acheson Builders, has long histories with many repeat customers in the greater Ann Arbor area, but one particular house on Arlington Blvd is worth having a close look.

Third in a series. Read Arlington Boulevard Historic Home Refresh – Part One, Part Two

Backyards have become extensions of the living room and kitchen for many U.S. homes, the better to expand options for entertaining and relaxing. Who wouldn’t love a comfortable oasis surrounded by verdant landscaping? As more and more people work from home, a multi-function outdoor space has become increasingly desirable — a place for fun and games, dining, visiting, or even taking a Zoom meeting. Kiplinger’s claims “. . . outdoor living spaces have become the most coveted outdoor home feature.” ( Acheson Builders’ superior building and design abilities apply not only to interior and exterior of homes but to the grounds and outbuildings as well. We’ve got the know-how to find solutions that artfully integrate existing features with new ones, and the skills to create that dream backyard you’ve always wanted.

Architectural elevation drawing of exterior backyard patio with custom pergola and built-in grill.
DREAM PLANS: full elevation drawings of patio, pergola, and outdoor kitchen area.

In the most recent chapter of the on-going relationship between Acheson Builders and the Arlington Blvd house, the owners, having finished their home renovations, now set their sights exterior improvements to their property. Once again they turned to Acheson Builders, knowing that Jim Acheson’s design skills would be perfect for their needs. They wanted a new shed at the side of the house with a garden gate and a walkway that would lead through to the backyard patio area. In the backyard, a kitchen island and pergola, new landscaping, and artistic lighting were also on the list of improvements they were dreaming of.

Custom shed with trellis gateway between it and main house.

In pursuit of that dream, Acheson Builders built a lovely shed mirroring the design of the existing architecture. Care was taken to find vendors who could supply similar materials to those used in the main house. The 100+ year-old Evergreen Slate Co. in NY ( was chosen to provide roofing slate and copper slating nails. The bespoke garden gateway/trellis, was designed by Jim Acheson and creates a connection between the two structures visually and stylistically. It’s made of African mahogany from LL Johnson Lumber Mfg Co in Charlotte MI (

Pergola attached to outside rear wall of garage with dining table and flagstone walkway.

The new, generously proportioned Canadian flagstone walkway extends the existing flagstones at the front of the house around the side to a completely upgraded backyard. The beautiful pergola-covered dining area with attractive overhead pendant lighting is the perfect spot for sharing an al fresco meal with friends and family. The pergola arches echo the ones in the gateway/trellis by the shed, creating a continuity of style and natural flow as you move through the different areas.

Pergola attached to outside rear wall of garage with dining table.

The newly laid patio features tumbled Unilock Brussels Block in a mahogany ash color ( and also includes repurposed Saginaw brick from the old patio at the owner’s request. The vintage brick was saved from the previous patio and incorporated into the accent band along the perimeter and pairs well with the antiqued blocks, tying the old and the new.

New pergola attached to garage wall, dining area, lounging patio, built-in BBQ grill and outdoor kitchen, flagstone walkway..

The outdoor kitchen/grilling island with tile backsplash, granite countertops, and cabinets made by American Outdoor Cabinets ( bring all the amenities of the kitchen outside. Utilities were hidden by running electrical lines underground for lighting, and gas piping for the outdoor grill was brought up to the patio from the basement. As a finishing touch, the outdoor lighting and landscaping were designed by Acheson Builders with assistance from Tom Stempkey, former owner of Stempkey Gardens ( Garden landscaping work done by Acheson Builders included selection, planting, and fertilizing of ornamental plants for the East and South yards and installation of shredded hardwood mulch on all new planting beds.

Backyard of historic home with new pergola, dining area, lounging patio, built-in BBQ grill and outdoor kitchen, flagstone walkway from front, custom shed and gateway.

The collaboration between Acheson Builders and the owners of the Arlington Blvd house was a series of projects undertaken over several years to renovate and update the home — all the while maintaining the historical character of the original property. The result has been a beautiful home that has grown organically, each addition and extension given thoughtful consideration and backed up with skilled building principles and creative design ideas. As each iteration has added more functionality and created new living areas while repurposing others, the character of the home has stayed the same, every addition seamlessly melding with the whole.

Every aspect of this outdoor remodeling shows off Jim Acheson’s design skills. If you missed the reports about the interior areas of this house, you may want to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the Arlington house series.