For many, owning waterfront property is part of the American Dream. But these properties often come with a price – a steep one at that.

Many waterfront homes feature a hillside between the house and the water’s edge. This can be a problematic and attractive attribute at the same time. At first glance, a steep hillside can seem like a grueling landscape design challenge, but what the average homeowner often misses is the beautiful potential it holds. With the right execution, hillsides can be sculpted into dimensional outdoor living spaces that allow us to use space often overlooked.

There are many ways to tackle this challenge, so don’t be afraid to get creative and start your dream wish list of backyard features. Whether it’s a terrace for lounging and outdoor dining, a shaded area, an infinity pool, or elements like fire pits and outdoor kitchens, it can probably be constructed!

Your design’s most important aspect should be access ― enabling easy movement up and down the hill ― and creating usable flat space. You’ll need to consider the current condition of your property. Things like soil composition and vegetation.  Are there plants that will need to be removed, or will you keep most of what you have? Keep in mind that large trees and native plants help stabilize your hillside. Designing hillside areas takes some know-how, which is why you should consider turning to a landscape designer for assistance.

You’ll also need specific equipment; excavators and skid loaders are essential in leveling out your hillside. Gravity and heavy machinery can create dangerous situations, which is another reason you should consider a professional.

Once things get leveled out, you can start to execute your plan. Using large natural material like stone is a great way to enhance your hillside’s different levels while also stabilizing the sloped areas of your property from erosion. Larger material will look more organic, as though it has always been part of the landscape.

When working with a landscaping and design service, make sure you communicate your vision, including how you plan to use the space, must-have features, likes and dislikes, and your expectations for the professional team. Will you be using your backyard for hosting and entertainment, or will it be more for personal use? Do you want to cook outside and have enough seating for everyone to enjoy their meal, or is lounge and recreational space more important to you? Whatever you are going for, make sure you communicate exactly what you want to your team of experts – remember, they are the ones responsible for bringing your vision to life!

Creating multiple spaces and levels geared toward specific activities helps drive the flow of any outdoor hillside space. You’ll likely have zones for cooking, dining, and relaxing while also maintaining enough grass and vegetation to ensure your backyard still feels like it is part of nature.

There is no one-size-fits-all process for hillside environments. Your plan may change during your design and execution, and that’s okay. The most important thing is that it’s done the right way and will last a lifetime. With patience, creativity, and the right plan, transforming your hillside is a lot more attainable than you realize.