Plainfield couple charms their way into a backyard facelift
First you find Ahmed Hassan, who’s cruis- ing the Home Owners Bargain Outlet (HOBO) store in Villa Park, and convince him he wants to bring his “Yard Crashers” magic to your yard.
Then all you have to do is talk friends and rel- atives into flying in from Arizona and driving from points closer to help with a touch of man- ual labor.
If you’re Amanda and Jason Jakovich, this turns your Plainfield yard with its little patio into the place to be. And the whole process will be on the DIY Network show starting at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 18. The show also reruns on HGTV.
The Jakoviches live with their three chil- dren in a new home that they’ve been in a little over a year. In fact all the adjacent lots are still vacant.
“I was hoping to get a fence built this summer so the kids could play in the yard,” Amanda said. “And I ended up with a back yard beyond my wildest dreams.”
Hassan — recognized by many passers-by when the project was under way on a chilly spring day — owns his own yard design and installation company in the San Francisco area and hosts three DIY shows.
“The network advertises that I will be at the store,” Hassan said. “I talk to people all day long. Figure out who would be good on tele- vision with good energy and rapport. And, of course, they could actually use a new backyard.”
A few things favored the Jakoviches, Amanda Jakovich said.
“We were talking to him maybe a half-hour. I remember him saying he liked the energy. Jason made him really laugh.”
And she thinks he was pleased that crews wouldn’t have to worry about saving any- thing in the back yard — not to mention all that adjacent vacant space where trucks and materials could be parked.
Everyone — more than 15 volunteers, the television crew and real contractors — gathered at the Jakoviches’ house. Amanda Jakovich held her breath, hoping she would like the plans drawn up by Michael Anthony of 1 Design Group, a Chicago landscape design company.
“We met with Mike for 10 or 15 minutes ahead of time, that was it,” she said. “You’ll see on the show: They roll the design out in front of you and all your friends.
“There it was: Two patios and a pergola and a fireplace and a television. It blew my mind! It was like a living area, just as nice as what we have in the inside.”
Anthony wanted to give the Jakoviches “an elegant outdoor living area, a place to come out and entertain, to cook.”
Besides the surround sound and outdoor plasma television, Anthony and his subcon- tractors added a roughsawn cedar pergola, a fireplace, three large trees, a huge number of Unilock pavers and lots of outdoor furniture.
“We want them to get more out of the yard,” Anthony said. “Once the plantings mature, they will be a screen to block the wind, and it will be a nice play area for the three kids.
“The trees are living and always evolving, blooming throughout the year. We selected Autumn Blaze maples for fall color, one of the best things the Midwest has. The big ever- greens screen the yard from the other homes in the neighborhood.”
Plantings include Knock Out roses, East- ern Red bud, Alberta spruce and honeysuckle vines.
Amanda Jakovich said she heard $80,000 bandied about as the value of the project, although Anthony would not give a figure. The Jakoviches will eventually have to pay taxes on some value attached to the project.
But the Jakoviches would not have built something like that from their own budget. And despite weather that included a few hours of cold rain, Amanda Jakovich insists it was a great two days.
“Nailing the fence and laying brick and see- ing my friends and family doing the same thing was really fun,” she said. “A lot of them were already familiar with the show. It’s very pop- ular. Everybody we asked said of course we’d love to be there.”
Jenelle Koren, a cousin of Jason’s, flew in from Scotts- dale with Julie Rohlfing, a good friend of Amanda’s who lives in Phoenix. The two became friends after meeting at the Jakoviches’ wedding.
“When they called we decided to come. We knew it would be fun. I love doing this kind of work,” Koren said.
Rohlfing said volunteers removed sod, rolled it up and hauled it away.
“We got dirt in our shirts and hair,” she said. “We’re grunt laborers. There’s not a more deserving family. It’s so much fun. I like building things and seeing the outcome.”
At one point Hassan gath- ered the troops, telling them to clean up the property and then make a human chain for passing materials.
“Contractors aren’t used to working with laymen,” he said. “My job is to make sure the homeowners break a nice sweat and have fun.”
Jason Jakovich, who played football at Southern Illinois University, is regional market- ing manager for the Cadillac brand. His wife works for an advertising firm.
Now a few months after the project is finished, he says it worked out great.
“Definitely the best part is the outdoor fireplace and entertainment center with
television and speakers and the pergola,” he said. “It’s wonderful to sit back out there and relax and eat with fam- ily and friends. The kids use it, too. ‘Ratatouille’ and ‘Finding Nemo’ are on the television as much as sports are.”
Jason Jakovich recently stained the fence, a chore that reinforced for Amanda how much the crew got done in two long days.
“He thought it would take one day and it took five. And the gas grill is connected to our gas line. The first time I went to use it, I went to get a lighter. My husband said, ‘Honey, what are you doing?’ You just push a button and it goes on. There’s also a refrigerator on the island. They paid so much attention to details with the patio furniture and the pots for plants. It’s beautiful.”
But there is payback, of course. “Jason will always have to come to our house when we need something,” said Max Ziesmer of Joliet.
And 4-year-old Jake, the oldest of the couple’s three children, thinks something is still missing.
“He asks where the swing set is,” Amanda Jakovich said. “I tell him we’re still working on that.”