Creating a Restful Backyard Space to Enjoy Nature & Host Gatherings

The transformation of this yard happened several years ago but still is one of my favorites because I thoroughly enjoyed working with these clients. They were open to ideas and wanted a space to enjoy alone but also with their family/friends. The couple exuded warmth and friendliness. I just knew the yard would host many events since they had a wide network of family/friends. As a newer designer at the time, I appreciated them trusting me and letting me create a yard to fit them perfectly.


Design: After removing an old deck in the backyard, the couple was stuck on what to do with their outdoor space. They attempted to put furniture and plantings in that area but weren't quite sure how to best utilize the area. The remainder of the yard just had a large lawn that was barely used since their kids were now older. Ideally they wanted a more functional space to entertain and spend time themselves in their yard.

When I visited the space, I really liked how the yard was a pie shape with a vista at the end of the point. Yes it could be deemed an awkward shaped yard but it actually is unique and allowed for a really nice focal point. So I wanted to highlight that beautiful view. I created a pathway that curved out to this distant point so that it would lead the eye from the house out to the view. We also shrunk the lawn and created larger more lush planting zones on either side of the lawn as well. Three jasmine covered lattices border the neighbors fence to add depth to the backyard but also add interest to the long fence line. These lattices also naturally lead ones eye out to that beautiful vista point.

For the new seating area next to house, we chose to do pavers and Azek decking materials. The wife wanted a space that would be at the same height as the house height so that her Mom could easily walk outside. So we used Azek decking to create an upper level with the dining table zone located here. Then you step down to the pavers where the firepit and cozy couches are located. The multi-levels of this backyard also actually make the entertaining space feel larger and create rooms in the backyard. Near the firepit seating zone, a new natural stone water feature was placed to add extra ambiance to the outdoor space. The water feature is also host to many birds enjoying a little bath. (I have really enjoyed getting photos from my clients showing me all the visitors to their water feature.) Surrounding the water feature, rose bushes (specifically chosen by the wife) and other lush plantings add color and host lots of hummingbird and butterfly activity near the seating area.

As my clients walk outside from the house they can choose to go to the right under the arbor which leads to rocking chairs. These rocking chairs are in the shade on hot summer days under the trees and is the perfect place to relax and watch nature's activity around you. The gold pathway continues to two garden beds where my clients can grow cut flowers or tomatoes. The best part about garden beds is that they look clean and organized even when empty. To finish off the look of the backyard, new plantings were added to the hillside. The plants added to the hillside include manzanita, ceanothus, arbutus and dianella which are all low maintenance, so minimal work should be needed on the hillside.


After: This will forever be a yard that I remember. Sadly the wife of this couple passed away recently at 65. I will always remember her smile and laugh. It reminds me of how important it is to live everyday to the fullest. To be kind to those around you, create beauty where you can and appreciate the little things in life like a hummingbird feeding on a flower or the way the wind makes the branches sway. The small moments in life add up to big things just like the small moments I got to spend with this beautiful woman will forever be in my heart. My heart goes out to this family as they miss this beautiful soul but I am sure that she had many small, big and amazing memories with each of them that they will get to remember forever.


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