Here’s my backyard reveal. (Finally!)
As you can see, this was a big transformation. We spent quite a bit of time and quite a bit of money doing it. It was something I had planned on doing after the house was built, but when it was finished seven years ago, we had run out of cash. Now, finally, we were able to tackle the project the way we wanted to.
The only thing that was in this backyard before we started demo and work was the pool and grass we threw on. The first thing we had to deal with was all the ugly concrete coping around the pool. That was the least expensive way of building the pool during construction and we knew eventually we would have to change it. We just didn’t know how, or even what we were going to do. So we went with the cheapest option. To figure out what we were going to do with the coping was quite a challenge. We thought about removing it, but given the prohibitive cost of a demo and quite possibly shattering the bottom of the plaster pool while doing it – we decided against it.
One solution we found, which was probably the best solution, was to cover the coping with tile that we laid right on top of the coping. We raised the backyard elevation so everything would be flush and tiled everything in this gorgeous outdoor porcelain that is very durable and looks great.
Drainage is also a very important consideration when you’re designing your backyard, so in order to make sure that nothing from the raised elevation went into the pool we added these long channel drains against the pool. That way, when it rained the water would flow down and drop into the channel drains and not the pool.
Once we decided where the tile was going to go, we carried it through and created a pathway from the pool to the loggia. We got this gorgeous pendant light from Circa Lighting, and we built this fountain to give the yard a sense of Zen.
We also continued the tile from the loggia to this nook where the fountain sits. From there, we created a hardscape where we used white pebbles over grates. These grates are wonderful for when you’re using pebbled rocks to create pathways because they create stability. With them, we installed a beautiful pathway which you can use to enter and exit the property.
We then lined the pebbles on each side with mondo grass. We already had these large ficus hedges behind that gave us privacy and which we planted when we moved in seven years ago. As you can see, they’ve fully matured and look wonderful against the pebbled pathway.
We loved the look of these mature boxwood spheres and planted them in different corners of the property to create some visual interest and a manicured look, because while my style is well manicured, it also includes a smidgeon of whimsy.
In several areas we have small square planters in which we planted multi-branched olive trees. They were fairly small when we planted them and have grown to be quite large. Around them we planted those spheres I talked about as well as boxwood hedges to create an illusion of depth, a border that was necessary to give the area some definition and bring in a lot of green against the new tile floor.
Along the main wall of the property which we built ourselves, we planted Japanese blueberries. They don’t need a lot of dirt, which was good because we had an issue of a footing where the wall stood, which meant we couldn’t plant anything with deep roots there. The Japanese blueberry was the perfect option to plant against this very long wall.
A great idea that we came up with during construction in order to save money, was to put our pavers down, tiles that we purchased our tile 24 by 24, and instead of pouring concrete and creating pavers and complicating things, we decided to use the exact same tiles that we used throughout the property and place them along the wall to create a pathway. Additionally we put mondo grass in between the tiles to create a soft, green walkway.
The next big section of the yard we needed to address was the barbecue area, places to sit and dine and a cozy place to have cocktails after a long day at work. I didn’t want to have a typical barbecue with lots of steel drawer front. I find them ugly. So I decided to get two pieces of quartzite, and eliminate all drawer fronts. My barbecue is the Aspire from Hestan and it cooks beautifully.
At the moment, due to global shortages, it has been difficult to source outdoor furniture but I’ve been lucky enough to get the pieces I’ve needed one by one. I now have part of the set of Design Within Reach’s dining table. I have the lounge set and the club chairs but more importantly also have the chaises longues. As you can see, at the moment I only have two, but I will be acquiring more as time goes on. I also need cushions, but that’s another whole story of the logistical issues we are having in trying to source them. Never fear, I will have them for my patio — and soon!
The side tables you see alongside the chaise longues are made by moi from the quartzite left over from the barbecue. I wanted something that could withstand the environment while also looking elevated and chic.
The fireplace was a very important part of the backyard design. There’s a lot of wind here because we’re on a hill, and when it’s windy it gets very cold, even on warm summer nights. I had installed a fountain back in a corner of the yard which didn’t work because the wind would blow the water all over the place. (Aha! Even designers make mistakes!) Instead of demoing the fountain, I came up with the idea of throwing in a firebox, closing things up and now we have a fireplace that is chic and somewhere we can get together at night.
Don’t forget outdoor pathway lighting. This is a vital part of backyard design not only for esthetics but also for safety reasons. We popped in these minimal outdoor lights that sit within the boxwood wall we created and not only do they provide a warm glow but also allow you to see all the greenery.
Next, once we did the pool we still wanted to have a nice patch of grass so we created a large flat area for that. Lastly, on the hillside above the retaining wall towards the back near the pool, we wanted something interesting and decided to plant some favorites. I love saucer magnolias because I like to cut them for dinner parties, and there’s also lavender, some agave, and Japanese blueberries along the periphery. They trickle down the hill and look great.