A family turns its unused backyard into a place to eat, drink, and play all year | Susan Heeger
A Plain, Old Yard
For Darren and Sheila Burris, life's sweetest moments unfold in their backyard over dinners with their children, Sierra, 13, and Reef, 5. That wasn't always the case; before the remodel, "there was nothing to go out to," says Darren. "The yard was spacious but plain, without much personality."
After: Space Savored
After: Space savored
To help entice the family outdoors, Los Angeles landscape designer Steve Siegrist halved the lawn-leaving enough for the kids to play on-and ditched the family's old hot tub. Then, inspired by the couple's love of the tropics and the beach (they're surfers), Siegrist built an open-air lounge and dining patio, separated by a cooling lily pond. Now, says Darren, "we spend as much time outside as we do inside."
Low-voltage fixtures set the wall and fence aglow, helped by votives hung from the fence and Indian lanterns in the schefflera tree.
Bench seats are concrete slabs, recycled from the demolished back half of the driveway. Backrests, made of mangaris (red balau) wood salvaged from the hot tub, are just the right angle for reclining.
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An existing stuccoed concrete wall, painted orange and capped with stained redwood, visually warms the space.
Falling Leaves paint, S-H-240; behr.com. Dark Slate stain; cabotstain.com.
Aeoniums and echeverias add tropical heat, on little water. Sedum nussbaumerianum fringes the firepit.
Of course, tropical isn't the only option. Read up on hardy
Clumping Alphonse Karr bamboo hides the neighbors' roofs while string lights play up the plants' yellow-green foliage.
A 1970s wood-burning fireplace, which Sheila found on Craigslist, is seldom used to heat the space, but it enhances the dining patio's cozy feeling.
Cannas and water lilies grow in a pool of water. The frame, made of treated lumber stained to match the fence, has a pond liner inside.
With the turn of a valve on the concrete firepit's side, the flame dances to life. Crushed glass inside won't spark as it heats.
More on firepits
Sedum fills gaps at the base of the bench, eliminating the concrete-city effect. (The Burris family used cement here, but stone is also an option.)
You've seen how one family created an outdoor living area. Check out three more backyard options.
For even more ideas, peruse our Backyard Design Guide.