How to create 4 outdoor rooms in a small backyard
One garden, 4 outdoor rooms--this small Northern California backyard has it all. Plus: Outdoor room design tips
After gophers destroyed their backyard, Evelyn Huang and Jack Mangan of Pleasant Hill, California, set out to redo the scruffy plot. Topping their wish list: areas for dining, relaxing, and growing edibles, and all using easy-care, low-water plants. Landscape architect Joseph Huettl gave them that and more, turning the small yard into the ultimate outdoor living space. Now the two spend much of their time here. And for some mysterious reason, says Evelyn, “The gophers haven’t come back!”
Design: Huettl Landscape Architecture, Walnut Creek, CA (huettldesign.com)
A steel-and-redwood arbor shades the dining patio. Just beyond this main gathering spot, the square colored concrete pavers create another patio where guests can gather. Woolly thyme grows between pavers beyond.
Square bluestone pavers define this patio and blend with the ones that cross the pool. See-through screening of feather reed grass softens the low wall backed with bamboo, creating the perfect setting for reclining lounge chairs.
A built-in bench of ipe wood appears to float above a sea of crushed rock. Sitting in this serene corner—bordered by old redwoods and low-growing grasses and ferns—feels like being in the forest.
Raised beds of rusted steel hold tomatoes, chard, and flowers and keep the garden looking tidy. A low rosemary hedge screens this area from the sunning patio.
Connect your rooms to one another—and to the house—with a pathway for a sense of flow.
Keep walls low—no higher than 30 inches—so the entire yard can be viewed all at once and the rooms won’t feel cramped.
Stick with simple plantings. Wispy grasses prevent a small space from looking cluttered.
Change the paving from room to room. But for visual continuity, repeat the same material in some parts of the garden.