A Bay Area couple learn the joys of sweat equity as they landscape the home of their dreams
written by Jess Chamberlain
1 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
The front yard
Traversed by a concrete stairway—that sleekhandrail is ipe wood—the yard is now home to veggie beds, water-wise plants, and “endlessmulch”—all of it built, planted, or spread by Lisa Wong Jackson and Nick Jackson.
2 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
Front yard before
The house had no proper entryway— just three wooden steps—and almost no plants at all.
3 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
Leave it to the pros
Though they did the landscaping themselves, Lisa and Nick knew they needed pros to pour the stairs.
4 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
Edibles on show
Following plans from sunset.com/raised-bed, Nick built the frames with wood salvaged from old decking. The thriving vegetables, which Lisa started from seed on a windowsill, are the talk of the street. (The netting keeps the deer out.)
5 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
Bringing the outside in
The house’s family and living rooms have glass walls to, respectively, the back and front yards. While decorating, Lisa and Nick emphasized natural materials and motifs.
6 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
In the dining room, a bouquet print (by Wayne Pate, $55; waynepate.com) sits on a top shelf; Log Bowls (by Loyal Loot Collective, from $68 each; loyalloot.com) and breadboards (from Lola, from $12 each; lolahome.com) adorn the table; Nick sits in a Green Leaf chair ($407; arper.com).
7 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
The period-looking biomorphic lamp in the family room actually came from West Elm.
8 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
Back yard before
The yard was plagued with weeds, invasive bamboo, and a not-so-retaining wall that was rotting away.
9 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
Help with heavy concrete
After spending their weekends excavating and moving five truck -loads of dirt out of the yard—and with rains threatening—the Jacksons realized they needed help with the concrete work in the backyard too. “One day Nick emailed me at work saying, ‘Forget it. Let’s hire back the professionals,’” recalls Lisa. “It was the best decision ever.”
10 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
The re-landscaped backyard now contains a patio for entertaining, a potting area, a raised bed for vegetables and herbs, a patch of Eco-Lawn, loads of native and low-water plants, and the house’s old mailbox (now a bird feeder).
11 of 11Photo by Thomas J. Story, styling by Emma Star Jensen
Maintaining the dream
Having replaced the retaining walls, built the beds, and done the planting themselves motivates the Jacksons to keep it all looking good. “And if we hadn’t done it ourselves, we wouldn’t know how to take care of it,” says Nick.
Once a week, Nick hand-waters everything, using what’s stored in their four rain barrels (and sometimes Lucas’s bathwater).
They’ve learned through trial and error what they’ll plant again—and what issues they still face. “The kangaroo paws didn’t last, the wallflowers really thrived, and the gophers have been a problem,” says Lisa.