Problem: How do you create an outdoor dining area in a tight backyard against a steep uphill slope?
Solution: You dig it out. Armed with pick and shovel, interior designer Linda Applewhite and her husband, Marshall Miller, excavated a 15- by 20-foot semicircular area out of the hillside. "It was enough dirt to fill our neighbor's swimming pool ― which we did," says Applewhite, speaking of the serendipitous intersection of their excess soil with their neighbor's desire to fill in an unwanted pool.
A strong retaining wall ― built of concrete block covered with stucco ― stabilizes the slope. Applewhite used tile pavers, a sturdy arbor made of recycled timbers, and a pair of antique, hand-carved corbels to give the patio character. Romantic touches include a pair of wall fountains with recirculating pumps, a candle-filled chandelier, and a dense canopy of potato vines.
The new pergola is adjacent to the dining room and is easily accessible through French doors. In both spaces Applewhite enjoys mixing indoor and outdoor furniture to soften the boundary between house and patio.
Design: Linda Applewhite & Associates, San Rafael, CA (415/456-2757)