This backyard is perfect for outdoor movies, play dates, and lots of general fun

Life is a game, or at least it could be in your backyard. Set it up for slumber parties, outdoor movies, and general fun. Not only will the neighborhood kids like it, but the adults will too. Anne Bruns Richardson and her 7-year-old daughter, Eloise, use it as a haven for storytelling vivid with color.

Landscape designer Kathleen Shaeffer helped create this whimsical backyard in Santa Cruz, California, with a bright blue fence, multicolored polka-dot ceramic tiles, and plenty of room to romp. “I love that the backyard has an area for everything from playing to grilling and relaxing,” says Bruns Richardson.

Design  Kathleen Shaeffer, Santa Cruz, CA (831/423-7849)

What works

Multiple play areas The large grassy area, a built-in sandpit (which will be turned into a firepit once Eloise out-grows it), and a concrete patio are perfect for riding bikes and more elegant entertaining.

Room for grown-ups While Eloise and her friends have free rein of the yard, Shaeffer wanted to make sure everyone had enough space. The bilevel yard allows adults to hang out separately.

Colors Inspired by Bruns Richardson’s love of color and echoing hues in the landscaping, the palette of bright blues, greens, and reds shows up in a turquoise fence, bright patio furniture, and other items.

An outdoor theater A large canvas tarp stretched between two rods functions as a makeshift screen for neighborhood movie nights. “We actually got the idea from an issue of Sunset,” says Bruns Richardson. “We have movie nights all summer, and we’ve even hosted Eloise’s class.”

Do it this weekend:

  • Set up a “refreshment stand” by filling a bucket with nibbles.
  • Spread blankets on the lawn for the picnic feel.
  • Create an instant playhouse by pitching a tent.

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