This outdoor space is the ultimate escape for family play and parties

Julie Chai,  – July 31, 2007

Floating in the pool, dining on the patio, hosting barbecues, and heating s’mores over the portable firepit: Those are just some of the activities that make up a typical August day in this Los Gatos backyard.

“Staying home on a Sunday afternoon is better than going on most outings,” Cindy Clark says of the garden she shares with her husband, Gil, and son, Christopher.


With sunny and shady spaces, a covered patio, lawn, pool, and hot tub, the backyard serves nearly all of the family’s needs. It’s a place for daily meals, relaxation, kids’ activities, book club meetings, and parties.


“It extends the house ― we really live out there,” Cindy says.


Landscape designer and builder Cevan Forristt created the garden by following what he calls a “psyche-specific site plan.” The Clarks listed garden features they loved, along with those they didn’t; then Forristt built the landscape around those wishes.


The style, however, isn’t specific to one locale. “It’s a blend of what we like most in Asian and tropical gardens, but it’s a lot more playful and fun than traditional Asian gardens,” Cindy says.


The backyard has changed the way the family lives. “We spend so much more time outside, do more together, and entertain more because it’s such a fun place for a party,” Cindy says. “It’s a sanctuary to relax in and not think about day-to-day things.”




1. Include flexible spaces. The central patio serves as an outdoor great room, with an overhead arbor and a screen of potted bamboo that keep it feeling intimate for family dinners. Yet the space is roomy enough to accommodate two dining tables for large groups; the Clarks move furniture around as needed. The space is “very open and allows a lot of movement,” Cindy says.


2. Soften hardscape with plants. Large expanses of paving can look stark and industrial, so Forristt built planting pockets into the patio near the pool, spa, and dining areas to green it up. The pockets are filled with assorted ferns, grasses, and sago palms, while bougainvillea, hibiscus, and wisteria add spots of seasonal color around the patio. Large containers filled with greenery are clustered around the patio.


3. Dress things up. Cozy furnishings and thoughtfully selected accessories make an outdoor space as inviting as an indoor room. The Clarks adorned their garden by hanging Thai brass bells from the arbor and placing hand-carved Chinese pots around the patio. A bamboo ladder leans against the arbor.


Design: Cevan Forristt Design, San Jose (408/297-8538)


Keep Reading: