The designer couple known as the Hommeboys chose the slow route. Their patience paid off.

tropical outdoor makeover hommeboys backyard
The backyard of the Hommeboys' home.

Design duo Austin Carrier and Alex Mutter-Rottmayer— also called the Hommeboys—are known for their beautiful interior design and build projects, but when it came to their own outdoor space they took their time remodeling it and dialing in its final look.

The couple lives in a large barn in Sonoma, California, located on four acres shared with Carrier’s family. They met in Olympia, Washington, while attending the same school and decided to move to Carrier’s hometown after graduating. Carrier’s father’s design and build business was growing, and the couple was interested in starting a new career together with the family barn as headquarters.

The barn has two floors: Their woodshop is on the ground floor, while their apartment and office are upstairs. After completing a variety of interior projects steadily over the years, including creating a master suite, the outdoors came together slowly and with a small budget.

San Pedro cactus, blue glow agave, and sedum
San Pedro cactus, blue glow agave, and sedum grow around the side of the Hommeboys’ barn.


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“We painstakingly turned a gravel driveway, some scraggly pines, and a small decrepit deck into the space you see now,” says Carrier. “The first thing we did was add batons to the outside of the barn and painted it. And wow, it made a huge difference.”

The duo then rebuilt the stairs and deck, expanding the latter. “We extended it pretty far out and created a living space with an incredible view,” says Mutter-Rottmayer.

The finishing details came last summer, inspired by the couple’s trip to Morocco. “We used Moroccan handmade Zellige tile from Riad Tile to make some pretty stunning planter boxes, added a fire pit, and then instantly created a jungle by filling them with birds of paradise,” says Carrier.

Those birds of paradise didn’t come from just anywhere, it turns out. “The white birds of paradise actually flanked the arch at our wedding last summer,” said Mutter-Rottmayer.

Second-floor seating area of the Hommeboys' home.
The second-floor deck was originally much smaller, but the couple rebuilt it to create space for an outdoor living room featuring an outdoor sofa and chair set from Outer, an Anthropologie octagonal table, and a vintage rug from Morocco.


The rest of the plantings were chosen with drought tolerance in mind: different types of palms, citrus, cacti, succulents, and Australian natives. “Swinging on the couch under the fire pit with those plants coming down is such an intimate experience and can really set the mood,” says Carrier.

The majority only need to be watered once or twice a week in the hot summer months in Sonoma, and less frequently throughout the rest of the year. The only standouts are the birds of paradise. “Those are consistently watered and sprayed to keep them wet since it’s pretty dry in Sonoma,” says Mutter-Rottmayer.

While Carrier and Mutter-Rottmayer took their time to decide how they wanted their space to look while they remodeled, they recommend others create a plan before getting started. “Take your time and map it out. We have the ability to keep working on our space because we treat it as our test kitchen for our projects and clients. We wouldn’t recommend that to everyone, so that’s why a well-laid plan that is executed over time will ultimately lead to the most useful and cost-effective outdoor space.”

This story originally appeared in our summer 2020 Outdoor Living issue.

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