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Family of three sitting on grass during picnic

Andrea and Garrett Matt in their Bay Area backyard. Photo by Jessica Kay.

Andrea Matt loves where she lives in Northern California’s Bay Area. “Livermore is a wildly outdoors climate. It’s beautiful almost year round,” she explains. She and her husband, Garrett, are outdoors people. Whether entertaining friends, enjoying a family dinner, or playing with their baby daughter, they want to do it outside.

When they purchased their new home, their yard, however, was not up to the task. “We had a yard we could use, but it wasn’t ready for outdoor living,” says Andrea. The L-shaped yard had lots of space and sunlight, but it’s two sides felt disconnected, and much of it was underutilized.  “There was a massive opportunity to maximize use and create a cohesive space,” she says, adding, “Franky, it needed upscaling.”

A sitting area on dried grass with a fire pit and yard lights

A before picture of Andrea and Garrett’s backyard.

Providing safe and ample play space for their daughter was a top priority, but they hoped to do so without sacrificing their own enjoyment. “We wanted a really nice space that adults and children could both enjoy,” says Andrea.

Project managers by day, the couple knew enough to know they needed help reimagining their Bay Area landscaping. “We didn’t want to do it wrong or hodgepodge it together,” Andrea explains. They turned to Yardzen to help them realize their vision.

The landscape design that resulted ramps up the style, function, and sense of connection throughout their yard by leaning on a few key changes.

Open-air dining and lounging area with a fire pit

The wrap-around composite deck fosters indoor-outdoor living. Photo by Jessica Kay.

Back yard patio with sitting area

The “before” of the backyard, including the pergola, which blocked light from the house.

The biggest move is a new wrap-around deck, built from composite decking to save on maintenance and withstand weathering from sunlight. Crucially, the deck is set at the elevation of their interior living room, abutting an exterior sliding glass door. “You walk out of the house and it feels like an extension of our living space,” says Andrea.

During the design process, the couple made the hard choice to remove an existing pergola that shaded the space outside their living room. While counterintuitive— pergolas are typically an asset— the pergola’s removal welcomed a wash of natural light into their home, and strengthened the connection between indoor and outdoor spaces.

In addition to fostering indoor-outdoor living, Yardzen’s deck design improves a sense of connection in the yard. Mirroring the yard’s L-shape, the deck bridges the yard’s two sides by offering multiple seating areas with long sight lines linking one side of the yard to the other. Collectively, the seating areas wrap around the corner of the house, like a bread crumb trail driving engagement of the full yard. “The deck ultimately is what makes the yard feel connected. It feels like one yard,” says Andrea.

Porch with reclining chairs and sunshade sails at the backyard

The wrap-around deck. Photo by Jessica Kay.

Wrap-around stairs strengthen this sense of connection, providing free-flowing circulation and broad, permeable boundaries between the deck and adjacent spaces. The steps also double as informal seating along the entire deck perimeter, which has proven useful when watching little ones play in the yard. By eschewing railings, the stairs also open up views across the entire yard, amplifying the sense of connection and perceived size of the space. When you sit on the deck, you are immersed in the yard, not separated from it.

Yardzen’s design hangs onto a large lawn as a play space for kids. “Creating that big of a lawn has been the best thing we could’ve done for children. Our daughter runs wild on it,” says Andrea. Two other details were key in transforming the look and feel of their yard: adding lights and staining the fence.

The new design features embedded lights in the riser of the deck stairs, as well as key accent lighting in perimeter planting zones. “The lighting took us from a nice yard to a luxury yard. We’re thrilled with it,” says Andrea.

Fence next to a side yard with plants

The old fence was given a whole new look with black stain, which makes the climate-adapted plants and shrubs pop. Photo by Jessica Kay.

Wanting a fresher look from their fence, but trying to keep the budget under control, the couple worked with Yardzen to land on a solution: stain the existing fence black. This simple solution has been remarkably effective at spotlighting their planting. “It makes the yard pop in the best way,” Andrea explains.

Andrea and Garrett wanted their furniture to meet the level of design established by their yard, so they worked with Bay Area furniture company Terra Outdoor Living to find the big key pieces like their dining set. This turned out to be a great call. “We got awesome customer service, and we’re super happy with the furniture,” says Andrea.

Family of three at the dining enjoying fruits and wine

The furniture from Terra Outdoor Living brings the whole space to life. Photo by Jessica Kay.

With their Bay Area landscaping now fully transformed, the Matt family has wasted no time getting outside to play, entertain, and relax in their new space.

Photos by Bay Area photographer Jessica Kay.

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