Before & After: From Unused Space to Functional Outdoor Living

Posted on December 22, 2021


“Our yard was pretty much dirt when we got Yardzen involved,”  explained Sarah C. of her family’s Solana Beach, CA home. 

Perched on a hilltop, their yard was fairly large, but underutilized. Aesthetically and functionally, they knew their landscape could offer more.


Before Yardzen

The Yard

Complicating matters was a tall slope wrapping the backyard’s perimeter. They needed more functional flat space for kids to play and adults to relax. To create this space, they would need to push the slope back a bit. 

A rental ADU nestled in their side yard also demanded private space of its own. “We needed to have separation between the house and the ADU, but wanted to keep it looking organic,” she explained. 

The front yard’s challenges were largely aesthetic. They already planned to liven up their house with fresh white paint, and hoped for a compact, striking landscape design to complement this new look.


Before Yardzen


After Yardzen

With two young kids and two full-time jobs, time was a factor. They needed a hands-off solution to get more from their yard. “My husband and I are very busy people,” Sarah explained. “We wanted a process that wouldn’t require a lot of meetings.” 

Yardzen’s streamlined design process was exactly what they needed. “Our experience was very smooth going through every step,” Sarah said. “I loved that I could submit my inspiration photos and someone would dream up something beautiful and functional for us.”

Budget was a factor as well. They had enough to cover their main goals, but not enough for a full yard makeover. 

The Design


To navigate budget constraints, Yardzen zeroed in on their top priorities. 

First: flat space. 

To create more room for living, the design added a retaining wall along the toe of the slope. Hot tub and fire pit zones were added for the adults to enjoy, while the kids got an open decomposed granite play space.

A patio of large concrete squares gridded with decomposed granite gaps offered flexible space that could accommodate a range of impromptu outdoor gatherings. 

Throughout, scenes of dry-climate grasses and succulents dotted the edges of spaces, blurring boundaries to create a cohesive and landscape-forward feel across the yard.

To cordon off a private ADU zone, the design utilized an unhedged screen of Pittosporum ‘Silver Sheen’, footed with flowing ornamental grasses in key locations. With tiny, shimmering leaves, the Pittosporum offered privacy without the sense of mass associated with darker, chunkier hedges. The planting established a soft, comfortable atmosphere, and saved budget by avoiding privacy fencing.

Fruit trees and vegetable boxes were another key request for Sarah and her family. A sunny but distant corner of the yard was the perfect place for this, driving activity to a formerly unused space while leaving areas closer to the house open for play and relaxation.


The Build

To make their design a reality, Sarah connected with Nico Rivetti of Rivetti Landscapes. “It was smooth getting the recommendation to work with Nico,” Sarah said. “He was a great guy, and was very easy to work with.”

Working together, Nico and Sarah’s family made some last mile adjustments to the design, replacing the hot tub with an all-purpose sport court, and tucking in a putting green. With these tweaks in place, the Rivetti team got to work installing. Before long, Sarah and her family’s dream yard had become a reality.

“We love all of it and get so many compliments,” Sarah said of her new yard. “My favorite parts are the concrete squares and the hedge that separates the ADU. I loved that part of the design and never would have thought of that myself.”

Work with the experts at Yardzen to design and build your own dream yard. 

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