When Angela and Django moved into a new-to-them ranch home in Northern California at the beginning of the pandemic last year, the couple’s initial thought was to settle in and tackle their yard in phases. Then, as the realization sunk in that they’d be stuck at home for some time with their two young children they quickly pivoted. On the agenda? Bringing their vision for al fresco dining, front porch hangs, and family fun to life ASAP.
It felt like a leap. Especially since Angela quickly realized there was no point in trying to make sense of the inefficient spaces, which ranged from unwelcoming narrow walkways to awkward hedges throughout the home’s exterior. “The yard was very obviously a hodgepodge over the years of efforts that never really came together,” she says. Yet Angela saw through the generations of mismatched rock and brick stacked and scattered without a clear purpose, envisioning a mix of functional living and play spaces flanked by trees and water-efficient landscaping. So, she tapped Yardzen to put the polish on her exterior design plans. “They really helped me pull the ideas out of my head and put them on paper,” she says.
For starters, Angela wanted to open the front of the house by carving out space for a covered front porch and a social front yard. Her first thought –simply extending the roofline – was quickly ruled out as too pricey. Instead, Yardzen’s designers suggested building a pergola that extends off the roof and over the garage, creating the cozy feel of a sheltered seating area. “It’s a special little spot, she says. “The vision was to be able to see the kids play on the street or on the lawn and that’s come to life in a lot of ways.”
By keeping the landscaping consistent from the front to the back of the house, the transition feels seamless. Yardzen’s design team suggested a mix of low-water natives and pollinators to reflect the local landscape. And, Yardzen added over a dozen new trees, including several fruitless olive trees along the home’s property lines. Altogether, says Angela, the space recalls a wine country getaway, and she can’t help but feel relaxed when she steps into her new backyard. “Instead of designing the yard you think you’re supposed to have based on what everyone else is doing, think about how your family lives,” says Angela.
That getaway vibe is in part to an existing elevated space overlooking a creek that runs past their home. It just screamed bocce court, a playful feature that the couple have bounced around since they purchased their first home together 15 years ago. It feels enclosed thanks to a draping canopy of willow and bay trees on the creek side, elevated by a string of cafe lights that add warmth to the space after sunset. On the opposite side, a row of pollinators creates a natural barrier and adds softness to the perimeter of the hardscaped court.
Steps from the family’s dining room, the patio sets the scene for beautiful evenings outside. And, underfoot is one of the smartest exterior design decisions in the yard: a repurposing of the existing patio. To spare the landfill and their wallet, Angela and her Yardzen team decided to keep the existing pavers and resurface them. With a deep power washing and a new layer of sand, the brick-hued pavers came back to life and now add a rich patina to the whole space. The proximity to the house makes it easy for the couple to spend time together outside while the kids are inside playing or sleeping.
A stretch of lawn is perfect for the couple’s kids to kick around the soccer ball. The area is idyllic for picnics and popping tents for future slumber parties, too. And, a sail shaded concrete dining table over pea gravel is the perfect niche for outdoor dining. But it isn’t simply reserved for evening meals. While the kids are at school, Angela and Django can catch up over lunch together outside.