Column: Living the luxury backyard dream


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This Carmel family had oversized aspirations and was determined to phase over several seasons. The ambitious dream was to create multiple living spaces that their daughters could enjoy, connect with friends and create a lifestyle so compelling that it would be heartbreaking to move as these lovely “boomers” considered downsizing their present stage.

But first, eliminate a tired pine deck with a monstrous shade tree consuming the entire “petite” backyard. Then, conquer the big three: dappled shade, natural/confident privacy and low-maintenance living.


Bluntly, the flowing design occurred Ferrari-fast — on the back of a napkin by a crazy, brilliant landscape architect I was fortunate to employ, Eric Beard. The legendary L.A. Mike Bush had substantial influence. It was cleaned up from there, but only to make it presentable to the owners and several installation teams that followed.

A decade ago, tumbled Belgard concrete pavers and related wall stone were trend-setting. Not necessarily today. Regardless, it has a timeless elegance that still provokes gasps as welcome guests capture the anticipated views.

The privacy solution was fueled by six oversized spruce married with the meatiness of overhead pergola beams. Glorious flowering ornamental trees and native shrubs contribute and soften the layered intrigue.

Perhaps the most distinguishing elements are several 6- by 8-feet  limestone slabs that bridge a naturally cut stream and sexy pond, teeming with koi and the occasional croaking frog, which hugs the lower patio. A massive grill station houses an edgy cobble-fire feature and shady micro-pergola which commands the upper living space.

The memories are indescribable. Loads of laughter. A few tears.  An impromptu marriage ceremony, food-truck party, wine tastings, books consumed, grilling competitions. Dreams shared and realities fought.

It’s going to be impossible to leave this someday. Welcome to my backyard!