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A Fun, Funky, and Functional Bay Area Landscape Design

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

Introducing The Project

Sometimes when we begin a project the homeowners can’t quite envision the direction that they’d like to take their outdoor space. Other times, our clients already have a pretty good idea of where they would like their final project to end up. In this Bay Area landscape design project, the homeowners had a good idea of where they saw the project going, but simply needed some help getting there.

The home was built to include this modern outdoor fireplace, a centerpiece for our final design.

For this Willow Glen landscape design project, some aspects of the final design already existed in the initial space. The existing backyard had a modern outdoor fireplace that was incorporated into the initial home build, as well as a dedicated playset area already constructed in the yard.

The backyard included an existing, designated playset space.

However, other aspects of the design needed some trouble shooting. From ensuring privacy from passing pedestrians, to protecting their corner lot from speeding traffic, our job was to incorporate new design solutions into existing outdoor elements to create a seamless outdoor living space.

The Wishlist

As mentioned, aspects of the final design were in place before we began. An outdoor fireplace was already built. We knew this would become a focal point for gathering and socialization. We also knew that the existing playset space would remain, and would help to guide the layout of the remainder of the backyard design.

Additional items on the clients’ wish list included a deck, pergola, outdoor kitchen space, and plenty of room for their kids to play in privacy. They wanted a front yard that would serve their functionality and safety needs while tying seamlessly into their new, modern backyard living space. Keeping this in mind, we presented the initial design direction that would become the final space.

2D Rendering

The 2D rendering phase is incredibly important to us. Not only is it the first time that our clients can see a suggestion of what their space may become, but it is the basis around which the project continues. In other words, it guides the direction of the future design, allowing homeowners to know what is possible in their space without immediately overwhelming them.

If you’re interested in learning more about why we prioritize 2D designs instead of moving immediately to 3D renderings, check out our blog about the subject here.

The complete 2D rendering for this Bay Area home. This design proposes a new direction for both the front and backyard living spaces.

The Front Yard

In the rendering above, you can see the design that came to life in the following months. Beginning in the front yard, a new paver driveway flanks a private courtyard patio, blocking neighborhood eyes from seeing into the home.

A Closer Look At The Front Yard Design

To the left of the enclosed courtyard you see the front approach and a series of new steppers, leading you along the lawn and new landscaping into the corner of the lot. Here, we addressed another one of our clients’ main concerns. This Bay Area property is a corner lot on a heavily trafficked street, and the risk of vehicles coming up over the curb onto their lawn had become a growing concern.

A look at the busy intersection of this corner property.

To address this, we designed defensive landscaping that incorporated a series of boulders, acting as a protective barrier between the street and the edge of the property. Throughout the front yard, new landscape and planter boxes soften the modern design and tie it to the backyard space.

The Backyard

Moving into the backyard, you can immediately see the way the design is constructed around existing elements in the space. A new series of steppers leads you along the side of the house and then turns at a 90 degree angle, leading you directly into the center of the space. At the right hand side of the design, tucked into the crux of the stepper, is a new spa. Across from this spa is dedicated “kid space”, complete with a new, modern playset structure and proposed playground mulch.

A closer look at the initial design of the backyard space.

Walking to the center of the backyard, you step onto the new paver patio, built to highlight the home’s existing outdoor fireplace. From the patio, you can either step up onto a brand new elevated deck, complete with dining space, outdoor kitchen, and pass-through window, or step off towards the back of the yard and continue around towards the other side of the home.

The left hand side of this home had additional yard space that was largely separate from the main backyard. In this design, we created more green space which includes additional lawn, and a series of vegetable planters.

After presenting this design, the clients were thrilled about this direction. We talked through any revisions or notes they had and moved forward to the 3D rendering phase of the design process.

3D Renderings

The Front Yard

Below, you can see the initial 2D design has been brought to life in an intricate series of 3D renderings. Out of frame is the new driveway, bordered on the right by a private courtyard, shielding the front windows from prying eyes. Along the house and front entrance are modern raised planters. Concrete pavers lead you along the front of the home to the newly landscaped corner plot.

A look at the initial 3D rendering of the new front yard design for this Bay Area home.

At the corner of the lot, defensive landscaping has begun to take shape, as the previously mentioned boulders protect the corner of the property from traffic and speeding cars. These boulders are softened by native grasses and mulching.

Defensive landscaping takes shape through carefully arranged boulders, creating a barrier between the street and the property.

Moving along the right side of the home, steppers lead you back into the new backyard space. In the larger, left hand side yard, new grass and landscaping has been laid, along with raised vegetable planters running parallel to the property’s fence.

The new green space and vegetable beds in the larger, fenced in side yard.

The Backyard

An overview of the proposed backyard space, from the right hand side of the yard.

In the rendering above, you can see many of the previously described design elements. A stepper walkway leads you from the narrow side approach into the center of the backyard space. The playset area has remained on the right, and clients step off the walkway into their new, modern patio space.

A view from the existing fireplace, towards the new deck, pass-through window, and outdoor kitchen. A peninsula style counter bar segments the deck space into two, distinct areas.

Central to this design is the existing fireplace, which anchors the patio and offsets the new, pergola covered deck and outdoor kitchen. Intricate pavers add texture, while the clean lines of the deck and pergola slats add a modern feel to this Bay Area landscape design.

An aerial, night-view of the backyard. Raised planters border the new patio, backed by benches that double as outdoor storage.

Not every element from the 2D design made it to the 3D rendering. In conversations with our client, we decided to remove the proposed space in favor of additional landscaping and lawn.

After presenting these initial renderings, we again opened the floor for feedback from the homeowners. It is incredibly important to us that our clients feel like they are a part of the design process from start to finish. This means allowing them to make tweaks as necessary. There were a few minor things they wanted to see changed or modified in these initial renderings, and we were more than happy to oblige.

Revised Final Renderings

Our clients were largely happy with the backyard design, and most of the changes made in the revision process were done in the front yard space. Initially, the corner landscaping included only natural boulders and planting. However, the clients wanted more clear cut pathways around to that side of the home.

To create this continuum of movement, we placed more concrete steppers running along the front of the home, around the corner, all the way to the side gate. This change helped to create beautiful and functional pathways linking the front and backyard designs.

Added steppers continue around the corner of the home, to the side yard gate.

Other small tweaks made in these final renderings can be seen below and include some additional landscaping, and a proposal to stain the fencing that creates the private front courtyard.

A final render of the new front yard. The fencing has been stained darker, and additional landscaping is in place.

After viewing these final images, our clients had no further questions or revisions and we proceeded to build the project out.

The Finished Project

In the end, this finished property came together to directly mirror the initial designs and renderings, and the result is beautiful.

The Front Yard

In the front yard, a new, paver driveway has been created. This is flanked by the proposed fenced in dining courtyard which blocks the street-facing windows from passing pedestrian eyes.

The new driveway, segmented from the yard by a private, fenced in courtyard space. Ultimately, the homeowners opted for a natural finish on the fencing.

Continuing toward the left hand side of the home, you see the corner lot landscaping brought to life. Boulders protect the space from traffic while newly placed concrete steppers guide our homeowners along into their fenced in auxiliary side yard space.

Outdoor lighting highlights the strategically placed boulders, while landscaping softens the rock and concrete steppers which lead our clients around into their backyard living space.

The Backyard

Stepping into the backyard, you again see our 3D renderings essentially brought directly to life. The designed concrete steppers bisect green space and a new, modern playset. Landscaping dots the perimeter of the backyard fence.

Concrete steppers divide the left hand side of the backyard living space.

Stepping along this pathway, our clients end up in their new seating area. The existing fireplace, always a part of the home’s initial build, is now flanked by a raised seating wall on either side. Space for new outdoor furniture is determined by raised planters, the backs of which have been converted into storage benches for outdoor toys and equipment.

A look over the deck, outdoor kitchen, and dining area. The existing fireplace is set off by new, modern pavers seen again finishing the sides of the kitchen bar and peninsula. The new storage benches are visible in the foreground.

Looking back towards the home, you can see that a pass-through window has been installed. Pass-through windows are a great way to link indoor and outdoor space, and create a dialogue between both living spaces—not to mention, they’re great for parties.

Visible in the background of the photo is the new pass-through window. The raised planting boxes create a perimeter for the new seating area, and are studded with flowers, adding colors to a modern design palette.

Function and Style Meet in this Bay Area Landscape Design

Sometimes, Water and Earth encounters projects that evolve greatly as they proceed. There are many rounds of revisions, different directions considered, and a lot of tweaks between the initial 2D designs and the final project. And other times, like in this Bay Area landscape design, the pieces fall together almost from the very beginning.

Nothing makes us happier than creating an outdoor living space that is equal parts unique, functional, and beautiful. This final landscape design in Willow Glen not only created additional safety and privacy for our homeowners, but enhanced existing design elements of their outdoor space.

The result? A beautiful front and backyard space that are distinct without competing, and serve our clients both functionally, and aesthetically.

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