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Cupertino Landscape Design Challenge: Custom Pergola, Deck, and Pavers

In today’s landscape design, we revisit a home in Cupertino, CA. This Cupertino landscape design challenge sees an outdoor living space transformed from overgrown and unusable, to a backyard destination fit for family and family to unwind and catch up.


These homeowners were looking for an overall update to their space. This included redesigns of both the front and backyard. From the beginning, we were working with mostly blank, if not very outdated, canvas.

The front yard, with outdated concrete slab driveway and landscaping.

In the front yard, the slanted driveway was made up of poured concrete slabs. The small amount of lawn space next to it was finished with sparse landscaping, and did little to add curb appeal to the home. The clients were looking to change this, and add modern day touches to both the hardscaping and the landscaping of the space.

Looking from the overgrown backyard toward the back of the home.

The front yard, though small, was neatly groomed. The backyard, however, was another story. Left to its own devices, nature had taking the backyard of this Cupertino home by storm. From the back steps to the fence line, weeds, natural plants, and general overgrowth had taken charge. While there was plenty of space to work with, the yard resembled something closer to a nature preserve than a residential outdoor space.

A look at the dense overgrowth in the yard.

After talking with the clients, it was clear that they were looking to replace the overgrown flora with a usable outdoor living space. On their wish list was an updated driveway, tidied landscaping, and plenty of covered outdoor seating. With this in mind, we hit the drawing boards and came back with two design directions.


2D Renderings

The first round of designs were two, 2D design renderings. Both included similar elements, but different approaches to the space. This allows the clients to get a feel for what is possible without feeling boxed into a corner by a singular design style.


Concept A

Concept A

The first concept, Concept A, is seen above. Starting in the front yard, you see that the driveway has been widened and updated with new pavers. To the left, the front walkway has undergone a transformation. Gone is the small, indiscernible front approach. In its place is a new series of concrete steppers, flanked on either side by new plantings. Directly off the front of the home is a new raised patio, complete with steps and a seat wall.


Moving around to the back of the home, you pass through the newly paved side yard. Concrete pavers guide you through to the backyard, steering you past the shed and updated landscaping. Stepping off of this paver pathway, you arrive in the backyard.


In the corner of the space is a new dog wash area, tucked away for practicality. Stepping to the left, you find yourself on a large composite deck. Toward the home, a large pergola provides ample covered living space. At the back of the deck, seat walls and raised veggie planters add color and functionality. Continuing to the left of the space, you step down onto a series of concrete steppers, leading you past a large grassy area and back around toward the other side of the home.


Concept B

Concept B

The second design, Concept B, takes the design elements from the first concept and elaborates on their potential. In the front yard, the widened driveway remains, as does the small front patio. The front approach, however, has widened in this design concept. This minimized the amount of front lawn left over. However, the concrete is softened by ample planting and the large, existing shade tree.


Move toward the back of the home, the same paver pathway from Concept A leads you past storage into the back of the space. However, at reaching the end of this path, the design changes are immediately noticeable. The dog wash station is no longer part of the pathway, but is now floored with decking, and separated from the space by a right angle of concrete steppers.


Following these steppers into the yard, you step directly onto a large paver patio, accented by a long seat wall along the perimeter of the space. In the middle of the patio, a fire pit adds warmth and a designated gathering area. From here, you can step up toward the home onto a pergola-covered deck, or continue left along another series of concrete steppers, past lawn space, and around to the other side of the home.


3D Renderings

After reviewing both designs, the clients decided on a blend of Concept A and Concept B. While they preferred the wider walkway of the front approach in the second design, they were partial to the simplicity of the backyard proposed in Concept A.

An aerial rendering of the backyard space.

There was one major change between the initial designs and the renderings that is immediately apparent upon comparisons. In the 2D renders, the pergola is relatively small, covering the small area centered off the back of the home. After discussing the clients needs further, the homeowners expressed a desire for a larger covered living space that was more central to the yard. Here, you can see the solution to this problem–moving and scaling up the proposed pergola to form a true, indoor-outdoor experience.

A look from the home, under the pergola and toward the property line.

The new pergola design spans the entire length of the main deck, adding a large, roomlike effect to the space. The diagonal slats allow sunlight through, casting dynamic shadows on the deck below that change as the sun moves across the sky. At the back of the pergola, a feature wall provides additional privacy as well as working as a visual focal point.

Concrete steppers lead you from the covered deck, toward the other side of the house.

Stepping out from under the pergola, the homeowners step down off the deck and onto a series of wid concrete steppers. To the right of the steppers is a neat, fully landscaped lawn space, softening the privacy fencing and added an injection of color to the design.

A rendering of the new front yard and driveway.

In the front yard, the curb appeal of the home has been increased ten fold. A new, paver driveway provides a clean modern finish, while allowing plenty of space for extra parking. Along the street side, new native grasses and trees replace the old rock cover and add color and texture.


An aerial rendering of the new front yard in this Cupertino Landscape Design Challenge.

From above, you can see how the old narrow walkway has been replaced by a series of wide concrete steppers leading all the way to the sidewalk. On either side of the steppers, boulders and landscaping carve out the walkway. The contrast of natural elements with the bright, modern hardscaping creates a dynamic visual texture that leaves the front of the home feeling sleek, bright, and up to date.


The Final Design

Once the clients had reviewed the renderings, we finalized the design, seen below. You can see the layouts above have been set in stone, and decisions regarding materiality have been pinpointed. From here, there was nothing left to do but break ground and watch the transformation unfold.

The final rendering of the space.

The Final Space

In today’s Cupertino Landscape Design challenge, we took a yard from an overgrown jungle to a streamlined backyard destination.

A look at the newly renovated front yard.

Starting in the front yard, the transformation is immediately apparent. The old, outdated concrete and shabby lawn has been replaced with a modern color palette and geometric lines. The old concrete slab driveway has been massively upgraded, traded out for chevron pavers in a variegated color scheme. Concrete steppers lead visitors toward the front door, past native plantings that will continue to fill in empty space as time passes.

Looking out over the deck from the side of the space.

Moving into the backyard, you can see the step up onto the large raised deck that serves as the central living space. Notable changes from the renderings include the exclusion of the feature wall. In its place, a long bench wall provides additional seating, formed in the same shade of wood as the deck. This material is reiterated again in the pergola slats, tying the design together.

Looking back toward the home from under the pergola.

Stepping under the pergola, you can look back toward the home to see the deck continue to create a level kitchen and dining space. The long bartop stretches beneath a pass-through window, creating a dialogue between the home and the outdoor space.

Looking at the latter half of the space, including steppers and lawn space.

Stepping off of the deck, the linear concrete steppers create a clear pathway around to the front of the home. Visible in the above photo are the spotlights, which create after-dark navigability and ambience. The space is finished with strategic landscaping, as well as a large, modern fence to provide privacy.


If your backyard is overgrown, it can be hard to see the diamond in the rough. These Cupertino home owners were looking to turn their backyard jungle into a functional, modern space with plenty of room for entertaining and relaxing with friends and family. In the end, we were able to transform this space from wild and untouched to a refined and beautiful outdoor living space.


Discover more from Water and Earth Landscape Design.

Love seeing the behind the scenes of design projects like these? Explore our blog to see more of our finished and in progress designs around the Bay Area. For live updates on projects like these,follow us on Instagram.

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