• WELD

Pavers, Pathways, and Pops of Color– Willow Glen Landscape Design Challenge

Introducing The Space

Reading through our various design breakdowns, it quickly becomes clear that no two backyards are ever exactly the same. Each space presents different challenges, different requirements, and requires a fresh design perspective. In this landscape design challenge, we visit the Willow Glen neighborhood in the Bay Area. Here, we were not only working with a smaller overall space, but with an auxiliary structure in the corner of the property.

A look at the initial space from the back right corner of the property. Existing stonework and hardscaping is visible, as well as the large auxiliary structure in the opposite corner.

Designing in spaces with additional structures means that the layout must make additional considerations. In yards such as this one where square footage is already limited, it takes creativity to create a space that is not only beautiful, but is laid out functionally, and includes all items on our client’s wish list.


A look at the narrow entrance to the backyard between the home and the auxiliary structure.

The first step in every Water and Earth design project is to meet with the homeowners and talk at length about their vision for their dream backyard. These Willow Glen homeowners were dreaming of a space that was versatile, sleek, and realistic for their day to day life. They wanted to optimize the functionality and introduce a modern-minded aesthetic, all while leaving space for their kids to play.


Another view of this small Willow Glen backyard. After talking with the clients, we knew we would be retaining the existing trees, as well as the existing structure visible in the background of this shot.

These initial discussions are critical as they help to guide the first steps of our design process as we move into the first round of 2D rendering. After speaking with these homeowners, we hit the drawing board before regrouping with our clients to present to different design concepts.


2D Renderings


Concept A


Concept A

Starting in the approach to the backyard, Concept A begins with the homeowner’s walking up their brand new paver driveway towards the existing structure. At the end of the drive, they turn and step onto a brand new, L-shaped deck. In the cut out of space stands an existing tree, complimented with additional landscaping and a newly proposed water feature. On the deck is ample space for outdoor seating.


Stepping off of the deck into the rest of the backyard, our clients immediately find themselves on a new, interlocking paver patio. Running parallel to the perimeter of the back of the property is new landscaping and a bench seating wall, positioned to allow the homeowner’s to gather and enjoy their new gas fire pit.


Continuing around to the far end of the yard, our client’s step off their newly proposed paver patio and onto new turf and space for the kids to play. From here, the homeowners travel along a series of concrete steppers back around toward the front of the home.


Concept B

Concept B

In Concept B, you see the repetition of a very similar hardscaping layout. However, a different flow is created by moving integral elements around the space. As in the first design, the homeowners enter the backyard by walking up the new paver driveway. From there, they step onto the new deck.


In Concept B, however, the fireplace has been moved to the deck. String cafe lights stretch between the house and posts on the border of the deck, creating evening ambience. As in Concept A, our clients would step down from the deck toward the back of the property onto a paver patio. However, instead of a fire pit, this space now contains the outdoor kitchen and dining where the previous bench seating and fire pit had been.

To finish the space, the lawn from Concept A remains. Concrete steppers still lead you around to the front of the home, however they have changed direction to run parallel to the edge of the property.


After presenting and discussing both options with our clients, they liked elements from both designs, but preferred the layout of the second design with the kitchen and dining areas toward the back of the space. We talked over any revisions or rearrangements and moved forward with 3D renderings.


3D Renderings

An aerial view of the 3D rendering. The kitchen has been moved to the center of the space, dividing the composite decking space and paver patio.

In moving to the 3D rendering phase, we incorporated a few notes that the homeowners had on the layout of the space. Although they loved the divided living space we created in Concept B, they wanted to reorient the kitchen away from the back of the property in order to keep the initial bench seating and maximize function.


In these images you will see that the kitchen has been moved to divide deck and paver patio space. The deck space has been rendered at two levels, allowing the homeowners to step out of their backdoor and then continue stepping down into the space.


The kitchen bisects the new paver patio and deck directly off the back of the home.

Lining the perimeter of the yard is carefully planned landscaped to add color and greenery, as well as complimenting the existing trees on the property. Composite material covers the bench seating, matching the decking.

Another look from the corner of the deck, over the new kitchen and outdoor dining area.

After reviewing the 3D renders, our clients were excited about design, and ready to move forward with construction. With a green light, we began building out this new backyard living space.


The Finished Space

A before an after overview of the space.

In the end, this Bay Area landscape design challenge came together beautifully. From dynamic materials that add texture and visual interest, to pops of color and maximized functionality, ths backyard has it all.


The homeowners now have room to step out of their home and relax in their space on their new composite decking. Stepping down, they walk onto a modern rectangular paver patio, set off by organically shaped pavers at the center beneath their new dining set.


Rectangular pavers create a simple, modern minded feel while organically shaped pavers in a darker shade add visual interest and texture to the space.

A previously messy and chaotic front drive has been transformed with a paver design that matches the backyard patio. Bench seating wraps, creating additional functional seating for guests who want to join the fun in the kitchen, or sit and watch kids play in the grass.

A before and after look at the entrance to the backyard. Homeowners step up from their drive onto their new composite deck, inviting them into the rest of the space.


On the deck, the new, gas burning fireplace is the perfect cozy spot for friends and family to unwind and swap stories. From this vantage point, guests can easily converse with anyone at any point in the space.


An evening view. Lighting along the fence as well as along the bench seating and kitchen counter creates functionality as well as ambience once the sun goes down.

From sunrise to well past sundown, this backyard living space is now the perfect outdoor retreat. From backyard summer barbecues and late night campfires, to watching the kids play in the grass, this yard makes room for it all and looks great doing it.


For more design inspiration and a behind the scenes look at our design process, check out our blog. Or to keep up to date with our latest landscape design projects here in San Jose and beyond, follow us on Instagram.

10 views0 comments