San Jose Landscape Design Challenge: Space for The Whole Family
Updated: Aug 18
Introducing The Space
Water and Earth has been creating custom landscape designs in San Jose for the better half of a decade now. While our documentation of our projects and designs has only gotten more robust over the years, we have a special place in our heart for the first few designs we did. Today’s San Jose Landscape Design Challenge is a throwback to one of those first projects
This home is located in the Campbell neighborhood of San Jose, California. As a new build, the property already included a new driveway, front entrance, and front walkway. This said, our objective was to fill in the rest of the space with a beautiful, functional design the homeowners would love.
As time has gone on, trends and design preferences have evolved, but clients are still asking for the same basic things. Green space, room for the kids to play, patios, outdoor dining space, and covered outdoor seating are all on this list, and were on the wishlist for these specific clients as well.
After discussing what was important to the homeowners, we proceeded with the 2D design concepts.
If you read any of our design walkthroughs, you’ll know that 2D design is one of the most important parts of our design process. This is where the most adjustment can be done. 2D designs allow the process to feel accessible for the homeowner, allowing them to envision themselves moving through the space without feeling boxed into a corner by a “too-finished” 3D rendering.
In Concept A the front yard is landscaped with turf and cut through by an angular, modern gravel pathway. This pathway cuts along the side of the home, through the backyard fence, leading finally to the backyard living space.
Stepping off the gravel path, the homeowner walks onto a patio that holds outdoor dining space and an outdoor kitchen. On the fence-side of the patio is an arbor that provides connection for string lights to and from the home. Moving from the patio further into the backyard space, the homeowners walk along concrete steppers into the rest of the yard.
Filling out the rest of the outdoor living space is more green space, as well as a designated playset for the kids that is set apart from the design by a raised paver edging.
Where Concept A made use of modern, angular lines, Concept B had a more organic, flowing approach. While many of the same elements are at play, the lines are softened for an overall more natural effect. The front yard still includes new landscaping, turf, and a gravel pathway. However, in Concept B, this pathway is made with curved lines that meander to the fence gate.
From the gate, the soft lines of the gravel path continue, leading onto a rounded paver patio that has the same arbor and string light set up. The patio in this design is much larger. To fill the space, we proposed bisecting the patio with a kitchen. In this concept, the patio itself extends further into the yard, minimizing the need for steppers.
To finish the space, a turf lawn with curving edges runs up against a planting bed along the fence. To the right of the yard, you see the same play area from Concept A. However, in this design it is not separated from the space with edging, but rather is incorporated directly into the turf.
The Final Designs
After reviewing both designs, our clients decided to move forward with Concept A. If you’ve read through other design processes on our blog, you’d know that this is the point in the process where we would traditionally move forward with rendering. At the time of this design, however, our process looked a little bit different.
Instead of moving to the 3D renderings our client base is now familiar with from Water and Earth, our earliest designs progressed in a slightly different way. Below, you can see the progression of the final design concept, based on Concept A.
As you can see, not much has changed layout or design wise between the initial 2D concepts and this more detailed design. The front yard complete with angular gravel path leads to the fenced backyard space. From here, the clients step onto their new, stone patio complete with arbor, string lights, and proposed outdoor kitchen.
Concrete pavers lead off the patio onto a large turf area and separated play space. All of these elements directly echo what was seen in Concept A. What is now visible in these final designs, however, is the color, texture, and materiality. All of these elements help to bring the space to life for the homeowners. Once we got the greenlight, we began construction and the design was installed.
The Finished Space
The completed space ended up being almost a direct reflection of the proposed design, with a few caveats added by the homeowners as the process unfolded. This happens from time to time. In this San Jose landscape design project, the clients decided against a full outdoor kitchen installation. Instead, they opted for portable countertops and a grill for their new, bluestone patio and a pergola covering the entirety of the outdoor seating space.
The rest of the design, however, came to life as initially drawn. The front yard’s turf and pathways went in, as well as the stepper leading off the backyard patio. These steppers were integrated into the turf, making them functional while allowing them to feel like a seamless part of the space. The designated playset went in, however the homeowner’s decided against separating from the rest of the space with edging.
Also visible in these final photos is the fencing on the yard. To add aesthetic value to this functional privacy feature, we faux boxwood mesh that was punctuated by real plantings. Not only did this inject some much needed life and color, but it was a unique twist on what could have remained a more lackluster wood fence.
All in all, our early designs may be interpreted as simpler than some of our more recent work. Certainly the lack of flashier 3D may pack less of a punch when glancing through the process. However, we are proud of all of our early work, as it’s exactly these designs that helped to put us on the map.
From Past to Present–Browse All Of Our Completed Designs
At the end of the day, the homeowners got exactly what they were looking for–a beautiful, functional, highly liveable space that was perfect for their entire family. From the sleek, modern lines of the walkways and pavers, to the kid-centric green space and playset, to more unique elements like the faux boxwood fence, all of the elements of this design come together to create a compelling end result that the homeowners loved.