The yard before -looking left at the old lawn toward avocado tree #1.

The yard before -looking left at the old lawn toward avocado tree #1.


 
The yard before - looking right toward avocado tree #2.

The yard before – looking right toward avocado tree #2.


Found this abandoned 1971 VW bus at the the junkyard.

Found this abandoned 1971 VW bus at the the junkyard.


John Lord and Nancy. Spa wall blocking step.

John Lord and Nancy. Spa wall blocking step.


Nancy and the wonderful electrician Dave Holmes.

Nancy and the wonderful electrician Dave Holmes.


Randy pours the concrete for the fountain face.

Randy pours the concrete for the fountain face.


Nancy cuts breaks in the gussets for the swiveling TV cabinet mount per Paul Zank's recommendation.

Nancy cuts breaks in the gussets for the swiveling TV cabinet mount per Paul Zank’s recommendation.


Jonathan from Lincoln electric keeping the shop super clean.

Jonathan from Lincoln electric keeping the shop super clean.


My BMW i3 Panda Car looks on as I weld.

My BMW i3 Panda Car looks on as I weld.


Nancy awaiting the arrival of the VW bus cabinet from the sky.

Nancy awaiting the arrival of the VW bus cabinet from the sky.


I am happy to say I made good on a promise.  I promised my husband, Jevon, I would design and renovate our backyard to suit the temperate climate in Southern California.  This gave me the opportunity to design for the people I love most in the world and now we have a custom slice of heaven when we step outside.
My goal was to transform our plain rectangular plot of grass into little communities for entertaining.  With a freshman in college, a freshman in high school, and an eighth grader, I wanted to design a space that offered fun things for all our ages and all our senses. I began with a sketch and called on my great friend, Paul Zank, from digitalwoodcrafting.webplus.net to render a 3D layout.  Whenever I need to explore the engineering or mathematics of design, I call Paul.
My husband had two requests for our yard – stay on budget and repurpose an old flatscreen TV we had removed from our living room.  He asked me to build an outdoor cabinet to protect it and he showed me a photo of the rear clip of a VW bus.  It was attached to a wall and used as a coffee station at our friend’s coffee house in Seattle.  “Why can’t we make that a TV cabinet?”, he asked.  I didn’t want to mount anything to the house or our perimeter fence so I told him I would figure it out.  This gave me inspiration for our yard’s focal point. After a few sketches and more 3D rendering tests from my friend Paul, I designed the craziest outdoor TV cabinet/sculpture.
Through a chain of helpful people including Paul Zank, Chip Foose, Jonathan (Red) Rosenberger & Lon Damon at Lincoln Electric, Jim Bollinger at DO-Rite, Rick Weber at Orange Independent, Jim and Scotty at Wrecks West, Charlie at Strip Clean, Tom Springston, Randy Stonitsch, Jevon Hadley, my mom for moral support, my dad for inspiring me to use my hands, my Panda Car for hauling material, Tom Wilson at Stranded Furniture, Patrick at Orange Trailer Hitch Repair, Kelly & Bob at Specialized Coating, Tim Colamonico, Dave Holmes at Collin Taylor Electric, and Lance & Scott at Next Level Elevator I was able to build my TV cabinet.  It definitely took a village because I wanted it to stand on a single post and rotate to the different communities in my design.
As I welded and wrestled with the VW bus (now dubbed “Iron Van”) the rest of my design was taking shape thanks to the incredible talents of John Lord landscaping and Randy Stonitsch.  I planned to reduce the lawn by two thirds and build monochromatic concrete furniture that allowed me the freedom of changing accent colors with outdoor pillows and accessories.
I approach all design problems using my Design Science and find solutions by addressing the Five Senses of Design.
For Touch – How a surface feels is so important. For the larger elements, I designed smooth concrete finish furniture in warm gray and paired the seating with colorful pillows. The bar/kitchen/table is stainless steel and smooth concrete but positioned away from direct sun to avoid creating a super hot surface.  To stay in my budget I designed a crib for a drop in spa from Les and Ryan at OC Spas and Hottubs for soaking in at the end of a long day of welding.   I added a large warm gray outdoor pillows for comfort against the leaning wall.
For Taste –  I designed a semi-circular outdoor kitchen.  Randy, Matt, and Silviano made my dream a reality with this amazing stainless steel and concrete masterpiece kitchen, bar, and table combination piece complete with outdoor refrigerator, sink, and BBQ. The coolest features are the custom concave and convex stainless steel cabinet doors and the bar top removable vases.
For Sound –  My friend Jim installed sound absorbing sheets behind the television in the VW bus cabinet to direct the audio forward and not into our neighbor’s yard.  Chris Kenner and Tony Wheeler from Orange Door Music Video hooked me up with the best entertainment system you can have.   In the middle of the spa wall, Randy built a custom water feature that now provides the perfect sound of trickling water while we relax in the spa.
For Smell – I saved our small orange tree behind the spa for its amazing blossom & orange fragrance and when the plumeria, that was hiding in mounds of geraniums, blooms it puts out a subtle sent of Hawaii.
For Sight –  My design theme was Square Peg in a Round Hole. I love the juxtaposition of curves and straight lines so I combined them throughout our yard and because this space was to encourage gathering I started with circular seating. I considered all angles and viewpoints in my design.  On the water and fire side of the yard I used orange and blue accents and on the garden side I used green and red accents. I then tied the two areas together with yellow. I didn’t want to squander a single view to something elegant or beautiful so I set up communities to provide unique visual experiences. From gazing at clouds while lying on our new little lawn to reading a great book under the avocado tree ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ (pun intended – thank you Shel Silverstein) to sitting in the fire ring, the spa or the bar and chatting or watching something exciting on the TV, I considered all visual lines.
Now, it has been two months and there isn’t a day that goes by that one or all three of my kids spend time in one of the stations I designed in our backyard and they bring their friends, lots of friends and I am over the moon with joy. You could say my heart covers the sixth sense!
My favorite reading corner.

My favorite reading corner.


Portable palette raised bed and pot dolly garden.

Portable palette raised bed and pot dolly garden.


Jevon's heaven.

Jevon’s heaven.


I kept a little lawn for a soft place to pitch a tent or lie on your back and daydream.

I kept a little lawn for a soft place to pitch a tent or lie on your back and daydream.


The number one reason for a fire pit.  S'mores.

The number one reason for a fire pit. S’mores.


Plumeria tree with Stanyan and Beulah sign in honor of my dad.

Plumeria tree with Stanyan and Beulah sign in honor of my dad.


View of the sink, bar, fire ring, and garden from the spa.

View of the sink, bar, fire ring, and garden from the spa.


John Lord, Nancy, and Randy Stonitsch enjoying their hard work.

John Lord, Nancy, and Randy Stonitsch enjoying their hard work.


Spa crib and VW bus TV cabinet.

Spa crib and VW bus TV cabinet.


Orange Door Music Video is up and running in our backyard.

Orange Door Music Video is up and running in our backyard.


The yard after - looking left toward avocado tree #1

The yard after – looking left toward avocado tree #1


The yard after - looking right toward avocado tree #2

The yard after – looking right toward avocado tree #2


the chaos of design

My backyard design started with this pile of cards and papers.