Welcome to our backyard! We’ve been using it a ton during quarantine and it is where we love spending time as family. It definitely functions as our “outdoor living room!” I wanted to answer some questions I’ve gotten about our backyard – from landscaping and hardscape, to the pool and furniture and everything in between – and how we made it a really live-able, easy-to-use space.
Our backyard is actually not that big. Our whole lot is on the small side and we have more “house” than “yard” for sure. But it wasn’t a priority for us to have a big backyard since we don’t have kids that run around with sports necessarily, and we weren’t planning on doing a pool. We thought about the homes we’ve been to and places we’ve stayed that we loved, and we noticed it was not the size that we loved but the quality and design. That perspective guided how we designed our home, too – not quantity and size but quality and functionality.
This is not our forever home, so maybe we’ll want more space in the future but for now, it’s perfect for us. The lot we built on has an incredible view of the Valley and we get to watch amazing sunsets at night. Whenever we’re spending time in our yard, Russ and I often look at each other like, gosh, we’re so lucky to have this beautiful spot!
Here’s a breakdown of each part of our backyard :
My goal in our yard “look” was GREEN. I didn’t want any color other than green and I didn’t want it to feel like the desert. So that means no cactus and we don’t even have any flowers, either – because I strictly wanted lush and green and not have a bunch of different things and a ton of colors.
I took note of what I liked most in the photos I was pinning from Pinterest and saving from online, and the common thread was lots of white, lots of green, and simple lines. Just like my interiors, it’s a mix of modern and traditional and doesn’t have excess decor. Just a streamlined, fresh look.
When we were building and designing the hardscape (anything that’s custom-built into the yard) the designer said they would paint it the same color as our house, which is a tan. But I said to paint it the same white as the interior of our house – and I’m SO GLAD we did this!!
This way, when we look out from our great room and kitchen out the windows to the backyard, everything is seamlessly white and the same color as our interior. And it looks really fresh and crisp out there against the greenery. I love it and highly recommend this idea if you have an exterior paint color of the home that you’re not a huge fan of but have to have because of HOA (like us.)
All of the tile you see is travertine, and I love it. This specific color got discontinued, unfortunately, but it’s just the whitest lightest travertine that they had. I like how it stays cool and doesn’t get too slippery.
The firepit is something we wondered if we would get a lot of use out of, and turns out – we do! When we have family over we always gather there at the end of the night, and the girls love roasting smores out there. I like sitting out there on chilly mornings with the fire going and a throw blanket and some coffee. Heaven! It is built-in, so the gas is piped in through underground. So all we have to do is turn a little knob and light it with a lighter to get it going.
Grilling in Arizona actually is impossibly hot in the summer, so we grill more in the cooler months out here. We love this grill – even temps, easy to use, and durable. It’s the 42″ built-in from Wolf (link below.) We had a beverage tub built into the right side (where we can fill with ice and keep drink in there for gatherings) and then on the bottom left side there is a paper towel holder drawer (Russ was oddly really excited about this feature haha!)
The back view fence was installed by our builders and the community, and it was this burnt red/orange color. Not a fan. So I had Russ spray paint it black with outdoor paint. He did it in a couple hours and it looks SO much better. I actually don’t think this was allowed but…better to ask for forgiveness than permission, right? LOL. I hope no one from our HOA is reading this… 😉
Probably the most-asked question about our back yard is whether our “pool” is a jacuzzi or a pool. The answer is that it’s a jacuzzi – but it acts as a “plunge pool” when it’s not heated. So it’s both! We use it SO MUCH, much more than we thought we would. We almost didn’t do it, but Russ added it on as a “Christmas Gift” during the year that we were building the house. During the summer is is refreshing and we heat it at night, and during the winters I love going out there in the cold to a steamy hot jacuzzi! It’s soooo nice!
The size is 83″ square, so about a 7ft square. It’s surprisingly roomy for our family. All 5 of us fit easily with swimming room for the little ones.
Pool vs. Jacuzzi
One thing we found out during the process is that putting in a pool vs. putting in a jacuzzi actually doesn’t have much of a cost difference – all the hardware and construction is about the same. The reason we didn’t do a pool is because of the size of our yard; it would have ended up being one big pool and not much else back there. Also, when we have traveled to resorts and have had vacation homes, we all love going in the jacuzzis so we just thought that would be a better use of our space and resources. We were right! We have a pool up at the clubhouse, too, so we use that during the summers when we we want the kids to swim around more.
I went back and forth on whether to make it a light interior or a dark interior, which changes the look of the water. I ended up going with a bright white plaster and I love how it turned out. It makes the water a bright blue and matches the bright white of the rest of the hardscape. The tile around the rim was the lightest option our landscape company had so that’s what we went with. If I were to do our backyard over again, this is one thing I would change – I would have bought a prettier tile separately and had them install it.
Functionality + Maintenance
I guess one more thing I would do differently is to put the jacuzzi on our home automation system, which we opted not to do. Going around the house to turn on the heater and pumps is not the worst thing in the world, but since we control everything else in the home this way through our phones and iPad, it would be nice to be able to heat the jacuzzi remotely before we come home, or turn it off from upstairs at the end of the day.
We do have a pool guy come once a week to do the chemicals and clean it. Just once less thing for us to do (or mess up!) 🙂
Another of the most-asked questions about our backyard is our grass and whether it’s real. It’s turf! I absolutely love it and am so happy with it. Being in the desert, it’s not easy to maintain real grass here in Arizona. This grass feels good under the feet and it looks great. I don’t know the manufacturer of the grass but I do remember the color was called “apple.” In the summer it does get kind of hot, but when it’s that hot we’re not really spending much time out there anyway (we’re talking 100+ degrees) so it hasn’t been a big deal for us.
The bushes rimming the perimeter are called hopseed. They haven’t fully grown in yet, and the goal is to have them cover the brick walls, and then the view fence would be a shorter hedge so we can see out.
We have three citrus trees in our courtyard that are planted into the ground in between the grid hardscape. We have a lemon, lime, and orange tree. The lime has done really well, and the orange blossomed this year, but the lemon had some bugs on it so we have been trying to save it.
We have two planters next to our grill that have rosemary in them. I want things to be purposeful and rosemary is an herb that I love to use in cooking so I wanted to have a bunch of them. We also have four white planters in a corner of our courtyard and those currently have sage, two kinds of mint, and cliantro. These are all on a drip irrigation which is nice. I got the planters from a local nursery and planter store that our landscapers took me to.
We have a landscaper come every other week to trim our bushes and clean up branches and leaves. We tried two other landscaping companies and landed on our current one whom we LOVE. If you are local, I highly recommend Goodmans Landscaping. All our plants are on a drip irrigation so I don’t have to water anything, it does it on its own.
All of our furniture is from Restoration Hardware and I love every single piece. I linked the styles below.
A third question I get often is how I keep it so white and the answer is that I think white is the easiest outdoor color! Any color will stain if you spill something on it – but colored fabric can fade and discolor with the sun, while the white just stays, well, white! I really have no other answer for how it’s stayed so pretty for almost 3 years other than it’s actually not that hard of a color to maintain! The fabric is a performance fabric and the overall quality of each piece is really nice. So I’m sure that has helped. When things have spilled on it (which honestly isn’t a lot, I can’t really think of many!) I just wash it off.
To maintain it, I just do a “power wash” every once in a while with a hose to get dust and dirt off, and our housecleaners do the same a couple times a month. We don’t cover it and like I said, it just somehow stays nice!
Everything is comfy and we get lots of use out of it all!
Links to the pieces are below.
We use Control4 for our home automation, and through it we also have backyard speakers, lights, and a TV. We have speakers around our patio, and then speakers around our jacuzzi, which we can control it through an app and stream everything from Spotify to our Apple music library. It totally changes the vibe of the backyard to have jazz playing during outdoor dinners, kids music for when we’re playing, and brazilian jazz or poolside club music for when we’re lounging and relaxing.
There’s also a TV and we don’t use it that much. Russ doesn’t watch sports, which I feel like is the main reason for an outdoor TV! It’s a normal TV that we actually had in our old home as the family room TV, and had mounted and installed and it runs on Control4 as well. It hasn’t gotten any sun damage or weather damage, and we do keep a cover on it. The times that we have used it for Friday Night Pizza nights outside, it’s been fun!
We have a front courtyard as well, which is pretty substantial in size. We have grass that connects the backyard and the courtyard so you can easily walk between the two spaces. Until recently, we had the same black and white chairs we have in the backy out there alongside our citrus trees and it was a sitting area that lead to our front door. But with quarantine, we got a giant trampoline and put out there. I basically gave up on aesthetics and went with what would keep the kids occupied and happy! At least, the trampoline is black and white 😉
There’s a covered area as you walk through our front gate into the courtyard (they called it a “cabana”) and here we haven’t really done much except for hanging some big lanterns with flameless candles, and a pendant that lights up the space at night.
S O U R C E S
Landscape, Hardscape, Pool, and Lighting : Creative Environments
A/V Speakers, Blind Automations, and TV : iWired
Home Automation System : Control4
Landscape maintenance : Goodmans Landscaping
Pool maintenance : Crystal Falls Pools
Hardscape paint color : SW Alabaster
Dining furniture : Restoration Hardware – Aviara
Chaise chairs : Restoration Hardware – Belvedere
Firepit seating : Restoration Hardware – Carmel
Grill : Wolf (it’s the 42″ built in)
TV : Visio
Shades : Somphy from Select Blinds
Silver lanterns : Pottery Barn (the medium and large – not the grande)
Black small lanterns : Target, similar
Umbrella : Pottery Barn ( I don’t love it, it’s not very sturdy and broke)
Fruit bowls : Target, sold out
Black Courtyard sconces : Pottery Barn
Black Courtyard pendant : Pottery Barn
Black courtyard lanterns : Pottery Barn (the large)
Trampoline : Walmart, sold out
Unicorn sprinkler : Target
Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
S H O P T H E P O S T