Fruit of One’s LaborAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Designer Brad Krefman designs a dreamy escape in his own backyard
Maximizing your outdoor space is key when curating the idyllic California lifestyle. That’s exactly what Bay Area designer Brad Krefman did when he and his master gardener partner and top real estate agent Eric McFarland, completed their forever home in Mill Valley. With a masters in architecture from Pratt Institute and years of experience designing high-end residences and hotels throughout the world, Krefman understands thoughtful design. And no detail was spared when planning and planting their own backyard that is equipped for entertaining and relaxing in style.
“My home has come to be endearingly known as Shangri-La,”notes Krefman. “Over the decade my husband Eric and I have lived here, Shangri-La has seen its share of renovations and updates (planned and otherwise) as we’ve carved out our little slice of heaven in the foothills of Mill Valley.” Here, he shares what inspired the design and with the help of his partner, how it remains in full bloom.
–Outdoor design is key to successfully embracing California living. What was your design direction for this space? Our inspiration for the backyard was largely influenced by our travels over the years. The sail cloth and furnishings are mid-century nods to Palm Springs. They seek to reinvent the laid-back resort vibe of our favorite desert oasis. The curvature of the deck and more organic shapes were adapted from the work of the great landscape architect Burle Marx. We also drew on a shared love of St Barth’s and the island’s magical way of being effortlessly chic and relaxed.
-Your landscape is very lush yet still looks drought-tolerant. Can you share information about the plants and landscape strategy? For the plantings, we scoured Sunset’s Guide to Northern California and carefully selected Bay Area natives as well as mixed succulents and more drought tolerant plants. It was fun playing with color and textures—nature’s bounty! The plants up against the house are Leucadendron. The hedges are all California Myrica. The pops of color come from Salvia, Leucospermum, Lantana and Strelitzia. Succulents and agave fill in the blanks. However, the showstopper of the garden is the enormous Yuuca tree that seems prehistoric in scale as it rises out of the deck close to the house. A lot of the garden has been trial by error figuring out what plants like what soil and sunlight. And of course, a lot of patience letting plants root and grow.
–We love the wood details. Where is the wood from? The house is sided in original old growth Redwood. The deck and landscape walls are also made of Redwood, just new wood instead of aged. I think the curvature of the deck and the cut out around Yucca tree add a fun and whimsical element and compliment the curvature of the kidney shaped pool.
–How has this space in your home improved the overall design experience of your home? Our house is relatively small—just 1,700 square feet—so capturing all of the outdoor living space doubles the usable footprint of our house. With the moderate temperatures of the North Bay we really get to take advantage of an indoor/outdoor lifestyle. Most days we open the sliders in the morning and don’t shut them till just before bed. Having that connection to nature can be a great source of inspiration and also just good for the soul.