Creating a Backyard Experience with Terra Ferma LandscapesAuthor:Lindsey Shook
Brian Koch—Founder of Terra Ferma Landscapes—invites us into his backyard to unpack what tools of the trade he applied to the design of his outdoor spaces that serve many purposes for his family. From converting a two-car garage into a cozy hang out with storage, to a full-service kitchen and dining area, Koch transformed his yard into additional square footage that is fun and functional. Here, he shares tips for enhancing your own outdoor space that will provide additional areas of entertainment as we all navigate through the new normal.
“I am often approached by clients who are simply looking to maximize the potential of their garden or backyard spaces. Our clients’ styles and preferences range dramatically, and we are always poised to adjust and drive a project in a direction that suits their needs and preferences. The sites that we work with also range in location, orientation, total size and many other factors like microclimates, views and light. And when we are approached for a city project, where lot sizes are dramatically smaller, our focus and attention to all of the above factors becomes heightened. We have created some amazing backyard experiences for our clientele and I’ve developed a quick checklist that we try and follow for all of our projects but especially the city projects. This checklist will ensure we reach the potential for each project, but yet still ensure focus is kept on what our clients desire is for their precious outdoor space”:
–Maximize functional space: Since we don’t have much space, we have to capitalize on whatever we have, and use it differently at different times of the day or season. For our clients who have families, this becomes almost critical. Take this backyard sport court we designed. It is a simple basketball court with enough room to shoot free-throws and play horse. When the kids decide they want to play ping-pong, we roll it out the table and into the sport court to play. Need a space to watch an outdoor movie for a kid’s slumber party? Then we can hang the screen and pull out the poof chairs and blankets.
Create spaces within spaces: When space is limited, we get creative and design a room within a backyard space. We are able to develop certain design details to differentiate the space and then we incorporate elements that can help program the space into how your clients prefer to use it. In this case, the clients wanted an outdoor hang out that included a fire place and lots of seating for entertaining. The patio is centrally located in the backyard and we developed a design that raised the space from the other elements. We incorporated a layered and lush green wall as a backdrop, we included surrounding posts that allow for overhead lighting and wind-breaking curtains to maintain high heat levels. This simple separating and enclosure of the space helped define the role of that space, and thus led to a successful use and enjoyment.
Motivate the client to get out and use their garden: This is a common theme throughout most of our projects, but it becomes increasingly challenging in San Francisco, where Karl (yes, San Francisco has named the fog!) makes his presence almost daily for many of our clients. We really try and develop a driving force, especially when outdoor space is so needed and vital to our health and well-being, to get folks out into their yards and use the space. In many cases, there are impeding factors such as stairs, wind patterns, and poor views that can prevent clients from using their garden spaces. We always try and develop a design that can pull folks outdoors and use their spaces. In this backyard space, the incorporation of the outdoor kitchen and pizza oven ultimately became the driving force to use the back yard for entertaining and take advantage of the garden. The incorporation of a folding dining table that extends out and away from the side of the garage was a custom approach to maximizing space and provide additional seating and meal prep options. In addition, the drop-in cooler located in counter top provides a great option for beverage chilling and the ice-machine close by helps with margaritas and other blended ice needs!
Keep the teenagers at our house: Yes, most parents want their teenagers hanging out at their own house and you will need a pretty good draw to make that happen. For our clients that have young families still at home, we are always striving to create that draw that can keep teenagers around. In this backyard project, we teamed up with Courtney Heaton of Heaton-Williams to design and build out a dilapidated two-car garage into one of the hippest teen lounges! She encouraged us to open up the walls with panoramic doors and allow in light and free up useable space. The much needed storage of bikes, boogie boards and surfboards became a feature, instead of a function. And with every good teen space comes the big TV, X-Box gaming, custom couch seating, and an outdoor theater system. Once the s’mores are provided, the kids never want to leave!
Enhance and generate privacy: These days, our clientele holds privacy as a critical element for almost any project. We are always exploring ways our designs can give our clients the needed privacy for their special gardens. This is true for many of our rural projects, but it becomes increasingly critical for city gardens where homes are right upon each other. We strive to develop lush and serene planting palettes for our projects and this project in particular had many unique planting applications that ensured privacy and will undoubtedly increase property values. The lush green wall was a creative and beautiful privacy barrier between properties that was enjoyable to view and took up minimal amount of space(the green wall has a 8” depth or thickness). We also are training many plants in an Espalier Form to achieve the desired green surroundings – this includes Espaliered Meyer Lemon and Bears Lime trees as well as Pleached Sycamore above the outdoor kitchen.
ALWAYS make comfort a priority: When enjoying their backyard spaces, our clients simply want to be comfortable. Our clients want their outdoor spaces to be a reward – so we design spaces that cater towards luxury and comfort. In the same way a luxury hotel provides heavenly beds and showers, we provide comfortable seating, warmth for evenings, ambient lighting and music, and site features that set their space apart from others. Sometimes the finest of details, like providing curtains to re-direct wind patterns or a lush Green Wall background, can enhance the comfort feeling, and that can go along ways for our clients these days. This project was accented with POOF outdoor chairs, RH Blankets, and Pottery Barn Wind Curtains.
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