This peaceful Californian backyard has one clever feature I now think everyone should own, costing just $60
I love how calming this outdoor space is, but the rain chain is a clever decorative addition that is perfectly practical, too
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Wrapping around a modern home in Fryman Canyon, Los Angeles, this outdoor space offers a well-kept terraced landscape that gently descends from street level. The home's projecting wings interlock with exterior spaces so that the home is woven into a tiered landscape of drought-tolerant plants, granite, a pool, and industrial concrete walls.
The masterminds behind the home and backyard (opens in new tab) include David Thompson, a principal and founder of Assembledge, Susan Mitnick of the eponymous design studio, and Michael Fiore of Fiore Landscape Design, a team that worked closely together to ensure the interiors and landscape merge. 'A true representation of the harmony between architecture and nature,' says David.
The grounds offer a quiet space for contemplation, a space for socializing, and a peaceful haven of relaxation. 'When we started the project, the entire front yard was asphalt with concrete, there was not a single tree,' says Michael.
The project has come on leaps and bounds, but the backyard design feature that struck me most is the metal chain or links that hang from the gutter of the home, cascading down and into a pool of pebbles on the ground.
Oonagh is an interiors writer and editor, and expert at keeping up with trends from the world of interior design. For this story, she's spoken to the designers and architects behind this particular LA project, to find out more about the process of landscape design.
The rain chain
Rain chains are decorative and functional all at once. Adding a visual element to your backyard, they collect rainwater from the gutters and channel it to where it needs to go in the backyard, irrigating and feeding the plants. A sustainable way of taking care of the space, we love this feature that makes the most of the natural elements.
'Rain chains offer an elegant and more aesthetically pleasing alternative to typical solid downspout pipes, explains David of Assembledge+ (opens in new tab). 'It is an understated design element and a great way to add unique design detail to a home to help direct water from the gutters.'
'Rain chains also have a fascinating history, originating in Japan as a functional drainage ornament, implemented in shrines and temples, as well as private residences to express Japan’s season’s emotions.' It's this relaxing Japanese garden feel that turns the backyard into a haven.
Aluminium rain chain from Amazon (opens in new tab)
Each lotus-shaped cup of this cute rain chain spout is crafted with a wide flared mouth to efficiently capture most of the rainwater. It's also on sale and super easy to install!
The rain chain marks the edge of the patio, which is a beautiful merge of indoor and outdoor, ripe for entertaining al fresco.
The sitting area offers different opportunities to engage with the home and the landscape, providing different vantage points. 'The stylish outdoor patio acts as an extension of the living room footprint, blurring the lines between indoor and outdoor living and creating a smooth transition between the interior and exterior spaces,' explains David.
Outdoor entertainment is all about relaxation and fun, and mood is everything, explains Susan Mitnick (opens in new tab). 'Create your space depending on how you are entertaining. Are you sunbathing by the pool, having cocktails by the fire pit, or throwing a soirée in the backyard? If you live in Southern California, you’ll probably do all three in one day.' For Susan, backyard entertaining space essentials include 'a mix of comfortable seating and lounging with accompanying tables, paired that with glowy outdoor lighting and you’ve got a party!'
The outdoor bench is a sculptural addition to the patio. 'I absolutely adore the plateau daybed by David Sutherland. It has an incredible visual presence from every angle.
'I also really loved our choice of fabrics on the throw pillows. The mix of fringe and texture combined with movement in the patterned throw pillow add a layer of interest.'
The rain chain pulls the water down and into the ground that so relies on it, which in turn trickles down through the terracing. This terracing is another interesting feature of the space, offering different views back to the house and elegantly connecting the various spaces.
'Terracing adds a unique hierarchy of space,' explains Michael of Fiore Landscape Design (opens in new tab). 'We populated the middle terrace with the firepit as a bridge between the first and second-floor outdoor spaces of the house. Terracing is also a wonderful way to utilize a change of typography and create unique spaces.'
More than just a bridge between the terraces, the firepit is a standalone focal centerpiece and entices guests to gather around. 'The firepit is the focal point of this outdoor room amid the landscape,' says David. 'It allows this space to be occupied year-round in our temperate Southern California climate. The firepit becomes the gathering place, maximizing the outdoor time and encouraging lounging and late-night conversation.'
'The fireplace sitting area offers a more secluded and intimate experience where one sits below the house, amidst nature, looking towards the landscape.'
Outdoor firepit from Walmart (opens in new tab)
For a more budget-friendly option, this stainless steel firepit doubles up as a table. This means it's perfect for a backyard bonfire, then can be converted into a dining table when not in use.
Around the front of the house, and the granite paving stone in the frontyard leads visitors up a modern pathway. 'The entire front yard is a confluence of pathways, and the planting creates zones to meander around, guiding one to the house in a nonlinear space,' says Michael. 'All the composite granite has been designed to allow one to walk around the space in several directions.'
Breaking up the pathway and adding interest along the way are towering oak trees and tropical garden plants, including native grasses, varying-sized planters filled with overflowing grasses, and succulents that thrive in the balmy Los Angeles sunshine.
Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.
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