Elsie's Evolving Outdoor Room

My Great Outdoors

Name: Elsie Lau
Location: Los Angeles, California

We love our backyard! Having these room-like spaces allow us to entertain and live outside during good weather — which is a lot of the time.

The backyard was essentially a weed-filled, sloping dirt lot when we moved into our house in 2009. (That's my dad inspecting the dismal situation in the before photo.) It's been slow going, but that's because we're on a tight budget and have been completing the work nearly entirely on our own (mostly my husband Sergio) and in irregular surges of activity. We finished the gravel patio in 2010, and then the decomposed patio this past Spring. We scored the teak dining table and umbrella at our local thrift store, and comfy lounge seating on Craigslist. The design came together organically, changing as we were faced with challenges or were inspired by something new.

A few of our favorite features include the soothing fountain, all the different textures, and the rubbish bin enclosure. The fountain is so pretty and was in the half-off section at one of our favorite plant stores! The gravel and decomposed granite are permeable, yet hardy and easy care. The slatted wood bin enclosure camouflages an area that would otherwise be an eyesore.

Most of the progress has been well documented with photos, and it's been so fun to look at the before and after. We're eager to continue with our plans, but have wasted no time in enjoying the space as it is now. We love how comfortable our guests feel when they come over. It's not uncommon for us to turn on the music, open a bottle of wine, and sit by the fire long into the evening.

Most challenging:

Hauling 3.5 tons of pea gravel from the sidewalk to the backyard took 70+ trips back and forth with the wheelbarrow. Also, there was a concrete pad at the very back of the yard and a concrete foundation to a long gone mystery structure beneath 2-3 feet of dirt - both of which required the sledgehammer treatment.

Future plans:
We want to build a small wooden deck off the house, install more landscaping with a bit of toe-friendly grass, plant a small vegetable/herb box, and build a gas firepit.

Thanks, Elsie!

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(Images: Elsie Lau)