Unique and creative backyard living spaces

Whether you live in the pool all summer or relish lounging fireside in the winter, a well-designed and furnished outdoor space feels just as—if not more—comfy and cozy than your favorite plushy sofa in a family room packed with creature comforts.

California Pools and Landscape president Jeremy Smith likes to think of it as extending your indoor living areas to the outdoors. It’s also a relatively easy way to add livable space without relocating or house remodeling. Here, he talks about four of his most memorable and attention-grabbing projects in which California Pools accomplished just that. 

Livable Space 

It’s no surprise that these homeowners really enjoy their spa and want it as the star of their backyard. The zero-edge feature gives the spa sophisticated aesthetics but it’s also functional: the lack of a gap between the water level and the top of the decking allow soakers to keep their arms in the water and shoulders relaxed, resulting in a more comfortable seated position when watching football and movies on the outdoor TV or sipping on a cocktail at the swim-up bar.

Splashes of color, Smith explains, give this space just enough oomph without being monotonous or overwhelming. The vines—which are climbing Lady Banks Roses—and trellises behind the flatscreen and mantle offer this visual pop in addition to softness and shade to the area that also boasts a pizza oven, refrigerator and a gas-run heater for chilly desert nights.

“This is a nice example of giving 1,000-square feet of extra livable space without having to move or remodel their whole house. They’ve gained a living area outdoors,” Smith says.

Rustic Charm 

This remodeled environ takes on an Old World design style that links it to the homeowners’ Tuscan-inspired home. Emphasis on the fireplace is attributed to a mantle that flaunts over-grouted stone—rather than the common and contemporary clean façade—which exudes rustic charm. Reclaimed wood beams provide some shade over the eye-catching circular sofa while tying it in with the same wood used above the fireplace and adding shape and depth to the layout.

A Foodie’s Paradise 

Designed for a foodie and lover of cooking, Smith granted his wish for a full outdoor dining experience that’s dominated by a grill that features a crank to raise or lower the grill above the cooking wood to vertically adjust between direct and indirect heat zones. It’s cradled by a stone and masonry block structure that was built wide and tall to shade whoever is at the grill during sweltering afternoons.

There are fans, lights and a misting system above. And below, multiple cooking areas and tons of counter space are perfect for large party platters of ribs, steaks, burgers and all the accouterments. 

This open frame includes a slatted roof constructed from Alumawood that allows smoke to escape rather than being trapped in, and the structure was situated so smoke blows away from the backyard rather than into it. 


Breaking the Rules 

What makes this design make you do a double-take is the straight line of travertine decking that breaks a rule by not following the flowing curves of the pool— per the homeowners’ request. To soften the look, a curved wall with a water feature between the ramada and the back of the pool was added, as well as the rounded and raised fire pit area.

Maximizing the entire backyard space and creating destination areas that beg to be lounged and lingered in was the goal, Smith reveals. A putting green, fire pit and a dining area fully tricked out with a bar, grill and smoker all strategically placed separately around the exiting pool were key in making that happen.

“You feel drawn out to these areas,” Smith says.