How a Designer's Touch Turned a Sad Backyard Into a Sexy Outdoor Paradise

Not sure how to style your outdoor space to make it both beautiful and functional? Los Angeles-based designer Dabito shares his expert secrets.

October 12, 2020

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Photo By: David Luong

Going Back to Cali

Designer Dabito is the creative force behind Old Brand New, a multi-faceted design studio specializing in everything from interior design and art direction to branding and photography. Three years ago, the New Orleans designer decided to go back to his Los Angeles roots. He and his partner found a lovely LA home to call their own. But before they could truly settle in, something had to be done about the outdoor space.

A Rough Start

“Our backyard was a mess,” says Dabito. “It had overgrown trees and weeds and there was an old rundown shed. All that brown mulch made it so drab, too.” The space wasn’t devoid of life, however even the plants had problems of their own. “There was this one large mimosa tree that produced tons of toxic seed pod droppings. It made a mess everywhere,” the designer recalls.

Creating an Outdoor Mood

On the design side of the equation the work was much easier. As Dabito recalls it, the lounge area was the simplest part of the redesign. “The patio was probably the easiest,” he says, “because all we had to do was give it a fresh coat of white paint!” He clearly went a little farther than that, however, filling the space with sleek, modern furniture, colorful patterns and the perfect dose of California cool.

A Long Road

The road to perfection for this backyard was long and gradual. “We started with our covered patio when we first moved in because that was the easiest. Then we removed the shed. A year later we decided to add a better fence and redo the retaining wall which meant we had to remove all of the trees in our current succulent garden. After that was done, we decided to tidy up the yard and add pretty greenery in the back.”

Just the Right Look

Treating his covered patio lounge like a living room inspired by the outdoors, the designer layered the color and pattern of the plants that animate the space throughout the design. Here we see the motif repeated on the coffee table, in the throw pillow and on the rug.

The Space Upstairs

In addition to the covered patio, Dabito’s outdoor oasis offers even more spacious accommodations for guests, parties or for just lounging around. “We have the covered patio to lounge in, but we also have an upper deck to chill. We also put a small patch of grass for our pups to play around,” he says of that upper deck area. Next to the designated doggie area sits another gorgeous lounge, this one decked out in sandy neutral tones for an even more laid back, beachy feel.

A Labor of Love

The upper deck was built on the site where most of the renovation took place, so it took a bit longer to get into shape. “It was the hardest part,” Dabito remembers, “removing the trees, fixing the retaining wall and adding drip irrigation throughout the garden.” After that it was all about the architectural touches. A short stack of steps leading up to the deck creates a sense of separateness, and the raw finish of the wood fits perfectly in the outdoor setting. “Smoothing out the concrete wall and painting it white made everything pop,” he adds.

The Right Plants in the Right Place

The California sun can be harsh, making it hard for some plants to survive without constant attention and care. To keep the workload manageable, Dabito and his partner selected plants that were better suited for the climate. In the end, the plants became one of the designer’s favorite features. “I also love our little succulent garden,” he reflects.“We’ve created a lush backdrop filled with drought-tolerant plants,” he explains.

Making the Desert Bloom

The renovation side of the deck project took the work of professionals as well as a little help from family. “We hired someone to execute our landscape designs, and my dad helped build the fence,” Dabito tells us. The fight with the mimosa tree and its toxic seeds at the beginning of their journey thankfully didn’t sour Dabito and his partner on the idea of keeping plants. If anything, it became even more vital for the couple to get the right greenery to ensure the oasis they wanted.

Tiny Details

The design in this multi-level outdoor oasis is perfect to the last detail. While the small plant in the vase looks like a miniature version of the plants surrounding the upper deck, the vase itself features a geometric pattern that works as a callback to the features of the lower level, especially the rug in the covered patio. This kind of attention to detail and layered design work creates a special experience.

A Playground of Textures

Texture is one of the more subtle yet impactful elements a designer can play with — indoors or out. The outdoors offers a wide variety of natural textures for our senses to experience, and Dabito designed that concept into this room as well. In this small vignette we see the interplay of multiple textures from the throw pillows and the blanket, to the wood of the seating frame and the hard, smooth metal of the side table and standing lantern. All of this plays out against the natural backdrop of natural and synthetic elements, including a striking contemporary horizontal fence and small drought-tolerant tree.

All’s Well That Ends Well

After a rocky beginning, toxic trees and lots of design work, Dabito's only problem with the LA home now is deciding what he most enjoys. “I love the different areas we’ve created in our outdoor space. I love entertaining and having friends over. I love to grill shrimp and corn, sip on a dry and crisp sauvignon blanc and see who gets bitten by the most mosquitoes!” He’s right. Why choose?

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