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A Dramatic Backyard Makeover in Santa Barbara

When a tired yard needed a revamp, designers scraped the area to the ground and created stylish new spaces for relaxing, playing and entertaining.

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Photo: Caitlin Atkinson

Design an Outdoor Space That Fits Your Lifestyle

When Santa Barbara homeowners asked Isa Hendry Eaton, of Isa Bird Landscape Design and Jessica Risko Smith of Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design (JRS ID) to revamp their backyard, "We scraped the entire property to the dirt, except for a few perimeter oak trees," says Isa. Jessica says the clients wanted a timeless-aesthetic outdoor oasis with high-end style. The result: a family-friendly yard with multiple levels and outdoor spaces so kids could play and adults could enjoy intimate dinners or host large gatherings. Browse these images to find new trends and inspiration for your yard.

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Photo: Leela Cyd

Before the Makeover

This was an older home, says Jessica, whose company is based in Montecito, California. "The original style was just too traditional, too 'English country garden' for the owners."

Isa, also based in California, adds, "Every plant, tree, shrub, succulent and hardscape material was new and designed on our master landscape plan." Isa, co-author or Small Garden Style: A Design Guide for Outdoor Rooms and Containers, says, "The most beautifully designed gardens have a balance between hard and soft, manmade and organic, symmetry and asymmetry, order and wildness."

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Photo: Leela Cyd

Before: Creating Zones for Outdoor Living

Most of the existing outdoor furniture was used in the final design, says Jessica, who moved pieces around to different "zones," which included a lower-level patio off a parlor room and a pool area with seating around a fire pit. The stone steps lead to a dining pavilion, fireplace lounge, bar, yoga studio and powder room on an upper terrace.

Isa says that natural stone is trending. She's seeing concrete pairing "with elements of stone for a nice balance," and fewer large expanses of concrete or modern pavers.

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Photo: Leela Cyd

Before: Opening Up the Yard

The owners couldn't see from one outdoor space to another, Jessica explains and wanted to open up the yard so their family and visitors could interact or use the spaces individually if desired. With nothing to block the views, they could also watch their children more easily. Now you can "choose your own adventure," she adds, whether you're soaking in the hot tub by the pool, watching TV on an outdoor projection screen or mingling at a social event.

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