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our backyard : before

mid century yard

well, you guys have asked for before photos of our house, so i’m finally delivering. what do you think?! 

ok, psyyyyych. i think you’re going to quickly understand why i didn’t want to post these before photos. say goodbye to your pin it buttons.

our backyard | beforeour backyard | beforeour backyard | beforeour backyard | beforeour backyard | beforeour backyard - before

bleh. i’m so embarrassed. and if you live somewhere that doesn’t have power lines in backyards then you must be really grossed out. when we bought our house we were so stoked that the backyard was a clean slate, and we could do anything we wanted to do with it! why the F did we want a clean slate? so much more work. initially we saw all this space and were like OOOO we’re getting a pool! after finding out the price of a pool, we said ok next house we buy will have a pool.

what we’ve done already

it probably looks like we’ve done absolutely nothing to it because it looks like absolute shit… but when we moved in, the backyard was all dirt and pavers and lattice, everywhere. eveeeerywhere. we took out lattice in front of the concrete fence, around the raised beds, and around the AC. we demoed the lattice on the “patio” which was just making the tiny space we have feel cramped. so basically we got rid of everything that was get-ridable.

we also just started painting the shed (my studio), and are anxiously awaiting painting the rest of the house to match, but we were told to wait until el niño passed… which i guess it has almost? i don’t know it’s barely rained. we are so stoked to paint the house because it desperately needs it and is going to make a huge difference.

we also cut some squares in the existing concrete outside of the shed. we cut a large square and planted a tree to disguise one of the many eyesores, and we cut another to plant bougainvillea over the shed. it felt very grownup to purchase a tree.

oh and we moved the house to side of the shed! that little tiny thing made a huge difference.

our backyard -- beforeour backyard -- before

what we’re dealing with now

like i said, when we moved in, it was all dirt – and then it rained. and all that dirt went away and was replaced by serious weeds. like that photo is so intense. so we’ve been slowing killing them and killing them again to make sure they’re fully dead. once they’re fully dead we can cover with ground covering. the photos above are just before and after the first weed treatment.

you can probably tell that all of our fences are pretty much hideous, so we’re exploring different options for each different fence. we’re considering refacing the long lattice fence because it’s cheaper than replacing it. we’re about to split the cost of a new fence in the back (the one that’s clearly falling over) and we’re going to plant in front of both that and the concrete wall with bamboo and podocarpus to try to add privacy from our two story neighbor, and make it feel more gardeny back here.

one of the biggest hurdles is the big ass AC unit right smack dab in plain view. i had AC specialists come out and unfortunately tell me that we can’t move it much further. we can move it over one foot to the left. and it’s gonna cost more than i even want to tell you ($400… uggggh). but we’re going to do it so that we can create a divider off of the wall in order to hide it a bit. it’s really our only option. when you buy your first house you see a big AC unit and you’re like meh big deal, when you own the house you’re like wtf was i thinking ignoring that?

backyard plans | almost makes perfect

what we’re planning

we have huge plans for the yard, my stepdad drew up a plan for us and has been helping us with all the steps. we’re getting quotes to pour additional concrete to extend the teeny deck (we’re hoping this is a cheaper alternative to building an actual deck with decking). we then want to create different zones for dining, lounging, a hammock, a fire pit, and potentially a spa, but we might have to postpone that for a few years depending on complexity and price.

we picked out our ground covering, which is decomposed granite, and we might make one small zone with artificial grass for our future babies. we’re so drought tolerant, right?! we might have to get rid of that one tree that we think is dead…? ugh. we’re going to get rid of the raised beds, and put some on the other side that will grow better.

we want a desert-y palm springs-y vibe, with lounge furniture and a ping pong table. we’ve never had a backyard so we basically want to be able to have a cool backyard. and we want to throw ourselves a birthday/housewarming party in july (we share a birthday week) in our backyard. think we can pull that off?


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  1. looks like a good plan! Is your house stucco? I’m curious what color you’ll paint it. We have a stucco house and I always wondered about paint.

    1. yep it’s stucco! i think the paint has to be sprayed on actually….?

  2. What a challenge you face but honestly it’s gonna be so great and it looks like you have done a lot all ready

  3. I’m still hung up on the fact that there’s an ORANGE TREE in your backyard! My east coast brain can’t handle it. You’ve got a really great space to work with!

    1. ha!! i wish it were orange. it’s actually grapefruit which i’m desperately trying to like more than i do…

  4. Oh I am so excited to see what you do with it! Seeing your backyard makes me feel so comforted because our backyard is AWFUL! It’s good to know we aren’t alone 😉

    1. GOOD! now i know I’M NOT ALONE EITHER!!! haha

      1. Hi Molly. I’m wondering how you managed to hide the brackets for your posts to build the pergola?? Love your makeover!!

  5. You can definitely do it Molly! My backyard looks like this more or less, I have power lines running in two directions, actually. A yard full of weeds and a chain link fence, but you know what? It’s mine. Yeah it sucks butt having to mow it myself every other week but I’m a grown-up now and I can handle and it somewhat justifies the fact that I still buy Legos for myself.

    1. And now I kinda have a crush on that burly dude wearing suspenders with a Santa beard in the second to the last photo.

      1. yeah most people do — that’s my handyman who doesn’t bite despite looking like he does.

  6. Madison R. says:

    Oh my gosh do not plant bamboo. It is the weed of all weeds. It can works its roots so far away from where it is planted and can potentially damage your (or your neighbors) foundation or backyards if your trying to do mostly concrete. Also it grows so fast you constantly have to hack away at it since most weed killer doesn’t really work. DONT do it. it does create a cool boundary but theres gotta be other options. I hate when commenters give unsolicited advice and maybe you totally have already looked into this but bamboo is a weed yo.

    1. I agree with this. I just bought an old house here in Japan on what used to be a bamboo forest. It grows everywhere and incredibly fast. I’ve had to pull them out from under my house. There’s one that grew inside an unused water pipe buried in concrete and I can’t get rid of it!

      Some have grown back in just a month and are already almost 2m tall.

    2. There are thousands of varieties of bamboo. I’m sure they will be planting a demure little clumping bamboo not runner bamboo that is invasive. Saying all bamboo is a weed is like saying all trees are huge and dangerous and should be only planted in a forest far away from house….

  7. I’m so glad that you shared these photos. Before & afters are my favorite things to look at, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing the final product!

  8. At least you’ve got a cute chair! Yards are a lot of work, but they’re really rewarding once you get them looking nice. Yours looks like it has tons of promise. And be grateful for the AC–we don’t have any, and in the middle of the summer, we wish we did. Could you like, build a wooden box around the AC unit? Or a wood screen, with vines on it?

    As for the bamboo warnings someone gave you above, make sure you plant clumping, NOT running, bamboo. And beware of all of the maintenance it’ll need. We wanted to plant bamboo in our yard, but after I read about it more, I decided I’d only put it in a planter. Friends who’ve tried to get rid of out-of-control bamboo have actually had nightmares about it. This site has a ton of info: http://www.bamboogarden.com/barrier%20installation.htm

  9. Your plans sound awesome and you’re definitely not alone in the eye sore of a backyard. We’ve been in our house a little over a year now and we’re finally read to tackle the backyard. Last year we planted grass but it didn’t take well and now we’re left with random patches here and there. We have trees to remove and sprinklers to fix, concrete to lay….the list goes on.

  10. Molls i’m pretty sure when this is done your back yard is going to feel like an extension of The Parker. i’m excited!

  11. I agree with Madison R. and Rachel…bamboo is SUCH a nightmare to deal with UNLESS it’s potted. It’s really a great choice for privacy as it grows quite full and lush but make sure your pots are concrete or solid without any holes in the bottom. You definitely don’t want those plants taking root into your ground after all the hard work you will have put into it. Google “potted bamboo privacy” . There are a lot of really attractive options. Good luck with all the work. I’m sure it’ll be worth it in the end!

  12. This is soooooo exciting! Can’t wait to see what you do Molly!

  13. Decomposed granite is what I wish I’d done in our backyard, it looks good and feels good. We went with Mexican beach pebbles and the dogs running around tossed them everywhere. That’s something to think of too, dunno if you guys have dogs but take them into consideration with your backyard planning like I would have put elevated flower beds to keep them out of the bushes.

    Love the fake grass idea for future tykes. We have a toddler and we hope to do that and have a fence so she can play in there with her cousins while we’re sitting in the sectional area getting our drink on.

    Also bamboo is a butt as told by my friend who had a home that had it but I seen that if you put them in planters they’re contained. (hi-yo!) Oh and shade shade shade, get serious with shade: da valley be hot!

  14. Just came over from apartment therapy and your yard looks amazing! One small thing which was hurting my head was trying to figure out how you moved the house to the side of the shed! After looking at the photos here I realized it was supposed to be hose!

    1. Thank You Lyddiegal, I was having a brain hemerage trying to figure that one out !

  15. What is the patio made of? It looks like concrete but what is in it, wood strips? Rubber strips? Please specify, THANKS!!

  16. I hope you see this as I know it’s an old post. I’m working on my own backyard in Northern California and am experiencing all of the same challenges. I’d love to know more about how you got rid of the grass/weeds. We are in the exact same situation. It was mostly dirt when we moved in and now it’s covered in 100% weeds. Did you spray it all with weed killer or cover it with something? Tell me more!

    PS – I of course jumped ahead to see the reveal and it’s stunning. Great job! I love how it turned out.

  17. Do you still like the dg and was it hard to put in ? Expensive or reasonable?

  18. Beautiful backyard! I know it was done years ago but this is my first time seeing it and I was so impressed with the creative beautiful job you did! Such a classic look that will will look great for years to come!