Landscaping on a Hillside IDEAS
Image by Jessica Castillo from Pixabay

Landscaping on a Hillside IDEAS

Homeowners Elaine and Larry Barden weren’t initially thrilled with their steep backyard in Danville, California. “We envied neighbors who had flat lots and pools, ” says Larry. “We weren’t sure we could accomplish anything with this slope.” But the couple had a nugget of inspiration—a modern yet natural hillside garden they’d seen a few years before at a Sunset Idea House. A vision for their yard came together, says Elaine: “Palm Springs meets W Hotel style.”

They kicked off the backyard landscaping project by having their friend Dale Sessions, a San Francisco–based designer, build a fireplace and bar on the plain concrete patio. Then landscape designer Colin Miller and his team took over. They painted the Douglas fir retaining walls black and replaced the hillside’s weeds with drought-tolerant plants. To give the patio a contemporary hotel vibe, they converted a built-in planter into a fountain and created sleek seating and dining areas, where the Bardens often eat dinner with their 18-year-old twins.

Steps away, a path meanders to the top of the slope. Overlooking canyons and mountains, the spot is transporting, even enviable. Says Elaine: “It’s got one of the best views in the neighborhood.”