Pro Portfolio: From barren yard to outdoor screening room


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Every Monday we post a recently built, remodeled or redecorated home with commentary from the designer. This week we look at a front yard that was transformed into an outdoor living room for a family.

Project: Remodel of a 2,240 square-foot yard.

Location: Culver City.

Landscape architect: Mark Tessier Landscape Architecture. General contractor: Sam Hernandez, Paradise General Contractors, (626) 358-9666.

Landscape architect’s description: This garden was created for Brian Ten of Carde Ten Architects, his wife, Rika Houston, and their three children. They had a small front yard, shown before the makeover at right, that they never used because it was empty and open.


The intent was to make the new garden the centerpiece for the family. They wanted an outdoor living room where they could spend time year round and a space that could be used for a variety of purposes. Eventually it became not only the focal point for their household, but also a hangout for other families in the neighborhood. It’s a place for movie nights, a homework space and a spot for meetings and fundraisers.

A fountain starts by the sidewalk, slices through the wood fence and continues as a long channel in the new garden. The spill of water creates a soothing sound. The kids love to play in the water, and at night it is accentuated with dramatic lighting. Around one corner is a secluded secret garden, a quiet space with aquatic plants and serene bubbling water.

Comfortable couches and colorful pillows give the three kids -- 16,14 and 7 -- a place to do their homework and work on art projects. During summer, a canvas goes up on the garage wall, heat lamps are put in place, the glass fire pit is lighted and the neighborhood film festival begins.

The plant palette is easy to maintain and is composed of natives, herbs, citrus, and medicinal and edible plants around the outdoor dining area. A small cistern stores some water. The native plants bring a joyful array of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees into the garden.

To see more, keep reading ...

A view of the front of the house before the remodel ...

... and after.
The fountain became a social connector as curious neighbors stopped to ask about it. The fountain that has two points of discharge: one in front fence, by the street, and the other inside the fence.

The empty and open front yard before it was relandscaped.
The yard today. The deep-seated couch is from Teak Warehouse.
The fire pit and couches with pillows create a cozy lounging space. The fire pit is 4 feet in diameter, made of custom-poured concrete, fueled with gas and filled with fire-rated glass “jellybeans.” The concrete band on top serves as a place for plates and drinks. In the background, by the redwood fence, a low box is actually a sandbox, also built of redwood. The cover keeps the sand clean when it is not in use. The box doubles as seating for guests during movie nights.


A different vantage point.

The kids have made this space a place to read, do homework or complete art projects.
The plants are a mix of ornamentals, herbs and edibles.
Herbs grow throughout the garden for easy cutting and use in family meals.

Around one corner is a secluded spot with aquatic plants and bubbling water.

The reverse view.

During the summer months, the outdoor living room becomes an alfresco screening room.

Movies are projected onto the FAVI 16:9/200-Inch Electric Projector Screen (HD-200), which was bought online and assembled in a few hours. The screen is mounted to the side of the garage with two large screws and a sheet metal housing (made for less than $100 and painted to match the house). This housing protects the screen from the elements and hides it when not in use.


Turf swapped for drought tolerant plants

1968 Airstream Ambassador remodel

Century-old cottage gets a modern addition

-- Compiled by Lisa Boone

Photo credits: Linda Jassim; Brian Ten, Rika Houston

Pro Portfolio appears on this blog every Monday. Submit projects to