The Changing of the Yard

Robbie and Rich Moret’s outdoor living spaces
are ideal for evening entertaining.

 A cozy seating area is just a few steps
away from the upper level garden.

Low walls offer additional seating and create a division between the faux lawn and fireplace patio.







The Changing of the Yard
Now a place for all-season fun, this outdoor space was once a barren backyard.

By Romi Carrell Wittman
Photography by Robin Stancliff

Robbie and Rich Moret were thrilled to find a modern Spanish Territorial-inspired home in the center of town. Everything about it fit the couple’s lifestyle … except for the backyard.

“It was plain dirt,” Robbie explains. “There wasn’t any landscaping at all — it was just barren.”

Robbie, a local real estate agent, and Rich, who owns an ad agency, turned to Dean Alexander of Blue Agave Landscape Design for help. “We will always call Dean,” she says. Robbie has used his company for previous homes and frequently calls upon him to help her spruce up client’s homes that she has listed for sale. They’ve worked closely together for the past five years and have an easy rapport that makes projects like this one fun. 
With some 4,000 square feet of yard to work with, Dean was faced with a singular challenge: how to make the space feel intimate.

“It’s very easy to work with Robbie because she is very decisive,” he says. “She told me, ‘These are the elements I want,’ and I used that to create the design.” Robbie also knew what she didn’t want — a pool or water feature.

Given these parameters, Dean created a design that combines a series of interconnected spaces and gathering places, each one private and intimate. He utilized a multitude of textures and colorful plantings to differentiate each space; he also created various levels throughout the backyard to add interest and to break up what could otherwise seem like a large, monotonous space. Travertine tile links the different areas together, providing an elegant and functional flow from space to space.

The outdoor kitchen, with its curtained backdrop, is a lively area where guests can gather prior to a meal. Nearby trellises are covered in fragrant star jasmine, which blooms nine months out of the year, creating a lovely ambience and backdrop for gatherings large and small. The double-sided outdoor fireplace also is a favorite of the couple and their guests.

“Dean dug out the area behind the fireplace so you step down into a cozy sitting nook. It’s one of the first places guests go when Rich and I have parties,” Robbie says.

He finished the project with exquisite lighting, making every inch of the space functional day and night. “Too often people forget how important lighting is to an overall great landscaping plan,” Robbie adds.

“At night, our yard is pretty special — it’s a multi-textured, multilevel, multicolored wonderland.”

The Morets love the yard, not just for its beauty and functionality, but for its easy maintenance and low water use. “Friends are amazed we don’t have a gardener taking care of the yard.” Instead, the Morets call Dean a few times a year when plants need special care, like additional food or thinning and trimming. “Other than that, we watch everything grow and bloom.”

As a Realtor, Robbie sees that a lot of homeowners overlook the importance of their yards and outdoor spaces. “It’s like your first impression when you meet someone,” she says. “You wouldn’t wear a dirty shirt.” Likewise, the yard should be a functional, beautiful extension of a home’s living space. She points out that landscaping also adds significant value to a home, making it a sound investment.

The project, which was completed more than a year ago, took about two months to finish and the Morets couldn’t be happier with the finished product.
“We love spending time out here,” Robbie reflects. In addition to hosting parties, she and Rich enjoy spending quiet moments there, too, where they watch the butterflies and hummingbirds come to feed on the flowers blooming throughout the yard.

“It can’t get any better than that,” Robbie says. HG

Blue Agave Landscape Design,