Our Deck Progress

Dear summertime in LA (aka, all year round), are you ready for the parties that are about to happen on this deck in Glendale? And by parties I do mean play-dates. This deck is certainly not the typical back yard, but here’s my argument for it: A. we’ll probably only stay here til I’m done redoing the house and then we’ll find a new project/house, and B. children grow up all over the world (New York and SF in particular) without a backyard and they aren’t social lepers and are not allergic to grass. Would it be ideal if we had a backyard, too? Sure. But this deck is killer.

The Deck Before DECK

I’m trying to find the right landscape designer who can work with my meager budget on the project to help me with the vision, but right now I have made some decisions about what is staying and what is going. So, here is what needs to happen:

1. We might need to remove that huge eucalyptus tree. It is dropping on the deck so bad that we have to sweep it daily if we were actually using it and I’m sure it would ruin furniture. Plus its roots are pushing out the retaining wall and probably doing other foundational things. We’ve had a few tree dudes (that’s their technical name) look at it and they all recommend either getting rid of 1/2 of it or getting rid of it all together.

2. Landscape that hill. We want simple, low-maintenance, but pretty and surprising. Not sure what that means. I need a landscape designer.


3. I think i want to try to make it more intimate with a long planter box along the deck with foliage in it – nothing too high that would block the deck but something that would create more a sense of an outdoor room and block the ironwork which isn’t bad, but it’s not awesome.


4. There is that area in the back that we might want to turn into either a backyard for Charlie or maybe a hot tub where i can party with high cut bikini wearing hot chicks. You know that’s what used to happen here. We could get some high quality turf and throw it in there, or some sort of ground cover that is comfortable for my little man to play around. Then I can close it off with some sort of cute fence or something and have that be his dedicated play area.



5. We need a new retaining wall, but do we just face it out or demo and do something new altogether. And what should it be? Wood? Stone? Paper Mache?

6. I want an outdoor kitchen. In case you think that’s because I like to cook I can assure you that it’s the opposite – I like to make food and that is what bbq-ing is: ‘Making food’. Our kitchen is kinda far away from the backyard and you have to enter/exit through our master bedroom which isn’t ideal with the amount of juicy fruit salad and trays of drinks that I’ll be trekking through the house. So I want a bbq area that has a fridge, gas stove/bbq and a sink if possible. Imagine if we had enough out there that we could cook everything up there? How boss would that be?

So not much progress has happened in the last two months barring some demo of the trellis. Now it just has the major beams across without all the other smaller ones making it super dark underneath. Brian had his friends come over right before we moved in and demo that stuff:

The Deck Progress The Deck Progress

When you hold a sledge-hammer, extension chord or caulk gun you prove that you are macho. Slow clap, fellas. Don’t mind Ian on the ceiling looking like a troll who is about to put a spell on us. Thanks, guys, so much for helping. You are strong, handsome and generally Bruce Willis in Die Hard kinda macho.

Where are we headed style-wise? ┬áMaybe here …

Deck Inspiration

I want it to be comfortable/functional, first and foremost. Then exciting, modern, smart, stylish and inviting. I want it to be easy to maintain but warm enough that people can hang out for hours and hours and feel at home. Now that I have a kid and am working so much, I would like to manipulate my friends into making them come to me every night, so this is really just a master ploy so that I never have to socialize outside the house. Let the agoraphobia begin.

  1. Jane Baldwin

    Exciting to follow along with your house plans. I’d like to make a plea for a different font, though, in the photos. This one is challenging! Thank you.

  2. Marie

    Remove the tree. We had a huge old gumball tree in our last house that I wanted to keep. So we put in a new deck and landscaping around it. Our deck was virtually unuseable. You could clean it and 2 hours later it was filthy. I had one party where it was dropping junk into people’s food and drink, that was the last deck party. If your tree is dirty now, it will be even more noticeable once you get furniture. Definitely not low maintenance.

  3. Dawn

    As usual, you’ve nailed it. I love the direction you’re going!

  4. Victoria

    California is the place to be for outdoor living and that is the deck area for it…..don’t you need a TV to get your friends out there every night?
    Sure you’ll make a good decision, I’m just not a fan of hot tubs with or without little ones around. I don’t have instagram so I can’t comment but those two tiny videos are so cute and adorable.

  5. Todd

    I live in Los Feliz, and I have a great landscape designer, who is very reasonable. He did my entire yard, as well as about 20 pots. He uses mostly succulents, so very low maintenance. I also had a HUGE eucalyptus tree removed when I moved in, and the tree guy was also very reasonable. You can email me if you want names & numbers!

  6. Alex

    Gabion baskets make my favorite retaining walls! They’e a relatively inexpensive option too. Google Dominus Winery in Napa Valley for the ultimate gabion basket inspiration– herzog & de meuron constructed a whole winery out of them.

  7. SO. MUCH. POTENTIAL. That view alone would get me out of my house..well, maybe. :)(mom of 2) Rachel

  8. liz

    Man, I’m so jealous of your house! Keep up the good work, looks like it will be awesome when it’s all complete!!

  9. I love your inspiration pics. You will totally nail it I know. I would put a vote in for a little patch of grass for Charlie (and yourselves).

  10. Beautiful inspiration. lol I love the extension cord, so manly!

  11. Kristi

    The deck is going to look amazing! I can’t wait to see how it comes together. :) On a side note, I don’t know if you mentioned it or not, but I would love to know where your dress and boots are from in the baby shower pictures! Thanks!

  12. Bab

    Is that tree holding back the hill behind your house? Maybe you want to check on that. I agree that it is messy. Maybe replace it with another tree that is fast growing but not messy. Just an idea.

    • Antonella

      yes, roots are at times annoying but better than a hill collapsing on your home! For your safety check that!

  13. Elise

    Are these recent pics? I don’t understand; where’s your 2 feet of snow? This doesn’t look anything like my deck…may be time to move to CA from Minnesota… and I second the gabion idea. I have a gabion full of wine corks in my yard. Doesn’t make a great retaining wall, but is a nice conversation-starter.

  14. Deb

    Am lovin’ the inspiration boards, and the idea of a low planter all around the deck railing (that way it’d sorta disguise the swirls, plus make a ‘natural’ barrier for Charlie). Just be sure to plant things that aren’t poisonous as he will want to pick and taste everything… While I love trees, that huge one’s gotta go if it’s already wreaking damage on the retaining wall and dropping leaves everywhere; the retaining wall could look very cool in some sort of stone/native plantings kinda deal……just a thought. And the outdoor kitchen is a stellar idea!!! Your house has so many interesting shapes and angles, and you’re right, that view is killer. I think I hear the party music now……

  15. Pri

    I seriously hope I run into you at Anthropologie or something in Americana one day… :) You are my style icon.

  16. Hilary

    I’d go crazy with ornamental grasses on that hill. I’m in Colorado, which is way colder, so I don’t know your perennial/shrub options all that well. But, in my experience, hills with grasses (interspersed with larger flowering shrubs/smaller trees for texture/structure) look gorgeous. Breezes seem to move up and down hills really well, so the grass moves with the wind. There are so many beautiful grasses to choose from and they’re almost all drought tolerant. And they require almost no maintenance (maybe a once per year haircut). I know you’ve written a lot about having some “surprise” element in your decor, so I’d get some super funky focal plants in there, too (maybe one super amazing smaller flowering tree or several amazing shrubs).

    Word to the wise, based on my own stupid mistakes – don’t go too crazy with pots, unless you LOVE watering them and/or they need zero supplemental water and/or you install a drip system. It always seems like a super awesome idea to have a million pots outside, but by the end of the summer, I am SO sick of watering them!!

    If you’re enjoying the whole landscape design thing, check out the books by Lauren Springer Ogden (or just look on her website) for some gorgeous, naturalistic, xeric plantings: http://www.plantdrivendesign.com/.

    • Lori

      I love the idea of ornamental grasses!

  17. Laurielulu

    Since it is SoCal and a miserable drought, do be sure and make all of your plantings native. Check out local gardens too, Arboretum etc. I was reading about shimmering aspens as being native! and so lovely.

    I am so in love with gabions too. I just pinned one yesterday

    I also agree with NO stupid pots, as I run off to water and water and water. I am going to change my patio potting with my tax return soon. I am going to purchase one large elongated pot to include herbs and miniature citrus for cooking. This will hang from our iron fencing. I also include special water retaining beads in my pot soil.

    This house will have the best style, such mid century mode ness and it is key to have outdoor living here in SoCal. We have to have it year round so a kitchen is necessary.

    I live in a “resort” community in Rancho Cucamonga, so we’re a little hotter than Glendale. Where I live they have the loveliest landscapes. I walk everyday and enjoy the succulents that are repeated within a zone and it it just so sculpturally stunning. Then when they bloom……hummingbirds and more magic abounds. With our current warmth everything is in bloom. Even the Magnolias are clumped together as screening but when they bloom it’s poetry. Another great rule, plants have to smell good in a patio such as yours, especially close to the bedroom. :)

    My opinion, this is the best time to learn more about gardening. I say do it yourself, but I bet you’re busy.

    Best regards!

  18. Laurielulu

    Sorry, two more things…

    Do NOT forget a pizza oven in the outdoor kitchen. You will never regret it!

    @Pri, you will run into Emily, I have at the Rose Bowl!!!

  19. Tracy

    We too are cursed with the f***ing Eucalyptus trees. They are the worst and they aren’t even indigenous to California. We’ve been taking them down one by one on our property for years. They are, however, super expensive to cut down, especially the really big ones. But word to the wise: don’t take a cheap bid because sometimes those guys don’t have insurance…and its dangerous work. You don’t want to get stuck with that in case something goes wrong. Pay a professional!

  20. loving the inspiration pics. cant wait to see it when it’s finished.

  21. You have a great space to work with. I am sure your vision of the space will turn out better than you dreamed. Seeing your home makes me homesick for California.

    Jeanine Marie

  22. Julia R

    wondering if a white railing will make it go away more, or instead say ‘railing railing railing!!!’ ? :)

  23. Jenn

    Love the inspiration and the ideas for your outdoor space. We have been in our house for more than 10 years, but just remodeled our outdoor space almost two years ago. It was one of the best decisions we made – even though we live in Ohio and it’s covered with snow right now! But we spend so much time out there and our friends all love it too. Completely worth the time, money and effort. Best advice – find someone who really understands you and will work with you. Our landscape designer was very honest and upfront with us – and it made a difference. Have fun!

  24. Kaamil

    I love your deck space, it has so much potential!
    As for the outdoor kitchen, I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but it might be an interesting idea: http://www.studiomama.com/outdoor-kitchen

    Good luck with the entire house, it’s coming together so beautifully!

  25. April

    I wish I knew you so I could come over and make myself at home in your beautiful house!

  26. teresa

    succulents!!! they are so beautiful, drought tolerant, and fun to share with friends and neighbors. break a piece off, stick it some dirt, and yer done.

  27. Felicity

    Grass is overrated for small children…a sandbox, a wading pool and a small slide in that space will keep him busy for years!

  28. AC

    Just one suggestion on the planter in front of the railing. I wouldn’t put anything there that little Charlie can climb on to and use as a step to get his head up to the railing. No planters, benches etc. close to the railing. Those little ones move FAST sooner than you think and some are amazing climbers. If they can reach the top they can climb up on it. We had a half wall overlooking an open staircase. Fortunately my kids survived without major head trauma. I’m a lazy mom at times and I’d rather have something he can’t climb than have to watch him like a hawk every millisecond… and yes, get rid of the eucalyptus. So messy and not worth it.

    • Candice S

      I agree about the planters by the railing. He’ll be climbing before you know it, and it could be a major hazard.

  29. Emily, I love this! It will look so pretty when you are done with the whole project… I’m sure! Enjoy the transformation and thanks again for all the good tips and inspiration. xo.

  30. Michelle

    Love the potential. How exciting. Definitely native plants. That does not mean cactus… try Sage (there are many and they have a wonderful scent & beautiful flowers), Ceanothus, CA poppies (that reseed themselves) and Manzanita. They are all loved by birds and butterflies and will help restore the natural balance that was once there. Check out Tree of Life Nursery and Las Pilitas Nursery. Have fun!

  31. Marguerite

    I’m looking at that back hill…is that Algerian Ivy and Asparagus Fern? (Triggers awful memories of my house in Tujunga…). Completely recommend you pull that stuff out as much as possible (Asparagus Fern has nasty spikes, bad for Charlie, and the ivy can house rats). Not sure what you could put in instead, so I’m not much help.

    Love your new place!

  32. Maeve

    Ooooh, can’t wait to see what you do with this! Some of us in SF really do have backyards, but are so broke from buying a house that they are in serious disrepair. We have major retaining wall and landscaping issues. We’ve been thinking of putting in a poured concrete retaining wall and some native (and drought resistant) grass or just putting mulch everywhere to at least keep the weeds down until we have time/money for serious landscaping. I’m sure you will have better ideas!

  33. Thea

    I second the veto on the planter box, or anything potentially climable against the railing. Toddlers will be head first down that hill before you can turn around. Also, make sure your furniture is heavy. My 18 month old son pushed a chair up against a ledge on the 21st floor hotel room and was half out the window (that had no locks I discovered) while I was in the bathroom. Children love to climb, and they get fast!

  34. Lori

    The planter box would be a great place to plant herbs. They won’t get too tall, will smell amazing, and will be handy for the outdoor kitchen.

  35. I’m on maternity leave from my practice as a landscape architect, but my design partner Gavin Younie travels to work in LA and would be great help! He’s at http://www.outdoorscererydesign.com. You’re on the right track with your style boards — can’t wait to see how the project unfolds!

  36. alohajill

    I love Ive at http://www.shadesofgreenla.com/.

    She designed the front yard of our modest house. (We’re the DIY Modern Greenbrae project) She does big things like LA Dwell on Design and Sunset Homes, but I love that she also works with homeowners on a budget like our family. And she’s just fun.

    She’s helping us with the layout and design of a new house we’re working on right now. Hope it helps! Your blog has helped me be braver and zanier on our projects.

  37. Holly

    You have such a fun blank canvas to work with..your inspiration boards are gorgeous so the outcome I know will be stunning! I can’t wait to see the finished product!!

  38. Joanna

    LOVE seeing the progress! I’m renovating my first house right now too :) So when you say you’ll probably only stay at this house until you’re done redoing it, and then you’ll move on, does that mean that your house is a slightly long-term flip? It seemed like you found the perfect bones for your dream house! Is it worth all the personalized touches and custom work if you’re not going to be staying long? (But I’m sure it’ll sell well!)

  39. Chelsea

    Okay so I know you’re getting a lot of two cents here and therefore I’m going to throw in mine…. Like a previous reader said, grass/turf is overrated. Kids love sidewalk they can rolls cars on, draw with chalk and later cruise their trikes on. I have grass and my kids only want to spend time on the drive way….go figure!

    Love the inspiration boards!!!! And your mom clothes posts!!!

  40. Suva

    Your deck area is fascinating! I am planning our deck renovation just now and enjoy it very much. But my plans head to planting vegetables, having some bench with planter in the back and incorporate at least miniature fountain. What kind of furniture are you going to buy?

  41. Your space is going to be so awesome! I am loving the inspiration photos, and am incredibly jealous of all of that sunshine and warmth (especially since we have 6 inches of snow on the ground…and it’s still coming).

    Can’t wait to see the updates, and I hope everything is going well in the Henderson household and with little Charlie!

  42. Emily

    I don’t want to sound cheesy but your work seriously inspires me! I’m currently working on my deck as well (much smaller than yours) but this post has inspire me in so many ways.

  43. I love the scent of the eucalyptus tree, I suppose something so lovely would be high maintenance. Have you seen the flight of the monarch butterflies yet, they love eucalyptus! I can understand how you would want to take it down before it takes down your nest. If you do cut it down, why not use the trunk for some fabulous patio furniture! I agree outdoor grilling and eating is a must–you don’t have to clean the floor every time. (Just you wait food falls everywhere except on their plates.)

  44. Robyn

    We live in Arizona but our local nursery warned us about something that will effect California too. The drought we’re experiencing right now is really going to hit us hard for a long time. Landscapers and nurseries are being quietly told that there are going to be severe water restrictions in both California and AZ. I’d focus for sure on low water plants. Planter boxes with succulents would be amazing on your deck. And with a little one, you’ll appreciate that they’re low maintenance.

  45. Ann

    I don’t get it… you’re only planning on living in this house until you complete it?! Did I read that wrong? So much renovation and effort put into a home that’s temporary! What’s the point if you’re not in it for the long haul? I’m genuinely curious.

  46. Antonia

    I check your blog and instagram daily to see updates on the house, cant wait for the styled/finished living room!! obsessed (not in a creepy way though)

  47. Julie

    Emily, I would highly recommend some sort of stone fence, which would probably concrete block with a stone facing to hold up that steep hill. Wood will not last. Just my 2 cents as a landscape designer.

  48. Oh no please don’t cut the tree

  49. I feel like I have been inspired to doing my own deck remodel after reading this post. I would also agree with you that comfort should come first and foremost, since it is a place where you’ll want to spend many an hour in relative bliss. Personally, I think I’d try to go for something like what was done in the bottom left inspiration photo (i.e. basically a big comfy sofa lounge set up). Thanks for sharing!

  50. Tiffany F.

    That space is going to be so beautiful! The inspiration pictures are wonderful.
    I would love to see a future post on your experience with choosing and working with landscapers. :-)

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