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The EHD Team’s Summer Backyard Plans


I’ve realized one thing about myself during quarantine that has genuinely surprised me – I need a deadline. I need a photoshoot date, an event planned, a client meeting, an open-house, literally any date on the calendar because without one I don’t get that much done on my own home. You’d think I would have gotten a lot further on our mountain house exterior than this, which is literally nothing. Not one thing done.

In case you’re wondering what happened to all my big plans from this post, the answer is: I’m still waiting on a lot of my gardening pots/beds BUT I might just go to the store this weekend because I’m dying to plant everything. So this post is just the “what I want to accomplish this summer” post for those on the EHD team who have an exterior space to do anything with. But the legs of my desk are still on paint cans, sitting right next to the leg extensions I ordered, so lower your expectations.

I’m up first with my dining table:

In not-so-shocking news, if you leave your wood indoor table outdoors for a year to endure 2′ of snow, 1/2″ of rain, and immense summer heat all while unprotected, it gets ruined. This was our table for our dining room until we decided to install an amazing built-in. Moving it out to the patio was meant to be temporary. But it’s still out there, and it’s not doing well. In a perfect world, I want a dark (outdoor) table under there so it doesn’t stand out as much. Those chairs from last year, on the other hand, are holding up great.

The only other thing that we are committed to doing this summer is some sort of non-bark ground covering for most of the backyard. Why no bark? Well . . . We may or may not be fostering two rescue dogs (we’re gauging our ability to adding a permanent addition to our family), and depending on how long they are here I’d really like to avoid having them run around on bark all day and track it in. I know that there are sacrifices to having pets (Bearcat, may she rest in peace, used to vomit and shed over everything). I can already see it: These adorable dogs get in our fake stream, roll around in the yard, our backyard becomes a bark and dirt mud pit, and then so does our couch. Anyways, that’s why we’re looking into non-bar alternatives.

I know. It’s pretty anti-climactic. I need a deadline to make it look really awesome with better string lights, pillows, etc. But right now “good enough” is feeling, well, good enough.


Mallory here. Prepare to enter the ultimate suburban backyard. This, my friends, is where Chase and I have been quarantined for the last few months (his parent’s house). We’ve been slowly upgrading this space day by day, and BOY do we have big hopes and dreams for this backyard. We’re hoping to deck this out as the ultimate budget-friendly outdoor vacation spot meaning that each area can serve its own purpose: There’s a BBQ/outdoor bar area for cooking, a dining area for eating, and an open area for lounging by the fire. Let’s start with the BBQ/dining area:

Here’s some good news to kick it off: We just fixed that built-in BBQ! It’s officially working again for the first time in 10 years! That means we can officially use this space to grill, which is crucial to the design plan obviously. Chase’s dad has already ordered these barstools (which are $150 for a set of 2). So our next goal for this space is to make it as functional as possible, for as little money as possible. We’re planning to clean up the BBQ area a little more by fixing some chipped tiles and upgrade the knobs on the barbecue to something a little less 2005.

As a side note, the other day we rented a power-washer for a few hours and washed off all the nasty dirt that had settled on this back patio throughout the years. Moral of the story: YOU GOTTA TRY THIS. Power-washing this baby was maybe the most fun we’ve had since quarantine started.

The dining area already has a pretty solid layout, and maybe just needs a little table upgrade and a fun rug to add some personality and style to the yard. We found this dartboard that had been hiding in the garage for years and we recently set it up here. It’s honestly so much fun to grill, play, darts, and then eat some dinner in this area and we use it ON THE DAILY. Now let me bring you around the corner to our future lounge . . .

Chase’s parents have this pretty big side yard, but it’s got this big old trampoline (which is definitely a safety hazard to use, but sometimes worth the risk) that was set up smack in the middle of this yard . . . UNTIL LITERALLY YESTERDAY. Here’s what happened. Chase and I were on a lil afternoon walk when we stumbled into that sectional laying in front of a neighbor’s house and it was up for grabs. We hauled it down the block and threw it in the backyard AND NOW OUR LOUNGE DESIGN PLAN IS ABOUT TO BEGIN. We’re thinking of replacing the cushions (as you can see some are literally missing and the others aren’t in awesome shape), adding a rug, some string lights, maybe few more seating options, and possibly even elevating it on a platform/wood deck to create more of a “zone”. Oh, and we’re planning on doing this for very little money, so I’ll be on craigslist and driving by houses to scout for free furniture if you need me. Stay tuned.


Hey, it’s Ryann. I love my backyard, but it could be much better. First of all, I really want grass. I hate the dirt and how my dog tracks it all over the house. It basically makes that side of the yard useless for us humans. What activities would I want to do in dirt? The answer is zero. So my first goal is to put grass where the dirt is and remove the concrete steps and bricks on the outer edge. Next, I need storage. By the side of the house we have our cooler and tent just chilling because I have nowhere to put them. We are thinking about getting a medium-sized shed to store those things in so we don’t have to look at them anymore. 

The concrete patch is fine and doesn’t bug me too much, it’s really just cosmetic. We need to replace that bench/table set because it is starting to sag and it takes up a lot of room. And I want to get rid of that chair that I’ve left out in the rain way too many times (whoops). I am thinking a circle table and chairs plus an umbrella would be nice. Maybe we’d even have room for a stand-alone hammock. What do you guys think?

Oh and lastly, we need to carve out space to grow our own vegetables. We want a raised garden so our dog does not mess with our vegetables, so we can either put it towards the back of the yard near the rose bushes or somewhere on the concrete. I like the idea of having it where our other plants are, but I am worried it won’t get enough light.

So that’s where I am at. Suggestions are, of course, welcome because I definitely feel a little in over my head 🙂 


Sara here. You guys have already seen my backyard, so you know that one corner of it is happily thriving while the rest of it is . . . not. In a dream world, we’d rip out ALL the concrete and put down pebbles, grass, and a brick patio. But this is not a dream world, and removing concrete is an expensive, labor-inducing task which is probably on the list for next summer. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things we can’t already get started on. Building a new fence, stuccoing the long cement wall, planting some babies where there is already soil, and adding a raised garden box are all totally possible right now.

IN FACT, as of yesterday, we checked one of those things off our list – New fence BUILT. In total this project took 6 days, cost us $2237.48 in materials, and very luckily cost us zero in labor (thanks dad). Next up is that long cement wall, and maybe even painting the exterior of the house? YOU KNOW HOW I LOVE TO ADD HUGE PROJECTS TO MY ALREADY FULL PLATE.


ACK. OH JEEZ, folks. The last time we chatted, y’all told me to get some jasmine. My local garden center didn’t have it in stock and offered to put in an order for me, but then at the last minute, they were like “hey, actually, this is going to be really brown and maybe kinda gross looking for a chunk of the year, are you sure you want to look at that all the time?” 

AND GUYS, I’M NOT SURE. But I’m pretty sure the answer is “no, I don’t think so!!!” (Also, this is a testament to the true value of working with your local nursery! They will take the time to chat with you about your spaces and needs.) Now that EHD has gone permanently WFH, my needs have shifted a lot. I’ve realized that I want privacy, but I also want to be able to look out the window and see cars and people on the street!

I’ve thought about paneling up to the middle bar, but that means that my view would be blocked when I’m sitting at my desk (“view” being a subjective term for a Jack in the Box, an intersection, and a parking garage entrance). I also kind of like the way that light reflects off buildings during sunset and shines back into my place (I face east) and I don’t want to lose it. So, I’m not really sure where to go from here.

My current gut feeling is to get something like this (but a little bigger!), put it up against one of the walls to hold my plants, and then figure out a comfier seating situation. It is way cooler outside on my balcony than it is in my apartment, and I’d like to enjoy it a little bit (it hit 95 in here on Wednesday, even with a window A/C unit and a fan going). But AHH, how do I do it privately without feeling like I’m in a contained box? Am I overthinking the amount of coverage these plants will provide? Probably. If anyone with a small balcony has posted a photo of their setup on Instagram, PLEASE SHARE IT WITH ME. 

There you have it, the EHD team, their backyards, and their plans. Some of us are begging for suggestions, so suggest away below!

Fin Mark


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Caitlin, if it’s not Jasmine you chose, which plant is hanging on your balcony? I’m curious!


I’m not Caitlin, but it looks like some sort of trailing succulent — maybe trailing jade? Excellent for full sun in hot LA.

Elisabeth is right!!! It’s jade and fish hooks 🙂


I was at IKEA yesterday and they had the best outdoor table lamp (pleated shade, brass look base, solar powered, LED). Thought of EHD design immediately. Check it out


Can we get an update on Emily’s LAba yard? How are the castle and landscaping holding up? Are the trees regrown?

IMO the backyard still looks beautiful and the castle looks great from what I can tell from the last time I was there. Sadly I have yet to play in it:) O and the trees are incredible and provide so much shade! We can definitely chat about a check post though. xx


All of you guys with bare backyards need to plant some trees to soften things up! I’m not familiar with what works in CA in crappy urban soils, but I’m sure your local nurseries would know. Once trees get bigger, they help cool things down a lot and from a design standpoint, they stop your eye before it hits the fence and then the view of the ugly stuff beyond. They’re great for hiding ugly corners on the fenceline, too.


I agree! Especially for you, sara! Trees would soften the whole back of that gorgeous fence where you currently sees roofs! WAY TO GO SARA’S DAD! Beautiful work!

(Obviously I’m very excited about this …!)


Yessss! Trees!!! Trees increase the value of your property too.


Yes! We planted a bunch of small ficus trees along a fence and now they’ve grown to be a huge gorgeous green privacy fence.


Also, bamboo or horsetail grasses grow super fast along fences to create a green “wall,” and they’re not super expensive. 🙂


Sorry, one more! I should probably wait to consolidate all my thoughts before posting. We have bougainvillea covering one long stretch of fence. It grows like crazy here in LA, and is beautiful year-round, and most months it’s covered in magenta flowers. All you need to do is train it to grow up your fence with trellises or wire drilled right into the fence.


The great thing about bougainvillea is how fast it grows. You can cover a fence or add a pergola or trellis for more height, and you’ll get shade faster than a tree. I was also going to add that I be olive trees would grow well in LA. I’m in San Jose, California, so not as dry as LA, but I have fruitless olive trees, and they are wonderful, but pricey to get trees a decent size to start. But my bougainvillea is much taller than my olive trees and provides great shade for some windows on the west corner of my house. The main concern with bougainvillea is the thorns, so you don’t want it in a high traffic area.

I live in the Arizona desert and bougainvillea are everywhere. They are beautiful, but they are murderous! Those spikes – ouch! I appreciate them along freeways and in my neighbor’s yard (over the fence!), but we pulled all ours out because of the SPIKES and the fact that we had to vacuum up the leaves regularly because they get everywhere.

I love the trees idea! In my neighborhood we have brick walls and there’s a two-story house behind my one-story house. With our three huge Chinese elm trees, that house would be all we see. Instead, I see green trees blowing in the breeze (and lots of interesting spiky agave and succulent shapes I’ve planted over the years). Trees are great!


Agreed. Honestly very surprised to see multiple people in LA planning on planting GRASS. Get some light colored pebbles or pavers to reduce heat and otherwise stick to natural vegetation and trees for shade and privacy!


Same! No grass! Won’t you have to water it all of the time? Find some beautiful succulents instead. 🙂


A lot of new, hybrid grasses need little water and don’t need to be cut as often. Grass is a money saver because it keeps everything cooler, creates habitat for bugs, which provide food for birds, which … you get the gist … habitat and environment!!


(Emily) and veggie growing aspirational team: VEGGIE PODS I remembered your veggie growing dreams and saw a story on TV about recycled plastic, wicking, raised veggie pods. Big enough to harvest a fair amount of produce. Wicking means you fill the basewith water and the plants take it up as needed…you don’t have to worry sbout cheking or knowing if they need water. You can add to them pod by pod if you need or want more. They’re raised to keep dogs (SOOO EXCITED THAT YOU MAY OR MAY NOT BE FOSTERING TWO DOGS!!! 😃) and other critters out. Recycled from plastic bottles! It’s an Aussie product, but maybe there’s a US similar product? Caitlin, both our neighbours have Jasmine and it’s been through 18 years of Australian heatwaves, wild winter storms, you name it, and it’s never gone brown. A clip every now and then and it stays lush. I dunno about their opinion on that. 🧐 It provides great screening, flowers for ages, looks good, smells good… If you go with screening, don’t go for solid xcreening, because…no breeze. Go for something with slats. But I still recommend screening plants!!! 😍 Random comment… FAKE GRASS is hideous and… Read more »


To play devil’s advocate: real lawns take up a ton of water which is in very short supply in California. And if you regularly treat a lawn with chemicals, it’s also potentially harmful to insects, bees, birds, and kids. I think it’s a trade-off that varies by location and need.


You do not need chemicalsto have a nice lawn!
See my comment about real grass and new hybrids that are drought-proof and don’t need to be cut as much.
It also keeps things cooler and you use less power firing up air conditioning!
Real grass is better than stones, etc. The only thing better is all local, endemic native species of plants, plus rrees, trees, trees.
Weall need to get with the program and not just talk about the environment, but do the right thing.

This is GOOD TO KNOW. Maybe my nursery was just worried about the type of jasmine? I gotta ask now!!

You need to get Star Jasmine. It’s evergreen.


I don’t think the jasmine will go completely brown, but all the nice new growth is going to be on the sunny side so if you plant it on a fence or trellis the would screen your balcony space it will look pretty from the street but you will end up looking at the shady side that after a while is going to be mostly brown, woody stems.


It nedds a clip to shoot both sides.


@Ryann, definitely put your veggies where there is most light!
@Caitlin, what about a piece of frosted plexiglas up to the middle bar? It could probably be held on with zip ties, and would let in light while providing privacy.

I love a good backyard mini-makeover and really enjoyed this post! Good luck everyone 🙂


Anything solid like plexiglass won’t let the breeze through. Ugh!

Abby Schamp

@caitlin Would an outdoor curtain be an option? Maybe even “cafe curtain” style hung halfway? Then you could open it for breeze, choose something semi-sweet for light, but still have privacy when you want it.


We overhauled our backyard because it’s mainly shaded under beautiful, tall evergreen trees and grass did not thrive in those conditions. We went with hardscaping for low maintenance (didn’t want to mow, re-sod, fertilize, edge grass anymore). Our landscaper ripped out the scruffy grass and relocated some existing bushes, and built a flagstone patio area, pea gravel and smaller river rock as additional ground cover, and bordered with fir bark nuggets instead of bark mulch; the bark nuggets drain very well. I live in Oregon where it is rainy and soggy for 8 months out of the year and we have a big, furry dog. This hardscaping means he stays relatively clean–no mud bogs or soggy dirt to coat his fur.


I really don’t think grass is a good idea for these houses in LA anyway.


I would love to see a photo! Sounds awesome! 🙂

Anne M Anzil

@Ryann, I would suggest painting the wall behind the patio table ! White would look nice and make any plants stand out! Good luck with your project!


Emily, I’d love a full post on your mountain house backyard. It would he helpful to know how to style, and what will hold up in climates with more variable temperatures. Those of us in the midwest are always jealous of LA backyard styling.


Caitlin, were you thinking of star jasmine? Green leaves with little white flowers? If so, the leaves stay green all year round, the white flowers just fall off after they’re done blooming. I have them all over our yard on trellises and use them as hedges because they stay green all year round and I love the smell when they are blooming.

Vanita Negandhi

Yes, I live in North Texas so freezing winters and burning summers, but our Star Jasmine (Madison) stays evergreen year round. I think Caitlyn is referring to Arabian Jasmine which is winter tender.

Rachel S

That smell when jasmine blooms is my absolute favorite thing about spring.


Yes, star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is a wonderful evergreen screen! It’s not the invasive kind (Asian/Asiatic jasmine).


Aaaand, Star Jasmine scent wafts through the night too, because … MOTHSARE THE POLLINATORS, not so much bees!


I rarely comment, but … I am kinda disappointed and surprised to see any of you LA-based designers adding grass to your back yard. It’s a desert or desert-like climate; why not plant something local and sustainable that doesn’t require watering and maintenance?


I agree there are other options than grass. I thought of Dymondia, searched it, and came across this article in the LA Times that has some better drought friendly alternatives.


That’s a fabulous alternative to grass! And it provides all the same benefits! Great suggestion! 😍


Not to mention that aside from some veggies that you feel are worth a lot of water, this is an awful time to plant anything in the ground in So Cal. Wait until Nov or Dec for any big plantings around here.

Hi Caitlin,
Being a city-dweller (okay, Brooklyn) I deal with small spaces all the time – here are couple of thoughts: An outdoor carpet or runner would be great – and you could get some bamboo fencing (the kind that comes in a roll) for the bottom of the railing (if you decide the reduced indoor light will be OK). Depending on how you use it, you could do a bistro table or set up an outdoor chaise against the wall, with a lantern, plants or a trellis on the small wall. On the other side to the left of the door you could put a mix of potted plants in varying heights. This next idea will likely horrify a lot of people, but if you don’t have a green thumb you could mix in a couple of fake plants to fill in the gaps until you can get what you need from a nursery. Look forward to seeing what you end up doing – I’m sure it will be amazing!


Would do a HARD recommend that you all look into native plants. Jasmine, ficus, bouganvillea, bamboo – all nice plants but natives do better with less fuss, not to mention are more sustainable and add habitat. There are plenty of resources out there to the LA area – California Native Plant Society, Theodore Payne, Las Pilitas, California Botanic Garden. Not to mention even your garden variety nursery will often have a selection. Do a little bit of research and reap the benefits!
PS. It’s a myth that SoCal is desert – it’s actually mostly chaparral. Cacti and succulents are pretty but they don’t contribute much to the larger ecosystem.


YESSSSSSS! Local, native species!


An excellent source of inspiration combining native and non-native plants is the Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum. They have everything: an extensive edibles garden (including vegetables in containers for those of us low on space), a pollinator meadow, an amazing living wall with succulents and other drought-tolerant species, and even an area testing different grasses and low-maintenance ground cover alternatives. And all this in the middle of urban Los Angeles! Highly recommend a visit once the museum reopens!

Jasmine can be deciduous or evergreen, it depends on both type and climate. I have a decent amount of Star Jasmine (my favorite) at my house in northern Cali and it’s green year round.


Yay! So happy you are going to foster some dogs. Perfect solution to “should I or shouldn’t I” get one. Myrtle is a pretty, shade loving groundcover. Also you could try ajuga if you need to soak up water. Ivy ,while pretty, is invasive and will find its way to any trees or shrubs and strangle them. I know, dramatic, but I’ve witnessed it first-hand. Excited to see everyone’s new spots


I second the call for you all to look into California natives! Low maintenance, and they attract birds, butterflies and big fat bumblebees who don’t bother you because they’re basically drunk on your plants. Please don’t plant regular grass – it’s a huge water-suck and the fertilizers you’ll need to use wash into storm drains and mess up the ocean flora & fauna by creating algae growth that smothers everything else. There are so many non-harmful options available to you, so please….

Molly H

Love IKEA and all the pretty backyard stuff.

But, hey…remember a looong time ago when we were all first quarantined and worried about where our food was going to come from and wanting to plant our own veges???

Just making your backyard pretty when you could do super simple container plantings as well seems shallow, senseless and irresponsible. Sorry, but that’s how I feel. Also feel pretty disappointed this is another “cause” that was taken up by an earlier blog topic and then abandoned long before the next (very necessary) cause came along.

Hello Walmart, Amazon, Dollar Store, etc. for inexpensive pots and potting soil. Or just actually planting them in the ground with a little extra help from some bagged potting soil. Or, if your soil is truly terrible, just put the large potting soil bag on the ground and cut openings for your plants or seeds. (Youtube has lots on this.) Annual veges have very short root systems and the soil is reusable.

Responsibility comes in all sizes, shapes, colors, and consideration for mother earth, too.



Pamela W Meyer

Would it be possible to have a mirror on the side wall? In order to avoid breakage, maybe you could cover it with(removable) wooden lattice? Clean-able and avoids breaking with the normal, small dings.


Caitlin, what if you just moved your current hanging plants down? That could provide some privacy and still be something pretty to look at while you’re sitting, plus some sunlight would still filter through. Just a thought. 🙂


Caitlin, there are other vines you can consider that will be evergreen in Los Angeles. Check out Lady Banks Rose ( Don’t worry, there are no thorns on this rose. You’ll only get blooms in the spring, but it is evergreen, so you’ll have green foliage year round. Another to consider is the Bower Vine (, which blooms spring through fall, and it is also evergreen, so you’ll always have green leaves to look at.


Two things:

1. Isn’t grass a big no-no in California?

2. Can we finally hear the name of the dark olive color on the exterior of Emily’s mountain house?


1. Yes, if you have a big backyard there are better alternatives out there.
2. It’s Laurel Woods by Sherwin-Williams


Re: Emily’s plan to replace the bark mulch in her backyard: Mulch is comfy for dogs’ paws, doesn’t track into the house like dirt will, will be much easier to maintain than trying to establish groundcover in a shady area, & holds up better to dog traffic. Years ago we replaced the grass with hardwood mulch on one pathway of our yard where our dog liked to run & was wearing away the grass & creating mud which he would track into the house. The mulch has been great! BTW, the HGTV website has helpful recommendations for making a dog-friendly/pet-friendly backyard.

Courtney Tait

I’m curious about EHD doing “permanently WFH” that Caitlin mentioned. Can we get an update? Is the EHD office a goner even if the pandemic is one day “over?” Always interesting to see how companies are transitioning in these times…


Emily and Ryann, in my experience dogs are really hard on grass, ground over, etc. and we ended up with mud pits with both. I guess it would depend on the size of the dog—ours was very large so he was more destructive than a smaller dog might be. Bark and pea gravel both worked pretty well and they are easier to fix if your dog ends up digging.


Hey Caitlin – Bamboo shades are your friend for your balcony. I love the tortoiseshell ones, but the white ones bounce light and heat out, so there’s that. Hang them high and adjust them throughout the day to your needs. It’s hard to tell how much space you have, but I would look for a sectional outdoor sofa that could give you a chaise along one short wall and a sofa/loveseat connecting to it, so you have options when you sit down to do your work or have friends over. I’d put a small bistro table on the other side of the balcony with a couple of cafe type chairs, maybe folding ones. Small hibachis take up almost no space but can grill whatever you want for two to four people. Add your plants in around the furniture; don’t start with the plants. I like big scale in small spaces, so maybe a tree in one corner kind of behind the dining table, maybe a ficus benjamina (weeping fig), to give you a sense of outdoors. I used to grow cherry tomatoes and herbs in pots on a balcony this size. Chives and thyme are easy and taste good in… Read more »


Not yard-related (love this post, and hearing about all the different scenarios you all are working with), but I’m intrigued by Caitlin’s comment “Now that EHD has gone permanently WFH…” I see that many companies, large to small, are keeping WFH an option for employees due to the pandemic – is that decision for EHD etched in stone, long-term? I just wonder about the social aspect WFH folks are currently missing – which is fine to not have right now – but what about a few years down the line? At some point, we will be able to see each other at work, go out to lunch without masks, decide on a whim to grab a drink at 5pm on a Friday after a long week…..and that social interaction is so valuable for all of us, and not one to be disregarded. During the pandemic, my business has maintained operations throughout – it’s considered “essential” and WFH is not an option due to our machinery. While it has been tremendously stressful as a business owner navigating everything that goes along with operating (healthy and safety, payroll as revenue decreases, kids at home, etc etc etc), there have been many days… Read more »

Love these! Can you tell us what software you used for these sketches on photos? Would like to do some of my own.

Sara used Photoshop on her iPad and then sketched out the plans with a stylus pen. I love how it looks too!


Please, please include a landscape architect on your team 🙂
If that is not possible, this wonderful botanical garden has classes to teach people how to design a yard. One benefit of quarantine is that the classes are online via Zoom so anyone anywhere could attend. The classes are taught by a woman with a degree in landscape architecture who works for a water conservancy district. Classes are super affordable — $5-$50 per class.


@emily, it’s possible to add drainage under a deck to keep the lower deck dry. This one is ugly but you’ll get the the concept:

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