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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
Emily Henderson Backyard Opener

In some not so shocking news, the renovation of the mountain house went over budget…by like five times. Someday, I’ll be ready to talk about it, but right now it’s safe to say that we aren’t splurging on the exterior like we thought we could, at least not yet. The fancy outdoor kitchen with wood-fired pizza oven and dining room pergola with a massive surround deck and masonry will not happen. So today, I’ll update you on what the original intent was and what we are still wanting to do. Plus, I have a few questions for you (regarding turf and hot tub plan – because Brian Henderson refuses to even entertain the thought of ditching the hot tub).

Here is an overhead plan Velinda drew out last summer with what we were originally thinking:

Mountain House Backyard Handdrawing With Text

As you can see, the yard is shallow and wide but the lot is actually 1/4 of an acre. It’s just all on the side of the house. It feels so much smaller than it is, especially when you are looking out the new doors because the gate to the back property feels pretty close.

One thing you should know:

The kids have 50 acres of forest to play in outside that gate, beyond the backyard. It’s a family camp that we have access to wander in if we are respectful (and usually it’s empty). There are no bodies of waters or cars so we are getting THIS CLOSE to letting them go on their own with a walkie talkie and the rule that they have to stay together. I think by the time they are five and seven, they’ll be able to do it; they know it like the back of their hands now and it’s basically a dream come true for us as my house that we grew up in also backed up to thousands of acres of government land. THE POINT before you fall asleep: This yard does not need to check every box for them. We don’t need a playhouse or to add more landscaping or greenery for bug hunting. All the fort building and nature hiking will happen back there.

Okay. Originally, we were going to get rid of the big bush (still want to), extend the deck and put a big outdoor kitchen on the other side to open up the space and, well, utilize it.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 3 1 New Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 4 1 New

And, of course, we still want a fancy outdoor kitchen but it’s like a $50k expense and it’s not something we can spend right now. Besides, we want to spend the summer up there and see how we actually use the space. What do we really need???

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 2 1 New 2

Neither of us like the bark but boy do all of us love that fake stream/pond. It’s huge and so fun for the kids and the sound is just so peaceful even though it’s fake. My dad always built water features at our house and I had no idea that I picked up the obsession but the second that I saw this pond, I was like “this is the house.”

We originally wanted to replace the fence, but I don’t want to replace it with something cheap so once again we are looking at a $10k expense (at least). Thus, we are holding off on that for now, too.

This is the side of the house where we now have French doors coming out the downstairs guest room.

Emily Henderson Lake House Before Back Yard 1 1 New 2

We thought about doing a bocce ball court but now aren’t convinced that people actually use them enough. More importantly, after debating for MONTHS about where to put the potential hot tub, we have realized that this is the best place. It’s totally unused and is a decent amount of square footage that is just sitting there.

But of course it’s not that easy. It’s sloped and you can’t put decking on dirt without pouring some cement (it’ll rot otherwise). So we could put a stone patio and plop a hot tub on top of that but that doesn’t sound too pretty. And not everything has to be pretty in life, but man, to spend $5k on something that is UGLY is a bummer.

Mountain House Backyard Handdrawing1

Brian is against the pretty cedar tubs because they aren’t comfortable. He wants a big molded plastic thing. We haven’t started shopping yet, but I can already tell we aren’t on the same page. So that’s going to be fun!!

The main thing we are backing off of is extending the deck (around the tree) and creating a massive outdoor kitchen and dining area.

Hot Tub Area

But we WANT to put in a hot tub and create a “room” for it for privacy—not in a tacky way, obviously, but something more like a wood-slatted wall or something chic and pretty.

Emily Henderson Backyard Update Opener Transplant Shrubs

I hate removing any greenery but we don’t use the space on the right side AT ALL because it feels closed off, so by removing the shrubs (and hopefully transplanting them), we can utilize more of the width of the yard. We are toying with an in-ground trampoline but I’d love to know your thoughts on them if you guys have them. I grew up with a trampoline (Mormon, duh) and I’m pretty sure we lived on that thing in the summer.

Emily Henderson Backyard 11

I’m very hesitant to do ANYTHING until we are confident we have the right plan. I don’t want to put down turf or pebbles and then find out that in order to put in the trampoline we have to level the whole thing. I don’t want to plant more shrubs around the perimeter until I know for sure where, say, the potential gas fire pit would go (we can’t have wood firepits up here).

Emily Henderson Backyard 3

But we are obviously not destitute and there is no RUSH on these things. It was cold up there this weekend but I opened the Marvin scenic doors so you can get a sense of the indoor/outdoor flow. It’s pretty magical.

Emily Henderson Backyard 4

My biggest question, and what Brian and I are debating the most about right now, is turf versus, well…anything else.

OH WE CAN’T PUT IN REAL GRASS. There is a law that was enacted in 2007 I believe that made it illegal to put in real grass due to water consumption. You can have it if you already had it, but you can’t put it in now. So up here, there is a combination of artificial turf or bark/mulch everywhere.

I personally fear that the turf will be jarringly fake, even though I’m not opposed to it in general. When debris falls all over it, it just looks messy and so obviously fake. I know there are good versions of it out there so I’d love your opinion.

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See, that looks pretty good!

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That’s a little too perfect, but at first glance, also pretty good.

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Here is what I’m hoping to convince him of (and I think it’s working): do a combination of pebbles, some stone paths and mulch in areas where there are shrubbery and greenery.

Ehd Amanda And William Exterior 101
photo by sara ligorria-tramp for ehd | from: 5 outdoor ideas & hacks that’ll instantly add style
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I could go this modern (below) but Brian can’t and admittedly it’s not as warm or inviting. It’s like it’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to be minimal and cold.

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So imagine if this was us, below, and instead of the cement it was pebbles.

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You get a combination of pathways, pebbles, and landscaping. Brian and I just went outside into the backyard (we came up this weekend for Mother’s Day) and we agreed that we could put in one patch of turf somewhere; something just big enough that if we wanted to lay around or picnic, we could. Maybe under the hammock area? And then we also need to relocate the firepit because it’s too close to our neighbors and our friends are too loud, too late to be near them.

So the plan? HA. The plan would be to come up with a plan over the summer as we spend more time up there and really figure out what we need/want and then where could it go. Meanwhile, we save for the execution of it. I know that I have to create some outdoor patio spaces for work by next spring so I suppose we’d like to start any sort of changes in the fall so we are ready for those photo shoots but I just want to enjoy NO CONSTRUCTION for the summer.

But I’d LOVE your thoughts on artificial turf versus hardscaping and if anyone knows of a nice looking purchasable hot tub so we can avoid doing something site-specific (and therefore custom and expensive) that would be lovely. I guess just any experience would be helpful, so please, please chime in in the comments. xx


  1. Is there enough room for a hot tub on the lower deck, nestled near the turret, using those large, to-be-replanted shrubs as privacy for now while you decide? Hot tub could eventually move once you’re ready to build the “room” for it, shrubs can eventually be transplanted or trimmed back once you’ve made decisions about all the rest?

    1. Hardscaping (by which I mean pebbles or gravel) is infinitely preferable to artificial turf. While the fake stuff is beginning to look better, it needs serious maintenance compared to natural products. And at the end of it’s life, fake turf goes to landfill while natural products just break down over time. I would use pebbles and landscaping. And for a picnic area, there are other prostrate plants you can use that aren’t grass, but still provide a soft place to lie.

    2. We recently purchased our home that came with an outdoor hottub on the covered back patio. I love the idea of having our hottub, but absolutely, positively loathe it’s location on the patio. Even though it’s a relatively small hottub (just a corner tub for two) I feel like it takes up SO MUCH usable space on the patio, plus the patio really does amplify the sound. I’m currently trying to design a solution where we flip it to outside the patio and build a non-hideous space for it…so I feel you. I’ll be looking forward to your solutions!

      Regarding turf, I’d say to perhaps look into hardscaping options with groundcover in the areas that you need some walkable greenspace…something like brass buttons, babys tears, rupturewort, or gnarled cushion… these look particularly nice with stepping stones PLUS they’re drought tolerant.

      1. OOH. you sound like you know what you are talking about RE walkable greenspace (I didn’t even know that term). You live near LA by chance?

        And @fiona I totally agree with you. And my goal with this point was for Brian to see that hardscaping with ‘greenspace’ is the way to go.

        1. Wooly thyme is an outstanding, hardy drought-tolerant groundcover that my kids spent their entire childhood digging their bare feet into here in Tahoe. It meanders beautifully between stepping stones!

          1. This is what I was coming here to say. Creeping thyme and brass buttons do wonders in hardscapes. They create the grass feel without the need for water.

            I’ve commented like 3x in many years so I mean what I’m about to say! I really absolutely completely don’t think you should put turf in. There are so many other better and natural options. A synthetic green space in a mountain environment is like the opposite of what I feel like you’re going for. You have so much green lawn at home, and plenty of outdoor space beyond the mountain house yard. I love the hardscaping inspo pics and love the idea of green ground cover with beautiful stones and pebbles and even brick in that yard. #pleasenoturf 🙂

          2. Another voice chiming in in favor of creeping thyme or something similar! It’s soft underfoot, drought-tolerant, and smells lovely. Oh, and PRETTY!

        2. Alas, I’m in the heart of the midwest in Missouri, but given the opportunity to talk plants with my favorite designer… I mean girl I’ll get a plane ticket lolololol. (I’m only half joking here. Maybe a quarter joking.) I’ve been obsessively looking for similar groundcover for the past year to landscape our VERY shady yard thanks to giant beautiful oaks and the four mentioned about were some of my top choices. Just getting ready make the order as we speak. I did look into if they were appropriate for the PNW and YAY they totally are! Let me know if you’d like to chat via email or offline, plants are my favorite thing to talk about!

      2. Re: your last paragraph
        Yes! I’m rather surprised that the local laws support artificial turf which is not good for the environment long-term. Isn’t the PNW more pro-Earth? Anyway, if the the regs are only that they can’t have actual grass, other groundcover that is drought tolerant and native to the area is a great great idea. Surely there’s an extension office at the local uni that posts lists on their website of the native plants that need help to be brought back. That is so often the cost effective option to boot. Plus, you usually get extra benefits like the native fauna responding to native flora that they don’t get to enjoy too much. You start seeing songbirds and cool bugs that the next door neighbors don’t. It’s that awesome.

  2. If it were my place and my money, I’d prioritize experiences over appearances outside. An ugly but fun hot tub? Sure. A trampoline? Yes.

  3. My second home had several of these issues. ..and a limited( non existent) budget. I did gravelpaths and patio you’ll needstepping pavers in areas that require quiet. I have an under deck area and HAD to paint the underside white as it was too dark. I got a small hot tub due to the noise varible..( folks get loud and drinking buzz is amplified by tubbin) and moved it away from the house. I used pier blocks with slots for pressure treated 4x4s on them for the deck (no concrete needed) and enclosed the sides and gravelled, which works great for draining/cleaning it. The fence can be beautified via reed panels wired to them. the 4x 8′ ones are about $22 and will last 2 seasons(in seattle) or can be removed for winter. .. and it works well w gravel. I used micro clover instead of grass. it doesnt reqire much water stays green( even in a summer with 4 days of rain) and reqires minimal cutting.. I looked at fake turf but the water needed for maintance with a dog is high, gets smelly and the nice stuff is really pricey.

    1. I’ve reseeded my whole lawn with micro clover and I love it! We are in the mountains where it is super dry and the soil has been acidified by pine trees. Clover can grow in acidic soil and even returns nitrogen to the soil, doesn’t need to be mowed or watered, sun or shade and if you let the flowers come up is good for honey bees. (You can mow to avoid the bees when your kids are up there). I used a seed company called Earth Turf.
      I also just bought a big ugly, but comfortable hot tub. Looked at the wood ones, sorry they are just a wooden bathtub. Hydrotherapy jets are so worth it.

      1. I love this idea.

      2. OOH clover. going to look into it right now. thank you (and brian agrees with your hot tub review – i think i lost this one months ago and that’s ok).

        1. Emily, check out vinca as well. Its been growing as ground cover in my yard in the same region as yours. My front yard is blooming with tiny purple flowers right now. It also comes in white flowers, I think. I would have picked that but the house came with the vinca!

      3. I also love this idea!

      4. Pretty sure the regulations up here are for no new ground cover to be planted. ☹️Grass is just the tip of the iceberg of what cannot be planted…

      5. yes! we are in Portland and are in the process of turning our lawn over to clover. we have the opposite problem with lawns up here; too much water / overcast skies make moss grow in it and it gets super patchy (at least in our shady yard). But, the clover thrives!!

    2. Yes!! A ground cover like clover is a great idea for bringing in greenery without having grass. I’d imagine its also much better for the environment than having fake plastic grass?

      1. Yarrow also is a good lawn alternative and can be mowed.

  4. Particularly because the hot tub will be tucked away to the side of the house, I’d be less worried about how hideous those things are. It won’t be in your sight-line as you look out to the backyard. One thing I’d consider is the noise re proximity to neighbors. If the neighbors are close to you on that side, I might re-think things, as kids splashing in the hot tub is always rowdy/screech-y/scream-y and you don’t want to be constantly shush-ing them. I’d work with one of those hideous plastic ones (maybe black, so you see less of its plastic-y ness) and try to build around it a beautiful deck space. What about submerged half-way below ground with a pretty tiled space around it.
    This (https://www.thehottubco.net/product/hot-tubs/caldera-spas/geneva/) in slate with grey interior isn’t the most hideous thing….

  5. I think the fake turf looks ok in very small amounts. Almost like a patio area, but made of the turf.
    The house looks great!

  6. We ended up just doing a custom hot tub, so pretty but expensive. I’d just get a run of the mill hot tub and surround it with stonework. Just a note, we have a gravel pathway. When people walk in the foyer from it they track in so much powdery dust from the gravel. (We come in through the garage, so thankfully it’s not always a problem). If that will be a constant path to and from your house, just know it can be messy. Love the house and your blog!

    1. yes – we have gravel and people are always tracking tiny bits of gravel into the house. Also if you tend to pop outside in barefeet it’s not comfy to walk on – at least ours isn’t!

  7. I have had neighbors put in artificial turf in small spaces and they loved it! I love the look of pebbles, but it’s not the easiest thing to walk in, as you sink in as you go. But I absolutely love the look. I really liked the big cement pieces used with them in your photos above. I know it goes modern, but it makes the pebbles more practical. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with!

  8. Personally, I vote no turf. I think it doesn’t belong under a canopy of trees. I love the pebble path, landscaping ideas.

  9. I, fun-killer will say despite the trampoline-heavy fun we all enjoyed as kids, we have several doctor friends (including a neurologist) who all agree that aside from concussion sports, the one activity they won’t allow their children to do is trampolines. So many head/neck injuries. 😕

    1. I second this. Fun, yes. Totally avoidable high potential serious injuries, definitely. A friend’s pediatrician made her swear their kids would always wear bike helmets and never use trampolines.

      For a backyard that doesn’t have to check every box, that’s a lot of possible boxes. The top priority that can make or break all your other decisions is the turf. In the end, it’s always going to be fake and plastic. Are we not trying to avoid this at all costs now? Why go to all the effort an expense to get a house on a property like this and then get fake turf? Your other house has grass, have a picnic at the table. There are clearly a lot other (better) options, especially pavers or permeable areas that can be planted between with ground cover or even herbs if you really must have green underfoot..

    2. I’m also a hard no on trampolines. If you have a net and only let one kid on at a time and maintain it properly you can minimize the risks but basically no one does that. Even if you as the adults set those rules little kids break rules all the time. It’s also a huge liability; it’s considered an “attractive nusiance” just like a pool so in most areas if someone comes onto your property (even without permission) and hurts themselves you can be sued.

    3. Agree! We even had a neighbor with an in-ground trampoline (seemingly safe) and their kid STILL broke his back on it and had to do all sorts of physical therapy.

    4. Allow me to be the voice of dissent among these trampoline naysayers 😉 I grew up with a rectangular-style, above-ground, no-nets-around-the-outside, old-school trampoline and LOVED IT. I spent hours out there in the summer, inventing games and “routines.” We had kids’ parties alllll the time and no one ever got hurt. My parents had one rule when we had friends over: no flips, and no more than two bouncers at a time.

      When the friends left, my parents let my sister and I flip and flop to our hearts’ content. We were in gymnastics classes so we knew how to do tricks properly, which greatly helped with our spatial awareness. (Another tip for parents out there: enroll your children in kiddie gymnastics classes! They’ll learn how to fall properly and not get hurt!) Anyway, pro-trampoline 🙂

    5. Even with proper netting most accidents happen with clashes between kids and it is nearly impossible to enforce the one person at a time rule. We’ve had x2 trampolines, x1 split lip requiring stitches and x1 broken leg. No more trampolines for us!

      Love Mountain House Mondays!!

  10. Some friends have of mine have artificial turf in their backyard. It looks fine, but the stuff gets HOT in the sun. Like burn your feet hot. Not sure if that happens to all brands, but be forewarned.

    1. ohh this is true..

  11. Is moss an option for ground cover? It’s green, so soft to walk on, and won’t track powder and rocks into your house. Also, maybe you can cover the chain link fence with ivy or some other pretty evergreen climbing vine. My parents have ivy and it looks like a beautiful living wall in their back yard. And my mother-in-law has climbing hydrangea and it is so pretty. But I’m not sure what would work in your plant zone. And yes to a trampoline!

    1. Hard no on ivy, just housing for vermin, bugs and snails….yuck

      1. As someone who had to pull Ivy out, because in addition to the above points, especially concerning vermin, it takes over everything anywhere near it and is practically impossible to get rid of. Never plant Ivy!

        1. Sounds like you had one of the invasive varieties of ivy. Some types are more mannerly.

    2. exactly what I was thinking….plant “confederate Jasmin” (also called evergreen star jasmine) on the fence. We did this to cover unsightly lattice under our deck and it was TOTALLY COVERED and a beautiful green wall in a couple years!!!!
      It has big waxy green leaves that stay all year and bonus: it smells divine!
      This is a beautiful solution to spending 10k on a fence that you don’t need because you back up to greenery:)

  12. Instead of grass, what about some kind of groundcover? Nurseries usually have a whole section dedicated toward plants that can be stepped on without damage. I have a type of sedum in my garden that is great at this and fast spreading. There are books dedicated to the “no mow lawn” movement (just type “no mow yard” on Amazon)…it’s supposed to be a good alternative for the environment and low maintenance.

    1. Agreed – and talk with the nursery staff about plants that are native to the area, so you’re not planting an invasive species that will threaten the ecology of the woods next door.

  13. Young house love just bought a cute hot tub! I’m sure it was in stock and not that expensive !

    1. I thought of YHL as well! Looks like their’s is a Jacuzzi J-LX. They cover the details on their podcast in Episodes #104 & #107.

      1. I was going to chime in with this also. I pinned for when we finally get around to updating our pool/yard. It’s the plastic Jacuzzi goodness on the inside, but with clean lines to hide the tacky on the outside.


  14. Please no fake turf.

  15. Long-time nurse here echoing Kate F’s comment: please check the info at the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons before choosing a trampoline.

    1. a trampoline park just opened near us and my daughter has 4 friends who have broken a bone using it thus far…with just once in a great while visits!

      1. My husband went with our son to a trampoline park. 10 minutes later he had torn ligament and swears to never step on a trampoline again. Those things are evil!

        1. My friends husband broke all the bones in his ankle on a trampoline and had to have major reconstructive surgery with pins, etc to fix it. So fun but not worth it.

    2. Also check with your homeowners insurance, they often times will void a policy or make it vety expensive to insure if you have a trampoline on the property.

  16. We spent a LOT of time shopping for a hot tub. My hope was to find something that wasn’t hideous but it turns out they all still look like hot tubs. But my husband is so happy with it. We have a Bullfrog R7 in white. The biggest thing with hot tubs is they’re trying to sell hundreds of bells and whistles with space-age jets that rotate and spin and make you a drink and do your taxes, it’s really hard to find one that is simple.

  17. I don’t get the attraction of a hot tub. Gross and bacteria infected. Shudder!

  18. I encourage you to use the planning services of a good landscape designer familiar with your area. An excellent designer will spend time with you, Brian and the kids, asking millions of questions to understand what you want to do in your landscape and what you want your landscape to do for you. They can prepare a phased plan for you, based on your priorities and budget. The person I worked with spent hours asking me questions, many of which I would never have thought of myself, before beginning work on the design.
    Your focus is usually and understandably on appearances but this is one time when function needs to lead.

  19. We have a molded plastic hot tub that has a cedar surround- I like it better than most.
    Do you vacuum the turf to get rid of debris?
    I like your idea of a patch to be able to picnic/lay on and rest pebble path, although pebble takes work to clean up debris too.

  20. Something I’ve learned from EHD is that when doing interiors you need to keep the style of the house in mind when designing. So, a ’70s split level isn’t going to be a farm house (no matter how much shiplap you add!).

    Same with outside. What’s the natural environment up there? Is it a wet environment where turf would survive? If so, turf, even artificial, stands a much better chance of fitting in. Is it an arid environment? Turf is likely going to look out of place and fake.

    This might be worth hiring a local landscaping designer!

  21. Echoing other commenters here re noise. With bubbling and splashing, people tend to raise their voices in a hot tub, both adults and children. I imagine this is a feature you’d want to both use with kids and then use as a group of adults (maybe sharing a bottle or two of wine) once the kids have gone to bed. It would suck to have to constantly be checking your volume/shushing one another b/c the kids’ bedroom window is right above the tub.

  22. I have an idea!! What if you nix the gravel idea and the artificial turf idea? This is the mountain house and so far you’ve made it all about using what would naturally belong there. Wood chipping a and clover are perfect ground covers for you. They would blend in seamlessly with the environment. (I think turf is great in a small city lot, but def not for the mountain house. Besides, think about the picnics you will have on soft beds of clover! We used to have a clover ground cover in our yard when I was a kid and I remember spending hours searching for one with 4 leaves.)
    As far as those gorgeous poured concrete pavers go…I get that in these pictures they feel cold, but that’s because there are stones in between them. If you use either mulch or clover as your ground cover in between the poured concrete then the natural materials will visually warm up the concrete and I think it will seamlessly carry the style you have inside through to the
    Ok the hot tub, why not put one inground? Have you ever seen a poured concrete hot tub? They can be gorgeous and sooo comfy. The seats can be molded to you. So instead of building a platform for the hot tub, instead you only have to have the hot tub built into the ground. It’s a significant saving because you are cutting out the cost of the tub itself.
    I have full confidence that you can continue the scandi, cozy, minimal theme outside your house too!!

  23. I just wanna say, I love that you are going to let your kids have some roaming freedom. A little freedom is so good for kids. I have seen high end turf that is really really good. I hadn’t thought about the landfill aspect that someone else mentioned..maybe there is a mix of turf and stone that would be good? because turf does look better in smaller portions.

  24. Give some thought to how many steps it takes to get the the hot tub.
    We have one at our house that we moved into 6 months ago…didn’t really think I was a ‘hot tub’ person. Turns out I totally am:)
    When it’s chilly though, I am beyond grateful that I only have to take 4 wet/freezing steps to get inside.

  25. I’m so Team Brian on the hot tub–my girlfriends and I rented a mountain house in Maine for a vacation, and nights in a hot tub, with the steam and the stars and the gallons of wine and the magic of multiple water jets…oh, my lord, yes. YES. Fight for that tub, Brian Henderson, this is a righteous cause!

    Maybe I don’t know enough about design, but I would imagine, if you buy the ugly tub now, you can figure out a way to hide the ugly when you can do the landscaping. Like…for now, it’s plastic ugly, but soon, you could build a deck around it or you dig it into the ground and landscape around it…in other words, it’s an “eyesore” for now but can be rectified later? I feel like you rise to all design challenges, and that would be a great one for folks: You buy the thing you love that’s not cute, how do you make something so non-cute cute??

    1. The “fight for that tub, Brian” comment just made my day! 🙂

      Want to just echo the many comments already on this post:
      1) buy a comfortable tub and “make it work”
      2) don’t use turf. so many environmental implications! and ultimately hanging out on plastic doesn’t sound great.
      3) hire a landscaper. I’d love to see how you guys collaborate together vs you having to try and figure out landscaping when that’s just not your jam (and you’ll probably spend more time & money frustrated than if you just see how they can help).

  26. My husband LOVES his hot tub. I think they are valuable for a lot of people. I am personally happy with a nice tub.

    I have realized that a landscape expert is really valuable. I know my way around things inside a house, but there is a whole world out there of products and mixing hardscape with softscape. I think it is worth asking a landscape architect.

  27. The exterior colors look great. Is there a spot where they are linked? Thanks!

  28. Please do not put in fake turf. It’s super hot in the summer, not comfortable (neighbors have it), it creates habitat loss and is ultimately destined to be landfill. Oh yeah, and it is fake, which, to me, is the exact opposite of what I would want for a mountain house/nature emersion destination. Please consider living ground cover that is drought tolerant.

  29. Please, please, please pass on the artificial turf!

  30. My sister put fake turf down and:
    * It gets too hot in summer, like reallly hot! Too hot to be nice and thekids hated it.(real grass keep things cooler when it’s hot)
    * When the kids got scrapes on the fake turf, the scratches and scrapes festered, go figure?!
    * It’s bad for the environment. Frogs, good bugs, creatures in general, hate it.
    *It’s MORE PLASTIC TRASH. Please, you’re an Influencer. Influence for good.

    Ground cover (like clover) is the way to go. Good for everyone (including the environment) and….it looks vreat with virtually no maintenance.

  31. We go to a park that has a small area of artificial turf, over a small (fake) hill..its so great to sit on and watch the kids, I would totally do turf. Its way better for playing outside than real grass. As far as hot tubs… I’m with Brian, this is one purchase where function should win out over aesthetic. You can always put plants around, or a cute fence, something to cheer it up.

  32. I would say try not get to fake grass. It’s not the same situation, but when I bought my house I couldn’t afford wood, or even laminate, flooring, so I got lino that looked like parquet instead. It’s very realistic, to the extent that visitors used to bend down and knock on it to check it. But although it looks like wood, it doesn’t *read* like wood, and despite having “wooden” flooring throughout my house I found myself craving wood. I fear you might end up with the same feeling with fake grass.
    There are several excellent suggestions here of natural growth alternatives to grass, and as you’re in a water conservation are I’m sure a local nursery would have a ton of options for your situation. Please at least explore those before you make any decisions about fake stuff.

  33. Our house came with turf and I really like it for lying on and walking on with bare feet. It soaks up the heat of the fun so in the winter here in the Bay Area it’s particularly nice. But we won’t ever replace it with more turf, mostly for environmental reasons.

    Our molded hot tub has a facade of redwood slats that makes it fit into the outdoor environment pretty well. Another idea is to sink your tub into the ground similar to a fish pond. I’ve seen that done really well and when the time comes for replacing ours it’s a possibility that’s what we’ll do. Houzz and Pinterest have some beautiful inspiration shots.

  34. Definitely do the gravel with stepping stones, maybe throw in some seeds through between them all (dichondra reopens is so beautiful and in between stones even magical!)

    Your house is beautiful, so I’m sure you’ll get it right 🙂


    1. Ugh excuse the autocorrect haha

      It’s dichondra REPENS!

      1. Hee. I was wondering. I never knew dichondra even closed, so that it needed to be reopened. 🙂

  35. I love the look of pebbles, but it does prevent being able to walk around barefoot. I don’t know about you, but I like being able to do that in my own backyard! Turf can be ok in small doses, but it has a limited lifespan and has to be replaced every 15-20 years. I’ve always wondered what it must look like, say in years 10-15, before it needs to be replaced. Does it start to look bad? Mondo grass or other groundcover might be good options for green areas to break up the pavers! I’m sure you’ll come up with something amazing!

    1. This was my first thought. Walking barefoot is such a joy, pebbles make it miserable. I wouldn’t even consider artificial turf for all the reasons people have given. Some combination as others have said of pavers, stones, and a ground cover that in reliable in that area, would last longer, be more usable, and look more beautiful. I do agree with others that looking for a landscape designer who is familiar with your climate/microclimate would make a real difference. Familiarity with plant materials, planting schedules, (when you plant has a huge impact on the health of what you plant) and the impact of weather on hardscaping choices is a real expertise.

    2. I grew up in the country – the first couple weeks of summer going barefoot on the gravel driveway was painful but we basically had hobbit feet by fall and could run on it no problem. I don’t have an opinion, this just brought up that memory 🙂

  36. I hate fake turf SO much and I definitely think it will look jarring. I will echo the above, consult a specialist and find a drought tolerant ground cover that can be walked on.

  37. Please, anything other than the fake grass.

  38. We have turf and pebbles. Couldn’t love the turf more, so practical and makes more livable space outdoors I always say it’s like a rug for outside. Kids can always be on it, no mud, not itchy, doesn’t stay wet long after rain or frost. Highly recommend! As for the pebbles, my kids love playing in them AND transporting them all around the rest of our yard – basically my husband’s least favorite thing. If you do pebbles be ready for pebbles on your turf, your deck, and everywhere else a

  39. We have a mountain cabin as well. We go there to relax and soak in quiet nature with family and friends.

    It must be exhausting to need everything to be so perfect. Sigh.

  40. Put a Brian approved hot tub in and then build it into a deck or build wood siding around it to look like one of those cedar tubs. Those cedar tubs look soooooo good. There’s got to be a way to do both!

  41. A combination of pavers, pebbles and poured in place concrete pavers create a nice look. Although the ground needs to be level…..hmmmmm….

  42. Also no turf if it repels wildlife. The number one thing that made my kids huge nature lovers is the fact we don’t spray chemicals so our home tends to attract every frog, bee, butterfly, worm, caterpillar, bird in the neighborhood thus turning my kids into avid nature lovers and explorers. Best decision I ever made was to not douse our home in chemicals that kill off life.

  43. My dad has turf in his backyard and it does look a tinge fake, but not ugly. And it’s super easy to keep clean. He just uses a leaf blower to collect all the fallen leaves and tree mess from above and then baddabing it looks fabulous again.

  44. Check out Lauren Liess’ raised garden beds on top of pebbles…looks so beautiful and warm! and it’s surrounded by lots of greenery in the form of trees which it looks like you have!

  45. I like the hot tub location idea. Just get a plastic one, inside should be a light color or else it feels like murky water (and you can see the dirt). They make ones with cedar sides that look pretty enough and you can always dial it up with styling. If anyone can make a hot tub look chic, it’s you.

    I think paths, landscaping and bark is going to serve this property well and be easiest on your budget and to maintain long term. For picnics and naps, get an outdoor table and a hammock. I just don’t think the turf will get used much. In LA we sit on the grass, but at my family’s mountain/lake house, the ground is cold and filled with bugs and ants (and sometimes snakes). We picnic at a table next to the fire pit, and take naps in a hammock or on lounge chairs on the deck. Are you thinking to add a fire pit? Is this yard good for star gazing?

  46. Landscaping on the mountain is such a head ache. I haven’t seen a single instance of the artificial turf here looking real enough to convince me that it’s worth the cost. Stick with easy to maintain (and repair, because w.i.n.t.e.r.). The pebbles, bark, and limited landscaping that is allowed will look beautiful and achieve the goal of blending into the forest. As for the hot tub…let him have his way and choose what he likes best. None of them are really aesthetically pleasing, yet they are all enjoyable. It’s all about compromise, right?

  47. Love the look of the outside of the mountain house. I agree with most of here and would not put in turf. I would totally love the clovers. About the hottub. We have a swim-spa (an enormous hottub with swim jets) in our backyard and that is a BIG BIG box (25 feet). We build it half way in the ground and build a redwood deck around it so you can step in it easily. If you build in you have to make sure there is a pump to get any rainwater out since that’s the lowest point in the yard (to where the rain water flows) and the electrical/pumps of the tubs are mostly on the lowest point. Also a point is the noise. Don’t place the tub close to neighbors (just like your fire pit), the jets make a lot of noise and yes, you raise your voice and kids will scream and laugh. You don’t want neighbors getting annoyed with you-nothing worse then to listen to people in hot tubs drinking -too- much wine ;-(
    Last thing I wanted to point out is the material on the ground around the hottub. You don’t want any dirt/rocks/pebbles etc on your bare feet and into the tub…. So a smooth pathway or a deck is necessary around the tub. Can’t wait what you come up with. LOVE your blog.

  48. For synthetic grass check out Superlawn Xtreme 80 oz. I was completely opposed to synthetic but was outnumbered, so this was a tough sell for me and after looking at samples this one was the obvious winner. It has a lot of density with brown roots and real enough looking two-tone green. In small quantities it looks okay. 100% permeable backing, shine block, heat block. All synthetic has the advantages of no water/chemicals/fertilizer. My online research found that recycling is possible but it’s not like you can put it in the blue bin, and its more often done with sports turf (and even most of that is repurposed rather than recycled). The individual materials are recyclable but separating them to be able to recycle is the issue. Hopefully there will be more accessible recycling options for residential applications within the next 10-20 years (the lifespan of this product) but it’s definitely a factor in deciding real vs synthetic.

  49. My neighbors got the artificial turf. It looks… weird. In winter, there is green grass under the snow, which looks really fake. In Spring there is very muddy sad looking grass. In the summer under full sun it looks terrific, but they have to clean it up after storms.

  50. I am a huge proponent of turf with kids. We replaced our (muddy) grass with turf and are outside so much more now! This is in Texas and our backyard is quite shady – the grass wasn’t growing well and we get a lot of rain. Now it can rain all weekend up until Sunday afternoon and we can still have a picnic lying around on it that night. Super easy to maintain. It’s gotten really popular where I am – I think because there have been so many aesthetic improvements and families with young kids (us!) really like it. Wouldn’t put it everywhere but I do think it’s super practical and can increase your backyard usage. Which is kind of the goal.

  51. Beautiful space!! I think this space is asking for a more natural landscape one that is deserving of the name “Mountain House”. Turf looks great in those pictures because they are contained spaces that work with artificial materials. Your space is in the mountains and flows into wooded land and you want to enhance that, not take away from it. I love the ideas of pebbles, stone and other natural materials. In my opinion it should look unkempt while still containing the elements that you are looking for.

  52. My feeling at this moment is, you’re in the mountains. Don’t citi-fy it too much. You want it to be an escape from your city home, right? That said, creating a cool outdoor room for your hot tub- a place that you will really want to use, seems like a great idea. For the yard, what about using some flagstones or decks surrounded by plants/shrubs/trees that don’t need much water or tending? I have seen some cool spaces featured in Dwell Magazine, but also checked out a lot of books on Japanese design and Japanese garden design from the library that might be inspirational.

  53. Question –

    What is the purpose of the artificial turf / hardscaping?

    You’ve already said it’s not really needed as a play area for the kids because they have all that other acreage near your house.

    Is it to be able to host large groups outdoors? If it’s to be able to have a bunch of people standing around on it, then I’d say go for a patio — it’s really uncomfortable to have people standing on pebbles and the turf will be way more noticeably fake once you’re standing right on it.

    Is it to look at? Then why not do some xeriscaping and put in drought-resistant plants instead of having a wide open blank space?

  54. Please don’t do turf – it would stand out like a sore thumb in that setting, and the environmental costs to using it are also huge.

    Pebbles interspersed with pavers, you could also soften the edges with interplanted thyme varieties that don’t need irrigation. But talk to a landscape designer, they’ll know best for your area.

    Have you thought about an in ground spa instead of a hot tub…? They look great – frankly they can look like anything since you’re shaping it yourself.

    Another thing to consider is using a salt water system instead of chlorine – so much healthier for your skin and lungs and they’re easy to maintain.

  55. Love the last pic of patio area with deck and stone❤️

    We had a hot tub for 15 years and would never again have one that wasn’t attached to a swimming pool. Stand alone ones are a breading ground for bacteria. Off season frogs love to live in the pipes. And the thought of soaking in mass amounts of chlorine in order to be safe doesn’t sound ….well, safe.
    (P.s. we live in Naples, Florida so maybe the frog situation would be different for you:)

  56. The outside is pretty adorable already – that indoor/outdoor flow is indeed magical. Excited to see what you do with the space now or over the years. 🙂

  57. I’d avoid the fake grass. Who needs more plastic? And it doesn’t provide a habitat for critters. I love the hardscaping (ie concrete, stone) photos you posted. It seems to fit with the more minimalist vibe and looks great. I’m assuming it’s much easier to maintain. You can plant clover, or ground cover plants in between the stones for a little bit more greenery.

    I’m with you on the hot tub. Can’t stand those clunky plastic ones!!

  58. I can’t imagine putting in fake turf at a nature-retreat vacation home. And ultimately, everything degrades, which means more microplastics in your soil. A mix of hardscaping, mulch, and plants that don’t guzzle water like grass sounds lovely!

    I also can’t imagine adding in a gas firepit, although I understand the intense draw of having a fire pit. But more gas lines = more risk, and we have a decade to wean ourselves off fossil fuels if we want our children and grandchildren to have a shot at a livable planet that resembles the one we know.

    1. “…ultimately, everything degrades, which means more microplastics in your soil.” Soooo true!

  59. Not loving the idea of artificial turf at a mountain house. It does get hot. Lots of good ideas from previous posts regarding mixtures of clover and hardscape. I too am not a fan of wood chips. My pest company told me ants love woods chips. Got rid of all my wood chips years ago. Ants LOVE me!! Have you considered decomposed granite for your walking paths? A landscape designer recommended it for our cabin. It is very natural looking. Just need to have a buffer (hardscape) between any entrance to the house and the DG to reduce any bits or pieces tracked into the house. https://www.gardenista.com/posts/hardscaping-101-decomposed-granite/

  60. We love our hot tub (we call it a spa bc we’re fancy) and we love our turf. We also have pebbles and poured concrete pavers—love them too. Two things that surprised me: turf is rarely wet! You can sit in the grass and not get a damp bum. It’s the best. The second—kids love pebbles. It’s annoying. They have toys and a pool—but they just want to play w the pebbles so I spend time sweeping them back into place, picking them out of turf, leveling them back out…

  61. I think the reason that turf looks good in the photos you shared is that the spaces are completely closed off and live in their own bubble. I assume your back fence looks out onto lots of greenery and the contrast between your artificial turf and the real stuff would be pretty jarring, IMHO.

  62. I’m echoing everyone else… Skip the turf!! Go with pebbles and some ground cover – moss, creeping thyme, etc. A local landscape designer would have a much better sense of what will grow and work best in the area.

    And for the hot tub, get something bubbly and fun and comfortable. You can disguise it with landscaping or a pretty surround like someone already suggested.
    Also already mentioned – keep the distance btwn the hot tub and the door to a minimum!! Using a hot tub on cold days is amazing until you have to race out of there

  63. Landscaper here. I know pebbles look great in photos, but MAN, keeping it pristine like in your pictures is a constant battle, and if you’re using smaller pebbles, they’re constantly getting tracked into other areas. Plus when installed more than an inch deep, they become a litterbox for all the neighborhood animals. It makes me cringe every time a homeowner is like, “I want something low maintenance, like river rock.” Even with landscape fabric under it (which is completely ineffective after a year or two) and a leafblower, getting all the crud out of it if you have any tree cover at all is a chore.

    If this was my yard, I’d go for using a local stone for large stepping stones and/or a path and seating areas, and different grinds of bark mulch to define planting bed vs path fill. I’d also add a LOT more low growing greenery and use that to define areas as well. For a mountain house, I’d want to create some sort of woodland garden. Some of the newer mahonia cultivars look really ferny (google Soft Caress), and they’re hard to kill and don’t get huge and are also a great choice for water-thrifty areas. I’m sure if you can find a garden designer who is also a nerdy gardener (you might be surprised by how many who aren’t), some creative plant choices would go a long way to settling the house into the landscape and tie it into the natural area beyond and also break up those huge expanses of mulch without adding much maintenance work at all.

    1. this is the best advice on here!!!

      *owner of gravel-scaping that must be weeded and raked and pebbles swept out of the house constantly!

      1. Ditto!

        1. Agreeing with this advice! I had a gravel patio and pathway and it always looked messy (and even with a leaf blower I couldn’t get it nice). Plus it was awful on the feet. I just covered it with DG this spring. So far so good – it looks a lot more uniform and is much easier to keep clean. I’ve heard complaints that DG tracks on your feet, but I don’t notice that to be a problem. My dogs don’t track it in, and I have a doormat that solves that problem for humans. It may be a bigger issue if it rains a lot. I’m in the desert so I can’t comment on rain really.

          In short: gravel sucks, DG might be worth considering since I didn’t see it mentioned!

  64. We have cedar tub (with jets!), but I wouldn’t put one in a house that you’re only at part time, especially in the mountains. They take longer to heat up, especially when it gets cold, and are much higher maintenance, since the tub itself leeches organic matter and requires a more sophisticated filtering system to stay clean. My parents sunk their hot tub and built a deck around it at the patio level and it’s practical without being an eyesore!

  65. I’m in Arizona and the city of Scottsdale offers rebates for removing your grass and also does water assessments. That said, our house came with grass and it’s created a horrifying water bill. Our plan is to remove it and go for a modern desert landscape with pebbles and walkways as well as sitting areas.

  66. Don’t let the naysayers shame you into forgoing the in-ground trampoline. I have 3 rambunctious boys who all grew up jumping endlessly on ours. Are there risks? Sure. For me it was worth it. You are not a negligent parent if you decide it’s worth it to you too! Oh, and since we are throwing around credentials, I’m a rehabilitation doc and I say it’s fine. 🙂

    1. Thanks Carrie! They had almost scared me off, and I’m about to buy one. What you wrote feels the most right to me.

    2. I agree. I have 4 boys and they all ride skooters/skateboards, ride dirt bikes, ski, play sports, and yes, jump on trampolines. Yes, I know people who have gotten hurt doing every single one of those things. But my boys are an active and happy bunch and I’m not going to wrap them in bubble packaging and I’m not going to feel bad that I allow them to do those things. To each their own.

      1. Well said! Yes! It’s good for boys and girls to have a little danger! Our trampoline has been in constant use by our big family daily for 10 years. Its the best for burning off energy and we live it.

    3. I agree! We had an in-ground trampoline and our 3 boys loved it. When our boys were younger they’d all be doing front flips etc. all at the same time and they had such fun! No injuries that i remember. We’ve recently moved and are planning on installing another one.

  67. Plant California native plants and grasses. Conventional lawn and artificial turf are not the only options. You will save on water and maintenance and help provide food and shelter for birds, bees, and butterflies. Your children will love to watch them and learn so much and you will help to preserve biodiversity in this state. It would be best to hire a native landscape designer if you are wanting to do it well as most conventional landscape designers (even if they say the know native plants), are not well-versed in the establishment and maintenance of native plants.

  68. Do not put in bark!!!! I also don’t love turf, but bark is the worst!!!!!!!!!!!!! (I am not exaggerating with the exclamation points) First, you will endlessly be pulling slivers out of little feet, especially if you get the trampoline/kid keeper, even if you get the shredded stuff. Second, it will get all over your living room, and you will spend your vacation endlessly vaccumming it up. We are currently growing in walkable groundcover to replace the bark (also I am assuming it offers better fire protection), and extending our deck.

  69. We just put turf in the back yard and it’s amazing. It’s super soft, has variation of color so it doesn’t look just green and it’s so easy to clean up even with five dogs roaming about. Plus it gets warm in the sun it’s lovely to hang out on!

  70. Merely adding to others’ comments: ground cover rather than artificial turf, which always seems to look artificial, our kids loved the trampoline, wood fired pizza ovens contribute to air pollution, and an outdoor kitchen at a mountain house, hmmm, I would definitely put that on hold, possibly forever, yes to landscape architect. I am squeamish about hot tubs so cannot make any suggestions on that item! Take your time!!!

  71. Hi Emily, what about some low groundcover instead of grass? There are quite a few that are soft, fast-spreading, drought tolerant, and can handle heavy foot traffic. Thyme comes to mind. It smells wonderful when you walk on it, you can use it for cooking and it is deer-resistant as well. MInt is another. Groundcover would give you some green where you want it without the water needs and maintenance of grass.

  72. What about the hot tub John and Sherry from Young House Love installed? It’s pretty and isn’t a cedar ring…

  73. Yes to a hot tub and trampoline!

  74. I haven’t read through all the comments, so this was probably mentioned–I wouldn’t put the hot tub too far away from anything. Make it part of the yard even if it’s not too pretty- mainly for safety, but also I think you’ll use it more.

  75. Please please please think about the environment and skip the astroturf. It is unrecycable plastic trash in form of fake gras.

  76. I am a landscape architect by trade, so I get a fair number of artificial turf samples and you would be SHOCKED by how realistic some of them are. And, anecdotally, kids seem to LOVE playing on artificial turf because the turf uses a lot of rubber in the construction, so it’s kinda springy and it feels amazing underfoot. Just my opinion, but if I had kids I would vote for high-quality artificial turf rather than pebbles which are often painful and awkward to walk on and a maintenance nightmare.

  77. Can you put in a native sedge or sedum to mimic grass, but in a natural, drought tolerant, and no-mow way? Not sure if that is a way to bypass the grass law. My vote would be to avoid artificial turf because it seems like germ pool to me…but I’ve never had to research it so I may be wrong. I’d love to see a hardscape yard. I also feel like you’d be able to build some thin panels to frame the hot tub if you found it to ugly. Honestly, I find it interesting you are so concerned about it hot tub being ugly. It’s just a hot tub, and not the focal point of your yard or home.

    1. Another vote for California-friendly no-mow grass (I think it’s actually mow once or twice a year)…and yes, a Japanese soaking tub!

  78. A wood Japanese soaking tub! Beautiful and functional!

    1. Great suggestion.

  79. We recently added a outdoor kitchen to our home. The only thing I wanted was a pizza oven which my husband didn’t want it. Needless to say I am going to purchase a Sloan pizza oven this summer. Can you guys do a built in hot tub? I also agree to add clover!!!

  80. Are you at all into golfing?? Even just a little bit?? We put a putting green in our backyard surrounded by drought tolerant plants and I love it! And I’m not even a golfer! It gives us the green that we wanted, it’s really fun to play on and we can throw a blanket on it and have mini picnics. To me, it’s been the best of both worlds.

  81. One more comment on artificial turf…..when we moved to the house we’re in, we inherited a large patch of it. I couldn’t wait to tear it out due to all the rabbits in the vicinity pooping in it all day long. My grandchildren were very small at the time and the thought of them kneeling and playing in it after getting out of the pool seriously grossed me out. Would pass on this stuff unless you are looking for a putting green!

  82. We have a big 7 person plastic hot tub on the side of our Oregon house. With that: it’s so much fun with the kids in the snow and its easy to maintain. My house is a really dark brown and I was admit that the hot tub be a really dark brown with a nice dark brown cover. We have a nice stucco wall on one side and its on a paver patio that is around the house (connects to other patios) and continues on down the side of the house as a path with trees, flowers, boulders and so on. It looks pretty darn good.

  83. I’m definitely for pebbles/pavers/mulch and NO turf. As a second home I think you would want as little maintenance as possible which means keeping the design “loose” and natural-like. This is a mountain home and the landscaping should reflect the environment, IMO. All the inspiration photos with modern/clean lines look great but only when there’s not a stray leaf in sight. If the large bush (looks like a cleyera) by the grill is bugging you, for now you could take the top 1/3rd of it off and trim sides with loppers and not harm it. Now is the time to prune not late in the season. Can’t help you with the hot tub (not a fan), but I’m sure you can find a way to “trim it out” to suit your overall design. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

  84. What colors did you use for the exterior paint? Body and trim?

  85. Have you considered micro clover instead of bark mulch or turf?

    It’s a great, eco-friendly alternative to grass. Doesn’t need mowing or watering. May be a viable option for you!? It’s quite lovely to look at and soft for littles playing. We have it in the street-facing area of our property. Youtube has tons of tips and examples.

    Here’s a quick article about micro clover: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/manitoba-clover-lawn-1.4126994

  86. Trampolines are a Mormon thing??? Huh, I never knew.

    I agree with you — those molded plastic hot tubs are so UG-LEEEEE. Hate. Why can’t anyone design an attractive hot tub? I love the cedar Japanese style tubs. I don’t need jets. But it sounds like Brian does?

  87. Pebbles and kids is the worst combo, especially if you have it in between stepping stones. Nothing a kid loves more than throwing and digging up pebbles!! It will never stay how it looks in these pics!

  88. Do you absolutely need a hot tub? We thought a sauna and hot tub would be a wonderful addition to our Lake Arrowhead cabin. However, it became a nightmare. We stopped using it, emptied it and it became an expensive eyesore on our deck. Despite having a cover, insects and animals still found a way inside. We also either had to hire someone year round to maintain, empty it before leaving then clean and refill it when arriving (which was a complete water waste) or spend time cleaning and shock treating it when we arrived each visit which became laborious and left us unable to use it for a day or two after the shock treatment. Just something to consider.

  89. If you decide to go with some turf, consider this: turf has tiny black rubber pellets (think mouse droppings) throughout it that will get into your shoes. The little pellets will be scattered throughout your house.

  90. wooly thyme and stepping stones is amazing! also small clumping native grasses (buffalo grass? I don’t recall the name, but someone out there knows it… You won’t be having a picnic on it, but it gives that grassy margin feel without the water consumption.

  91. Check out Springfree Trampolines, we have had one for 7+ years and the kids are still out there daily, no injuries so far and they hold up great.

  92. Did I miss a post on the exterior of the house itself? Ive been wanting to hear what the paint color is. Thanks!

  93. The second a breeze hits the artificial turf, it STINKS HORRIFICALLY of dog pee…….assuming you have a dog or a guest with a dog. It’s super gross.

  94. I like artificial turf but only where it looks like real turf could grow – which requires full sun and you have so much tree cover and lovely woods that I think it will look fake. I think there are ways to get the green you want and the softness without it. I know it feels like the last way you want to spend money but I think partnering with a landscape designer who knows your climate would be money well spent. Regardless it is a garden and you will want it to change over time!

  95. Have you checked out AutoCamp in the Russian river area of Nor Cal?! I love their landscaping ideas…mountain-y but modern! Clean and crisp but still embracing the idea of relaxed camping. Maybe that will give some ideas?

  96. My friend’s husband solved the ugly plastic hot tub dilemma by nestling into a three-sided pergola that he built for her. It affords privacy, noise reduction, and hides the workings and ugliness, all at one time! Plus, you can hang beautiful plants from the rafters, or install towel hooks, and even a curtain rod across the front, for extra…privacy.

  97. I apologize if this is a repeat.
    I found out last year that according to pediatric orthopedic doctors, kids under the age of 6 should not use trampolines because their bones are too fragile and can snap. So please read up on it and decide if you might want to wait until Birdie is old enough before you put one in. There are tons of “safe” choices out there that mitigate the other risks. But there is nothing a trampoline company can do about the maturity of your kid’s bones. And I am guessing you are pretty far away from an amazing children’s hospital when you are at the mountain house.

    Hope this was helpful and not annoying. Thanks for sharing this process.

  98. Consider putting in a hammock instead of turf! My kids spend so much time in our hammock swinging and pretending, and it is our favorite place for reading time. We got a huge one that can hold our whole family (2 adults + 4 kiddos) and it seriously is our happy place!

    1. Yes! And kids love playing underneath hammocks as well: throw a blanket over it and you have an instant fort or tent.

  99. What color green did you end up using on the exterior? We are just about ready to paint our exterior and I wanted to do a dark olive-y green with black trim and so far it’s between benjamin Moore fatigue green and sherwin Williams roycroft bronze green. But I wanna know what you ended up using for reference!!

  100. Please Please do hardscaping! It’s a mountain house! You yourself said your kids are loving enjoying and exploring nature. My vote for natural all the way.

  101. Team no fake turf!! I like your pebble plan. Can you do drought-tolerant/xeric lawn for that tiny lounge-y spot? Like buffalo grass?

  102. I would have said no to the turf, but my sister in AZ just put some in a small area and it’s amazing! It looks real and feels so soft. I would totally use it! Also, we put in a walkway with pebbles and I really dislike it. It spreads everywhere and kind of hard to walk on as everything shifts underfoot. We also have ground cover(woolly thyme) inbetween stepping stones which is soft and pretty but I would caution using it in a place you want to actually sit in. The bees love it when it flowers and so I couldn’t imagine using it as a full ground cover with kids unless there’s a kind that doesn’t flower? I love your last inspo picture with the hardscaping. My parents cabin has dirt and mulch constantly being tracked into it from the forest and I would imagine that a cement patio and walkway like that would help reduce the amount of dirt/dust that gets tracked into a cabin.

  103. This looks amazing!!! Even without all the updates you’d originally planned.

    Jess Ann Kirby did a really cute and modern porch/pergola with a privacy “wall” that I could see working well for your hot tub room. They are also growing a vine up the outer side that will eventually grow over it and provide more privacy. https://www.jessannkirby.com/2018/10/our-porch-pergola-reveal-a-new-outdoor-dining-set.html

    The pebble and cement “stair” is what my friends are doing and my dad and stepmom just did river rock with creeping thyme to go in. I had friends with fake turf. Yes it is fake, but it works and is fun to lounge on and for me and my grass allergies, I love it!

  104. I remember a friend having a hot tub and I’d dread getting out of it simply because I HATED stepping on the pebbles after soaking in it. Such a vivid memory that I totally forgot until now!

  105. Artificial turf looks artificial in large patches but looks great when paired together with a combination of other surfaces ie pebble, crazy pave and garden. Do it in small doses for softness.

    1. We’ve used real turf in our front courtyard and artificial around our pool.

  106. Skip the turf. It will look fake and you will constantly need to clear off the leaves etc. There are low growing low water use ground cover plants that can take some foot traffic. Pavers or pebbles in high traffic areas. Check with a local nursery to see what will grow there. Dymondia comes to mind, but I don’t know if it is the best for your spot.

  107. Are you not allowed to have grass/turf of any kind or just not allowed to have Kentucky bluegrass? There are tons of native grass mixes (buffalo grass comes to mind) that are xeriscape friendly, don’t need to be mowed and happily form a lawn. Thyme looks great as well. I’d do something like those wayyyyy before turf

  108. Dear Emily,
    To get lusher and healthier plantings by passively integrating all the rainwater available to you on site, I would recommend getting your hands on a copy of the book _Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond_ by Brad Lancaster, giving it to someone on the team to take a look at, and integrating some of the simple and inexpensive landscape design strategies presented there. It’s probably the single thing you could do that could give you the most return on a very tiny investment.
    Dear Emily, Please, please, please think of your children and grandchildren and the environment they will have to live and play in and do not get turf. The poisonous decomposing plastic bits from the turf will be polluting the soil and water around the house for centuries to come. Hormone disrupters. It is a serious, serious problem.
    I am afraid that if you get or promote turf I will have to unsubscribe, and I really don’t want to do that.

  109. Emily I totally recommend adding plants rather than fake turf. If you want a turf like are look into sedges (Carex). Sedges are grass-like plants that are short. Some are more bunch like and others are rhizomenous so they spread more like a turf. You can mow them down at the end of the season. They are also cool season so they come up very early. I’m not sure what is native to your area but I love carex pensylvanica or carex sprengleii. The large shrubs won’t transplant well and you will seriously damage the tree roots trying. Best Wishes!

  110. We have plenty of rain and plenty of grass. Too much! So when we built our new house, we surrounded it with pea gravel and natural stone that we had excavated while digging the foundation. We are going into our second summer and it’s been wonderfully low maintenance. It can get pushed around by little running feet, wheelbarrows and toys, but you just push it back into place. We also put down that black landscaping cloth -the thick cloth kind, not plastic. It minimizes weeds poking through.
    Good luck on the hot tub battle! It’s a Cold War that I’m currently fighting, too.

  111. You’ve probably done so much plumbing already it’s just not in the cards but I am completely obsessed with the outdoor shower at my lake cottage. It was the first big outdoor improvement we did (after replacing the septic.) The enclosure is cedar and smells like heaven when wet. I love to bring the kids back from the lake and get everyone hosed off outside before coming in. It’s your vacation home… how much do you want to be sweeping inside. Reconsider!

  112. Hi Emily, I feel your pain, but I think you’re doing the most important thing, even though you’re probably just itching to get going: Live up there for the summer so you can see how you use it, where the sun falls at different times, and so on. You could do a bit of shrub removal to make it feel like something’s getting done.

    I feel pretty strongly on the side of no fake turf. Somehow it just seems wrong in this setting. With good-sized decks, I vote for pebbles with organically-shaped stone pathways (not rectangular or square). It might not be your first choice, but it would fit with the setting.

    I would immediately plant a cedar or other evergreen grouping (or hedge?) for privacy and noise barrier between you and your neighbors. It won’t solve the problem 100%, but it will look great and give you more privacy.

    It’s looking really nice! Enjoy the summer!

  113. Just wanted to say that I have two little girls that are 7 and 5 and I’d say maybe 1 year ago I started letting them go off into our woods alone. We do have a creek but both can swim and everything has been totally fine! The worst thing that’s happened to them was a little poison ivy on the big kid. Good luck!!

  114. Love the look of pebbles, but they can be absolute torture to walk on barefoot.

  115. I notice that all the pictures of pebbles show rather cool colored pebbles. Lots of grey-blue and white-ish stones. Now, that will certainly work well with the exterior color of the house, but you do have warm toned furniture on the back patio. Perhaps warmer colored stones, with more interest added by varying the sizes and having large stones (small boulders) in more places would make it feel more inviting to Brian’s eyes? I’m sure these photos are not the only ones EHD has looked at, y’all probably looked at hundreds until your eyeballs fell out. But maybe take another pass with the motive of finding warm stones for Brian? You may be able to get your wish – it seems like a lot of the time he responds to the feel of something without being able to articulate it at first. That may be the vibe he’s getting from all the pale stone and he just can’t do the mental leap to how it will look once you make changes for it to work in context with the house and surroundings you actually have.
    $.02 🙂

  116. Emily, turf may look good, but it’s likely it won’t feel good. It gets very hot in the sun, and if you ever get a pet that pees on it (or even a feral animal which is not out of the question given the location of the house) it will smell to high heaven.

  117. Really late to the party here, but I just wanted to say I think its SUCH a smart idea to take your time with the outdoor space. Living there for the summer to see how you use the space before you invest time and money is a great idea. And my opinion on your specific questions are:

    1. NO turf. Please, no. I can’t imagine how it won’t look jarring in this mountain house context.

    2. Be careful with pebbles/gravel. I love the look, but then we owned a house where it was installed as a patio and on pathways and I hated it more than anything. It hurts to walk on barefoot and it tracks in dust and grime and tiny little rocks everywhere in your house. We couldn’t rip that out fast enough. I agree with others who said walk able groundcover.

    3. Team hot tub all the way.

    4. Trampoline…I’m on the fence. Our pediatrician told us that kids get hurt on it mostly when multiple kids of different ages are jumping together. I have three kids with a 6 year age span so we decided against it. But your kids are pretty close in size and age and you are probably a much more hands on and vigilant parent than I am, so it might be ok for your family. 🙂 And man are they fun.


  118. I had a cabin in Crestline for a long time, the worst thing was all the work to clean up leaves in the yard. Constantly. The pebbles are beautiful, but could be a real bummer to clean up with all the leaves getting into them. Unless they’re completely dry, then you could probably use a leaf blower. And all of that is irrelevant if you’re going to have a yard service to do maintenance for you. I’m all for the fake turf idea, there are some convincing ones out there. Sure, they’ll cost more, but they’ll look the part longer.

  119. I love landscaping designs from company Mosaic Gardens. They are so natural and functional and gorgeous http://www.mosaic-gardens.com/#/project-south-hills/

  120. Check out Diamond Spas. They are usually custom hot tubs made of stainless steel or copper (GORGEOUS) but they’ve recently started selling an off-the-rack stainless one.

  121. Dymondia looks great with rocks, is silver/green, soft, & also drought tolerant. There are some nice ozone hot tubs (we have kids and I hate the stinky chlorine smell, but didn’t want to mess with salt & pipes) that are almost a granite looking plastic inside, and wood on the outside. Quite nice looking. Check out Wind River Hot Tub company. Out of Denver, but maybe something like it in CA?

  122. I had to stop reading and comment after you wrote about letting your children go off on their own with walkie talkies. I live in the Socal mountains – we have coyotes roaming in our yard, a bobcat that is a regular, raccoons, and we’ve seen a huge bear. We also have mountain lions and they are often seen on their way to the lake to drink. I personally would not let my children out of my sight or go off on their own until they were 13-years old or older. I am not trying to incite fear – it’s simply the truth when you live in the mountains. Water on your property attracts the wild, too, especially during the dry season. A security camera would be a good thing to have so you could see what wanders onto your property.
    On a lighter note, I’m not a fan of artificial turf. Pebbles seem more for warm climates, like a Mediterranean climate. I cannot imagine what would happen to them underneath snow or ice. I think wooden pathways are in keeping with the style of your home and are more in harmony with your natural setting than the other alternatives you presented. Just my opinion.

  123. First of all, your house is fab. Ok, now to the point of this post: I would suggest you skip any gravel/river rocks and go with paving for areas in which you want to walk/place furniture, and use mulch with BOULDERS artfully positioned in areas in which you want to plant. River rocks and (rounded) gravel are SO attractive in pictures, yes, but take it from someone who has had river rock areas at three houses…It is a TON of maintenance to keep nice, especially under trees or shrubs. What happens is weed seeds blow in and start to grow everywhere, as do tree and shrub seedlings. Eventually, a soil layer builds up on top of the weed fabric under the rocks and the entire area will need to be renovated (remove rocks, remove soil and weed fabric, replace weed fabric, put rocks back). Also, when you have a rock/gravel area next to a paved area, there is nowhere to sweep or leaf blow anything off of your patio. You will have to sweep everything into a pile and pick it up with a dustpan. You want to spend your time having fun, not maintaining hardscaping!

  124. We live in a dry climate and installed pea gravel throughout most of our backyard a couple of years ago. I love the look of it and wanted to reduce our water consumption. I anticipated having to clean up leaves in the fall, but didn’t realize how many leaves and twigs fall on it throughout the summer! To maintain the clean gravel look (like what you see in pictures) I have to get on my hands and knees and pick out all the leaves and twigs about once a week for a couple hours. I look forward to the winter when I can take a break! We also get a little bit of gravel in the house from the kids. In your mountain environment, I would probably do some flagstone paths with groundcover.

  125. Emily! Why don’t you find a company to work with to design a scandi-style made-to-order hot tub? I believe all the companies that make them are in North Carolina. We looked into having an in ground one installed because the prefab ones are so ugly. It cost the same as a pool!

  126. Well since you asked, from a grandmother’s perspective, no trampoline, please. Getting rid of the big shrubs encroaching the deck will make a big difference. I don’t think it’s worth the effort to move them. No fake turf – always looks fake. I’d be very careful about which plant ground cover – definitely not ivy or lily of the valley – so invasive! Choose one flatter to the ground without much height (to shelter mice, chipmunks, and snakes). I personally like bark over pebbles and stones…you already have some bigger stones. I’d paint your fence black, which will make it disappear more and plant some shrubs around the perimeter for privacy and to “hide” the fence. Many 6-9 year olds here in CT are obsessed with building “fairy houses” with twigs, leaves, etc from the yard up against trees and or rocks -hours of creative fun outdoors.

  127. Hi,
    LOVE what you’ve done! I think it’s perfect.
    I would add a japanese soaking tub 🙂

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