Intimate lounge area

No Lawn Backyard Makeover: New Outdoor Living Areas

by / 42 Comments / 7119 View / August 23, 2011

Consider a "no lawn" backyard design to maximize the use of a small yard and create outdoor living areas!

Take a look at how I was able to "stretch" the use of my client, Larry Solomon's tiny backyard into three distinct areas.

Trust me, you won't miss the lawn when you are enjoying every square inch of your precious outdoor real estate as Larry does!


No lawn backyard by Shirley Bovshow


I'm blogging about "no lawn" landscapes today along with my peers at the Garden Designer's Roundtable and the Lawn Reform Coalition.

Take a moment to visit the other blogger's sites noted at the end of this post for more lawn alternative ideas.


Before the Backyard Makeover


Backyard before makeover left side

Before: Left side of backyard- future dining area


What a mess!

My client, Larry inherited this construction-worn backyard and was trusting in me to create miracles.

Larry's idea of the perfect backyard included a spot to lounge, an outdoor dining area to entertain guests, a relaxing fountain and a beautiful garden.

While his tiny plot measured only  45 feet wide by 30 feet deep, I was able to envision Larry's  future outdoor living sanctuary with all of his details almost immediately!


Backyard Makeover middle of yard

Before: I marked the future dining, garden and  lounge areas with landscaping paint. Great visual aide.


Larry's future landscape design did not include a lawn area and I was confident that he would be open to the idea.

My arguments were:

  • No lawn, no mowing. Less maintenance.
  • No lawn, no heavy watering. Smaller watering bill.
  • No lawn, no boring "tract lot" backyard!


He agreed.



Backyard lawn before makeover right side

Far right corner of the backyard- future lounge area


Near house before backyard makeover

Doors leading to backyard. Notice no solid outdoor floors.


The Garden Makeover Plan

  1. Create an outdoor dining area large enough for their antique table and chairs using recycled concrete for the patio floor.
  2. Design a small, year-round perennial garden with fountain that divides the eating area from the new lounge area.
  3. Install a small patio for two chaise lounges. Recycled concrete floors.
  4. Create a new "landing area" for the french doors leading from the house to the backyard.
  5. Small pad for portable BBQ
  6. Decomposed granite and recycled concrete "flagstone" meandering footpath leading to each space.
  7. Water-wise plants throughout.


Let's see how we did.


After Photos


Measuring the furniture on the patio

We measured the table and bench to the patio to make sure there was enough space to walk around and sit down.


After- new outdoor dining patio

After: Dining area. We removed two small palm trees to make room for the new dining furniture.


Fountain garden with low water plants

After: The small fountain and garden bed separates the dining from the lounge areas.


Ornamental grasses surround a two-tiered fountain

After: Ornamental grasses and low water perennials provide year round color in the garden.


New chaise lounge area

After: New double chaise lounge feels intimate and inviting!


Decomposed granite and recycled concrete paver footpath with creeping Thyme

After: Affordable decomposed granite and recycled concrete "flagstone" footpath is softened by velvety, ground-hugging Thyme!


Recycled concrete landing outside of house and BBQ pad

After- We installed recycled concrete pieces for the landing outside of the french doors and created a pad for the portable BBQ unit as well.


Outdoor dining patio

After: Another view of the dining area.


Pathway to narrow side yard makeover by Shirley Bovshow

The pathway leads to a narrow side yard that I also made over.


Narrow side yard makeover by Shirley Bovshow

Read "Narrow Side Yard Makeover" for a complete story of this yard.


View of new dining area from narrow side yard by Shirley Bovshow

View of new dining area from the narrow side yard leading to back yard


Garden Design Details


Dwarf citrus trees planted in containers within the small garden bed

Dwarf citrus trees are planted in containers placed in small, narrow garden beds to maximize space.


Festuca glauca softens the cobble stone garden edging

Festuca glauca softens the edges of the cobble stone


Intimate lounge area

The intimate lounge area is surrounded by fragrance and water


Small, No-Lawn Backyard in Video!


Want to see this garden in a video parody of my show, "Garden Police" (Discovery Channel) called,  "Garden Rescue?"

My client Larry was such a good sport to let us tape in his yard, he even appeared in the TV show!

Although we have fun and act a little goofy in the video, we offer solid advice about Mediterranean plants and cold damage!



Don't limit the use of your yard by thinking that a lawn is a "must have."

If you have small children, a dog or truly enjoy the use of a lawn, then by all means, plant a lawn if it makes you happy.

I like the Eco-Lawn or UC Verde lawn because they need less water to thrive than other conventional lawns, no fertilizing and  require less mowing.


Maximize the use of your yard for YOUR needs, don't just lay wall to wall sod without considering the alternatives!

Hungry for more "lawn less" garden designs?


Posts About Lawn-Less Landscapes

Front Yard Garden Replaces Lawn and Lone Palm Tree

Lawn-Less in Los Angeles

Mar Vista Green Garden Tour

Mar Vista Green Garden Tour Part 2

Narrow Side Yard Makeover

My Garden Makeover: Tract Lot to Fantasy Yard

Extreme Lawn Makeover¦Low Water Plants Take Over!

No Lawn Backyard Makeover: New Outdoor Living Areas


I'm Not Finished….

Please visit and read blog posts from these members of the Garden Designers Roundtable and Lawn Reform Coalition on "Lawn Alternatives"

Now check out posts about lawn replacement from these Lawn Reform Coalition members:

And these members of the Garden Designers Roundtable:




42 Comment

  1. We can clearly see enormous changes in before and after backyard images. Wonderful..
    Well done by the team.

  2. […] Shirley Bovshow in Los Angeles, CA […]

  3. How long did it take to complete the entire makeover?

  4. […] Threshold: Garden, Life, Home : Atlanta, GA Susan Morrison : Blue Planet Garden Blog : East Bay, CA Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT Rochelle Greayer : Studio G : Boston, MA Pam […]

  5. Thanks for the information you have shared in this post…Great job!!

  6. Thanks for visiting EdenMakers and for commenting. Hope to see you here again.

  7. I love this…functional and so pretty…easy to enjoy!

  8. Hi Patrick,
    Thanks for visiting and commenting. I just visited your blog- you’ve got some fantastic plant information over there. I subscribed to your feed so I can be up to date with your posts!

  9. You accomplished so much in so little of a space and it looks like its been there for quite a while. Masterful job, dear.

  10. Thank you for visiting Edenmakers and commenting Michelle. Hope you come back soon!

  11. I like the stepping stones. Lately I have been considering a lawn less garden to reduce the water bill and maintenance.

  12. This is absolutely beautiful! Looks like an wonderful oasis to get away from it all.
    We had a no lawn front yard at our old home with a water garden & a butterfly garden (or butterfly forrest as my grandson called it). Loved it & had many compliments from our neighbors.

  13. Readers should have no trouble at all seeing the value and beauty of a space without lawn here Shirley. Great makeover, and great post!

  14. Hi Jenny- My secret is your next design solution! I just use those concrete pieces like a flagstone paver- i have no shame

  15. Hi Tara= Thanks for commenting. I appreciate your stopping by.

  16. What a great home, lot & focal point views to work with.

    Lawn would reduce the impact of each…

    Beautiful design.

  17. Shirley, I love how you laid this space out–and your recycled concrete stepping stones are to die for. You’ll have to tell me your secret for that. Great post!

  18. Thanks for reading and commenting Jocelyn. Yes, Larry spends his weekends in the garden and he says that he’s having a lot of fun!

  19. Shirley, this was wonderfully educational – and the results are spectacular. I can totally visualize Larry and co. enjoying this space day or night!

  20. Shirley, What a dramatic makeover. I love all the up-close images so you can really get a feel for the space.

  21. Thank you Evelyn for reading and commenting on the blog post. You have a way with words!

  22. Beautiful photos and design, Shirley. You really put the “fun” in functional! Bet he’s out there enjoying the garden every chance he gets.

  23. Hi Pam. Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’m off to read the GDR and LR blogs now!

  24. What a comfortable, welcoming space you created for him. So much more interesting, and useful, than wall-to-wall lawn. Nicely done!

  25. Thanks Gen, I’ll take your awesome compliment and run! I appreciate your taking the time to read through and enjoy the photos!
    Garden design is my first love.

  26. Shirley, what a stunningly gorgeous set of photos. Each area has been so lovingly planned and beautifully executed. As always, I am so impressed not only with your design chops, but your ability to communicate what works in an understandable and inspiring way. Great job.

  27. Thank you Susan. If you are ever in Los Angeles, I’ll set up a tour for you. I really enjoyed learning about the history of the American Lawn on your blog today.

  28. Thank you Linda! Will you be at GWA this year?

  29. This is SO beautiful!! Hope to see you at GWA to chat about all your inspiration.

  30. Shirley, one day I have GOT to see one of your designs in person. Beautiful as always.

  31. No lawn. No lawn. No lawn.
    Love your mantra …

  32. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  33. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  34. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  35. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  36. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  37. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  38. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  39. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  40. […] Shirley Bovshow in Los Angeles, CA […]

  41. […] Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA […]

  42. Hi Shirley, that is absolutely FABULOUS!
    Loved seeing the narrow side courtyard again too which I remembered from the original GDRT posting. Such warm, mediterranean feel!
    Thanks so much for sharing your work with us.

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