Real Estate

Resort living -- at home

Easy maintenance landscaping that makes a statement

by Maytal Mark

Dinner and drinks in the Katwans' backyard looks and feels more like a vacation than a backyard barbecue.

Frequent hosts Alice and Sam Katwan approached their landscaping project seven months after an extensive home remodel with their favorite lakeside location in mind: the Lone Eagle in Lake Tahoe. From the fire pit, to the Jacuzzi, to the weatherproofed sofa set, everything in the Katwan backyard encourages guests to kick back and enjoy dinner, drinks and s'mores in what Alice calls their "outdoor house."

A party in the Katwan backyard usually starts with appetizers and drinks on the sofa chairs before moving to the countertop island near the grill.

"We went with an island because we learned that in most gatherings, that's where people gather and talk," Alice says, adding that guests can easily keep Sam company while he does the barbecuing. The granite-top island includes cabinets and a refrigerator for storage as well as space for recycling and trash bins.

From the grill-side island, guests eat dinner at a formal table. "We sit and eat dinner but we don't always want to stay there," Alice says, pointing to the black metal chairs surrounding the detailed granite table. After digesting, the party moves to the game court, which can be set up for bocce ball, golf or a washer toss.

"We have three boys and it was really important for the backyard to be able to incorporate the kids," Alice says, explaining that most adult guests enjoy playing games as well. The game area also features turf grass, which Alice says makes maintenance simple.

"Every time people would come over my husband would have to spend an hour blowing, mowing, cleaning the lawn," Alice says. "Now no one even notices the difference, and the kids vacuum it for us."

Evenings generally end by the fire pit. "We're always stocked up on s'mores," Alice says, adding that it's a kid guest favorite.

Considering their frequent role as party hosts, the Katwans aimed for easy maintenance landscaping that would make a statement.

"We didn't want anything you would see in any other yard," Alice says. "We wanted a more tropical look and feel but to be able to maintain those kinds of plants here."

The palms and banana plants in the backyard circle the main paved area reserved for lounging, eating and talking.

The front yard also makes a statement with a zig-zag front path and pavers for the driveway.

"Even through it was expensive, it's different," Alice says. "Everyone does cement driveways."

Hydrangeas and other unique plants hug the pathway to the door, creating a welcoming entrance.

The Katwans also noticed that party guests often enter through the side entrance, right into the backyard. They spruced the pathway with stepping stones and green ground cover that sets the tropical tone for arriving guests. "(The side entrance) is something that people don't always think about, but it's the first thing guests see," Alice says.

Incorporating stone, granite and brick, the Katwans' backyard has a warm, lodge-resort feel.

"We have Lone Eagle, Tahoe, and this is Lone Eagle, Mountain View," Alice jokes. Both Alice and Sam love the outdoor lighting when it gets dark.

"The icing on the cake is in the evening when the sun goes down and the lighting goes on," Sam says. The minimal lighting fence running along the sides of the yard and the under-lit surfaces all combine in the evenings to illuminate the patio.

Now a little over a year old, the Katwan backyard has seen many guests come and go -- some more reluctantly than others. "We've had friends who come and they don't want to leave," Sam says.


Contractor: Green Again Landscaping, Joe Sheetz, 650-444-4012

Granite: Quintals Granite & Marble Inc., 408-295-8233

Outdoor furniture: Front Gate

Appliances: BBQ Guys

Goal of project:

Make an outdoor house to make entertaining outside easy

Unanticipated issues:

Spending more than expected

Year house built:


Size of home, lot:

3,000 sq ft on 8,600-sq-ft lot

Time to complete:

2 months


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