Murfey Company

Architectural Backyards for the Luxury Home

Rest and relax by the pool
(xy - Fotolia)

The early arrival of summer and the impending Memorial Day weekend remind us that living in Southern California is a perpetual celebration of the great outdoors. Therefore, when designing the perfect luxury home, especially in Southern California, the backyard should not be a secondary consideration. In reality, the backyard should be an extension of the luxury home, complete with outdoor room, pool and hot tub, and water features.

What is important is to have a yard that reflects who you are. If you have a cheeky sensibility, there's nothing stopping you from that grotto or tiki hut, or a miniature erupting volcano (real lava is discouraged, however). Fans of nature and tenth grade literature classes may want to recreate Walden Pond and spend two weeks watching an ant colony (actually encouraged by some mindfulness gurus). The key is to not be afraid to think big. Some important staples, however:

The pool
In rare exceptions, a spectacular pool is a must-have for a luxury home. But how you pool is entirely up to your tastes. Meandering, river-like pools can be ideal for a property with an odd shape or one on multi-levels or a hillside. If you have a view, an infinity pool with a straight edge over a promontory will perfectly frame the property. Lap pools are more than an accessory for the avid swimmers, and nothing says "decadence" like taking a play from William Randolph Hearst, or rolling like a celebrity with a pool shaped as your initials.

And with pool comes hot tub. Some people like lounge seats, some like bench--build it big enough so everyone is satisfied.

Water features
Ponds, streams, fountains, waterfalls--any of these can be combined to accommodate any aesthetic, from classic, serene, kitschy, or a water disco. If you have a larger property, decide how you want to mark off that property. If you have multi-levels, you can have multi-functionality, a different use for each level. Or you can connect the parts with an extended water feature, such as a stream or river pool (not just for the justifiably over-chlorinated water parks). This will help you to utilize more of your space, as it invites you and guests to spend time exploring the grounds.

Outdoor rooms
The single most important feature of a luxury backyard. Will you have a luxury pergola or an indoor-outdoor space, which can be three-quarters open or able to be fully enclosed (for those frigid 70-degree nights).

A note: a luxury backyard is no place for a mere kettle barbecue. You want an outdoor kitchen with table and seating. You want built-in grills, fridge, and a wine fridge. You want practical lighting and chandeliers. And you want fire. An actual fireplace, plus a fire pit (though not in an enclosed space--and still no lava). You also want a place to mount and display an outdoor television.

Tennis court, volleyball court (sand or grass), basketball court, soccer field, or rock wall—if you build it, they will come.

This is what separates the amateurs from the professional backyardists. Sculpture--architectural, classically artistic, or a light installation--is sure to add drama. Just make sure that the installations, as with any of your backyard elements, has the necessary permits, and you've consulted with your designer or contractor to make sure everything functions properly and is safely constructed and installed.

If you want more information on developing the perfect backyard for your luxury home or if you have questions about any part of the luxury home design and building process, visit us at

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