Les Elkind's site

The Outdoor Makeover

Click Here to Read About the Outdoor Makeover
                                                                     Click the image below for a visual tour

Review of Design Elements:                                                            

Laying out the new Back Yard                                                      Sunroom Design

                gallery of Backyard Design drawings             gallery of Sunroom Design drawings

Fireplace Design                                                          The Front Yard (The Farm)

                gallery of Fireplace Design              Gallery of Front Yard Design


  1. I love your “farm” and smile every chance I get to drive by it. 🙂 I hope you are doing well. Big hugs from the Hamners.

    • Thanks, Ellie. Making the web site was almost as much fun as making the garden. It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t have to go to work every day.
      I’m sure you’re a busy lady these days, with your growing family.
      Our best to you, Rick and the kids.

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Being at home more made enlarging our usable outdoor space seem like a good idea. For many years, we had been terrorized by Mr. Chin, the Lawn Nazi, who came every couple of weeks to mow the front and back lawns to keep the place from looking too overgrown. The “lawns” were actually just lumpy stretches of soggy ground, covered by random weeds, native grasses, and a lot of tenacious and invasive Bermuda Grass. Mr. Chin and his minions just whacked all of it down, often including a lot of other things that Francine had planted around the house as well.

We began the outdoor makeover by letting Mr. Chin know we’d be taking back custody of the yard. We had some obvious priorities, like more deck space for sunning and entertaining, but we also decided to pursue our own take on a movement dear to Francine’s heart, called “food not lawns.” Instead of maintaining a front lawn, we decided to use the space to grow edible things, and turn our “lawn” into a food garden. In the back, we replaced the grass with an herb garden and a natural stone hardscape .
We also wanted more covered living space for the Santa Cruz winter, and became taken with the idea of having a greenhouse or sunroom. It was while thinking about what a sunroom might look like that the motivation to learn how to use Google Sketchup was born. My frustration in trying to draw with my hand what I could see, flickeringly, in my mind, gave me sufficient desire to huff and puff my way up the Sketchup learning curve. It was really satisfying when I finally gained enough control of it to model the components of the project we were trying to visualize.


Front of house –BEFORE                   –AFTER                            Back yard –BEFORE                 –AFTER



Gary Cloud and his company, Alpha Landscape (Gato, Carmello, and Elvis) executed the designs and endured my obsessive directions, and now that we’ve lived with the results for a while I’m happy to say the project feels like a great success. When I see before and after views I remember how much our environment has changed, and all for the better.

For more images of the Outdoor Makeover please close this window and return to the previous page

Laying out the new back yard                                                          Getting an idea of the volumes HELLO-anyone??

Overhead view – final plan                                                                    Rotated plan

HELLO-anyone??  HELLO-anyone??

Alternate view                                                                                  Ground level view

deck4b   deck4bx

Early sunroom concept                                                                         Rendering concept with realistic materials modeling glass   

Rotated view of sunroom                                                                         Rotated to show interior

sunroom framed model   sunroom model inside

Virtual view from interior of sunroom                                               Actual view from interior of sunroom
sketchup model of inside sunroom   

Early concept for fireplace/sitting wall                                                  Developed idea for round shape    early fireplace model


Rendered with materials                                                                     Cross Section of fire box


I used modeling clay to show the crew the shape I wanted                     The finished fireplace


Laying out the planter boxes in front                                                   Boxes being constructed
Planter boxes full of topsoil                                                                Flagstones in place -note Alpha Landscape banner   

New fence in – stone waiting to be set                                                Look what we’re growing!


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