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11 Design Solutions for Sloping Backyards

Hit the garden slopes running with these bright ideas for terraces, zones, paths and more Full Story
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siouxxie
we had a downward steeply sloping back yard. it was half an acre and had about a dozen old growth oak trees on it. the rest was weeds that, by law in our dry climate, had to be cut down by June 1st every year (in itself an expense, as the slope was so large and steep it was hard to even stand on to do ourselves)

most of the house was street level in front, but 15 ft off the ground in back, and with a walk-out lower level bonus room and three car garage. sitting on the top deck, you could not even see the bottom part of the property. gorgeous landscaping would have been wasted. (except for the bikers and walkers on the city path below the property)

the oak trees were protected, so there was no cutting them down, or even trimming them back, or building tree houses, (something my grand kids would have loved) the trees were quite buggy, the slope was useless, and we had no back yard.

we thought about installing an infinity pool--perfect place for one, right? we figured it had to be cheaper than moving. nope! between having to protect the root system of the old growth oaks, and the steepness of the slope, it was outrageous expensive.

what we initially loved about the house--the privacy, the sense of BEING in a tree house because the trees were so close to the back of the house, the idea of being so close to nature....all of this got old, and after 7 years, lots of exploration (and shock at the costs) of trying to tame the land into something usable, we finally gave up and moved!

we now live less than a mile away, on a flat third of an acre, with a pool (much more suited to our climate) and every inch of outdoor space is usable--and used! selling the property was not easy--our house was beautiful, but most buyers said: no way to use that half acre or any part of it. we still walk the path below that house occasionally and see that our buyers also have not figured out what to do with the property! (or maybe they just love it the way it is, as we did at first)

we subsequently seriously considered purchasing a house whose way back section of yard was an upward slope. at least with an upward slope, YOU appreciate the landscaping that is done (My spouse immediately thought grape vines) not the people at the bottom of your downward sloping yard.

i offer this (overly long) information as a cautionary tale. make sure you know what you're getting into with sloping yards that are not already tamed in some way and made usable. know what municipal codes allow you to do, or require you to do. understand the costs involved to get yards as shown in the article (all stunning)
August 13, 2014 at 9:38AM     
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chikadodle likes 4 comments on an ideabook

Mondrian Inspires a Modern Addition

Primary colors and special glass are just the start of what makes this San Francisco home a case study in artistry Full Story
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Annie Thornton
Thank you for all your questions regarding the neighbors and views. I just heard back from John Marx (the architect and homeowner) who had this to say:

"On the light well-view issue, there are two parts. The part referred to in the comments involves aligning light wells, which we provided, with the existing light wells of our neighbors (whom we know very well). The SF Planning code is very specific on how to do this, and none of our neighbors had any objection. The thing to keep in mind is the existing light wells on both sids are mainly bathrooms and storage rooms. The units are full floor. The windows you see are small, around 30" wide. Each of these units have large picture windows facing North, with grand views of the Bay, and also windows facing south, with downtown SF views.

"The other part of the window-view issue was that our original design extended 8 feet back further into the rear yard (very much allowed by the planning code), and would have obstructed our neighbors 'big views' of SF Bay from their living room. If we had done this, we would have been able to see around the corner of the building to the east, and would have been able to see North Beach. When we went to show the design to our neighbors on the west, and stood in their living room, we all realized how much of their view we cut off, and how much this mattered to them. Nikki and I decided not to push our design beyond their rear wall, in order to have no obstruction of their view, thus making our addition much smaller. It was worth it to make our neighbors happy."

I hope this helps clarify some points.
August 14, 2014 at 1:38PM     
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PRO
rogue decor co.
thanks for the clarification (didn't mean to stir anything up), just kind of curious how it all happened. i find processes/reasons more interesting then finished results (have always asked "why" since i was a kid in school). i enjoy homes when they are built around a life and love, rather than for resale value. builders/designers like you are what push boundaries, innovate and keep things fresh. that's also why i enjoy looking at projects on houzz, even if a particular style does not appeal to me, i can still appreciate the thoughts and processes behind it. cheers.
August 14, 2014 at 2:59PM     
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PRO
Form4 Architecture
For everyone wondering about the original traditional architecture, we added the modern part, but we kept the existing house very close to the way it was …… here are some pictures of the 1938 dinning room.
on Sunday at 3:09PM     
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Form4 Architecture
Also, I hate to disappoint anyone, but we have not changed the existing kitchen ….. it's very, very small, although it works well for us. Here is a picture.
on Sunday at 3:15PM     
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glendadw
Bathroom!
Yesterday at 8:34AM   
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gdpi
I would love to add a sunroom to the back of my home.
7 hours ago   
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