Hello, hello cuties! Wow, is it insane to you that we only have a couple more weeks left in this year? I’m in denial! But…I do really want to close 2021 out on a high note…which is why I am super excited to share this absolutely gorgeous San Francisco exterior outdoor space that my team and I designed alongside my dear friend John Gidding!
“First, let me tell you that this project was extra special because the client is a friend of mine, and of course, I got to work with John, who I just adore on both a friend level and a design level–he’s a genius!”
I’d also add that this project was a biggie–it involved a lot of physical landscape work that was labor-intensive and time-intensive…and then add COVID lockdowns into the mix when we had just started work here last year in 2020…and yeah, the road was long!
But the result though…I’m obsessed! Seriously, don’t you want to go on vacation in this yard?! To give you a behind the scenes peek at all the hard work that went into transforming this luxe outdoor space, I called up my pal John Gidding himself and asked him to share some of his project highlights and expert tips. Enjoy!
“It was wonderful working with KKH on this project! Everything has an overarching consistency of personality, which is hard to pull off, frankly. This was a long project and COVID hit in the middle of it…and yet the result is so cohesive. It was one of my happiest projects! –John Gidding
Landscaping, Topography & Retaining Walls: Oh My!
Hi John! Welcome to the Kuotes! Our readers definitely know you from my recent post about our Turkey trip and of course from all the times I’ve gotten nostalgic for our “Knock First” and young modeling days! But now they get to see your work in action and wow…what a project! Give the readers a bit of an overview on what you did on this San Fran backyard.
John Gidding: Even though it was a small backyard, there was a lot of work to be done in terms of recreating and building new retaining walls. So, the first chunk of work was conceptualizing the yard. Before we started, there was a sloped backyard with a central path–instead of keeping that, the client was envisioning three platforms on three different levels. The first push was just dealing with the topography and then the vision came together.
The idea with the three platform areas was for each to have a different personality and different usages. The client also wanted to have a fire feature. I put the fireplace at the end, and Aaron McIntire [also a friend of The Kuotes] created a brilliant fountain in the space as well. Once the retaining walls were in, the hardest work was going through city planning and getting engineers involved. Because the wind was pretty strong coming off the back of that hill so there were some conditions on how porous that wall had to be in order to withstand the wind. That’s what became the Jasmine wall.
“The Jasmine wall is like a screen that allows the wind to sort of rustle through it–it’s very special and blows the scent of Jasmine throughout the space. The scent flows through the fireplace all the way through into the house. I love it so much!”
The steel fountain by Aaron McIntire
I love that Jasmine wall too–so dreamy! And speaking of the retaining wall–the concrete work is so impressive. It’s so simple but so perfect–that’s tough to do!
John Gidding: I think the concrete work is exemplary on this project. Every detail was lovingly crafted by Troy and Fred of 5 Elements Design + Construction in San Francisco. It’s the bracket that holds the whole project together and the big lift of the work at the beginning was getting the concrete details right. Not only is it doing a lot of structural work, it’s expressed in a very purposeful way to look like off-set and jagged woodwork. It looks like slabs of wood, but it’s really all concrete.
“Both the fireplace and the retaining walls have that same elegant aesthetic.”
That was a very laborious process…we used larger slats of wood and cut them down to have sharp edges. Then we lightly burned the wood so that the grain stood out a bit more. The multi-tiered process made sure that the wood formwork was so perfect that, when removed, it looked like the concrete was made out of wood.
Outdoor styling extraordinaire John Gidding on-site!
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An Outdoor Oasis–Complete with Storybook Trees & Chic Furniture
This space has so much character and personality–and the landscaping is a major factor there. What are some of your favorite special elements here?
John Gidding: There are 11 fully grown trees that were installed and they instantly made the yard a very special place. These are mature trees that we sourced all over the Bay Area. We worked hard to find the perfect maple trees. Especially the one that sticks out from inside the deck–that tree had to have an abundance of personality. We looked all over the place for it. We ended up with some large trees that had to be helicoptered in.
“There are also two flowering dogwood trees that will frame the view out of the master bedroom–they’ll take a few years to really bloom, but I think it will be an incredible experience when they do.”
All the trees are doing very well–the maples are a little bit frazzled because it’s their first season there, but the olive trees have been very happy immediately where we installed them.
Okay and we can’t ignore all of the gorgeous outdoor furniture in this space! Mentally, I am lounging in one of those chairs by the fireplace right now!
John Gidding:The one piece of furniture I’m in love with is another Aaron McIntyre design. It’s the console with the soapstone top and it incorporates the details he provided for the decking. The decking has a triple-ribbon of ipe wood that defines the perimeter, and the console has a similar detail. It also has a sense of permanence. It feels solid and feels like that yard has been there forever and has been welcoming people forever–it’s substantial. All of the extra pillows and cushion covers and blankets are stored there.
There’s also a beautiful coffee table that looks like a slice of tree that everyone always comments on. Almost like a petrified slice of tree has been there for ages.
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