Design Inspo

Creating a Whole New World

I Look Once More – Creating a Focal Point

We grew up in Anaheim, California, just a few minutes from Disneyland. Every night at 9:30pm, the sky lit up with Mickey-shaped fireworks outside our living room window, and the magic of the park has always been a part of our lives. 

We glean ideas from resorts all the time, but the enchanting architecture of Disneyland Park has always been a particular source of inspiration for us.

Moments after you walk through the gates and pass by smiling guests posed in front of a botanical Mickey, your eye catches the wonder of Cinderella’s Castle. The iconic structure immediately greets guests and ushers them into the enchanted experience.

When we are designing a space, we want to make sure that as soon as you walk outside, there is something striking to look at. Whether that be a pool, a fire feature, or an exquisite lighting piece, constructing a focal point is key to building a world within a backyard.

It’s a Small World After All – Playing with Scale

The Victorian-style architecture on Main Street was crafted by Imagineers to manipulate the appearance of the building using forced perspective.

Forced perspective plays with scaling an object to make it look larger, smaller, or farther away (think: that picture of someone “holding” the Eifel Tower). Using this technique, Disneyland builders scaled the second story of the buildings on Main Street to 5/8 of the size of the first floor, and the third floors are scaled down to half-sized. This creates an illusion of grandeur when you’re walking through the street, making the buildings look larger than they actually are.

The lesson here is to play with the space you have and don’t think that a small area means you can’t make it into your dream backyard. Test out making objects slightly smaller, larger, or longer than you would otherwise consider. Place them farther closer, lower…whatever it takes to achieve the look you want.

Reflections – Creative Light Use

What is Disneyland without the shows? From the nostalgia of the Main Street Electrical Parade to the pure awe evoked through World of Color, Disney bends, molds, reflects and constructs light to paint a picture and tell a story.

Use light in your backyard to give it just a touch more magic. Adding custom lights to your pool or spa illuminates the entire area as it reflects on the dancing water and uplighting enhances whatever area it inhabits. Ambient Light Bars have limitless color options to make you feel like you’re right there on Main Street.

The curled, iron-encased lights at the gate of Disneyland were influential for us when we designed these custom light structures.

As you can see, the Disney version is more whimsical, but we paired it down into a sleek, classic framework that evokes the playful nature of the original while still bringing the bright, fun lights bulbs to life.

Part of Your World – Steep Yourself in the Environment

There’s a reason Disneyland is called the happiest place on earth because, when you’re there, your worries seem to just disappear.

Every single element of Disneyland is an immersive experience. From the smells of popcorn and Dole Whip (okay, Dole Whip doesn’t smell, but go with us) to the hidden Mickeys throughout the park and the characters handing out autographs, it’s an experience unlike any other.

We want our designs to take you into a place of pure bliss. Your backyard should be your sanctuary—a world away from stress from the comfort of home. Create an area that is made just for you and soak in every minute of it.

Design trends

3 Must-Have Features for Your Backyard (no matter the size)

Go Chasing Waterfalls

Okay, they don’t have to be waterfalls, but putting some type of water feature in your yard adds a bit of nature with no green thumb required. A pool is a great option if you have the space, but if you don’t want to commit to a lap pool fit for Katie Ledecky then a cocktail pool, aka “spool” aka small pool with a spa, is a great option. These petite water structures are just big enough to dip in and cool off. 

If even a spool is too much, incorporating a flow of water brings soothing sounds and a zen atmosphere. Show off your personal style with a strategically placed fountain or decorative water unit. We also love a water wall—perfect for compact yards with limited space.

Fire Burnin’

Earth, air, water? Check, check, check. Now on to the final element—add some heat to your yard with a fire component. We love to see flames on top of, or through, water for a remarkable visual blend. Marrying the elements brings a notably striking look and instantly gives a fantastical vibe to the area. 

Fire features act as an anchor in the space and can be the star of the yard when entertaining. Particularly if you have a smaller space, set up bench seating or a rocker around a modern fire pit to offer a place for guests to gather. We love this because it doesn’t require a huge backyard or budget, but it does give the space a refined edge.

Level Up

Now that you have the necessary fixtures in your yard, it’s time to maximize the space for a powerful visual effect. Varying levels make the most out of the area, especially when you’re working with limited room. By separating a section off with an elevation change, you open up the space and create a completely different setup. Don’t be confined to horizontal heights but instead, have fun with sunken seating! 

Once you’ve added fire and water, raise them above eye level to create the drama they deserve. By lifting up your fire, water, art, or plant features, you can add a dimension that makes the entire yard look so much more appealing. Changing up the heights of the elements in your yard allows you to see all the pieces you’ve incorporated while maximizing the area’s potential.

With the right design, all of these features can be incorporated to give your backyard a luxurious look no matter what size space you have. 

Design trends

Controversial Curves

Keepin it Straight

For an extremely modern look, we implement sharp, sleek corners and symmetrical edges to give the area a polished feel. Straight, clean lines deliver a striking overall appearance and can make the area look larger when paired with reflective surfaces and materials. Although the emphasis on straight lines gives off a bolder tone, it also brings an undeniable air of sophistication. 

Curvy Silhouettes

Omitting the necessity of symmetry and order, curved edges can bring a playful feel to the overall aesthetic of your yard. Implementing softer lines that bend with the shape of the pool or home architecture mimics a natural environment, similar to what we see in organic design (link to blog post). Curves can give the illusion of more space and studies show that free-flowing silhouettes are seen as more visually favorable and signal safety, thus garnering a sense of calm.

Combine for Dramatic Effect

As designers, we truly believe that the best designs incorporate curved and straight lines and features, and sparingly using one or two curves in a single area will highlight both concepts. The contrasted warmth of contoured outlines mixed in with bold, angled edges creates a more appealing look with an added level of visual interest. 

A perfect example of this is seen here, in Aqua Garden, where most of the yard boasts perfectly sharp, angled lines. Then we added the rounded Baja shelf and a curved layer of mosaic tile “waves”. The finished product demonstrates exactly what can be achieved with the thoughtful juxtaposition of curved and straight lines.

Enmeshing a rounded spa within an otherwise linear pool adds visual interest as it gives a layer of texture that helps create a focal point where the eye can rest. In this design, the spa is the accent piece to soften the otherwise sharp lines and build a harmonious flow throughout the backyard.

While we love the sleek, clean look of straight modern lines and the soft gentle curves that resemble organic design, we’ve found that the best way to get that true resort look for your backyard is to integrate both for a design that is visually rich and satisfying.


Private resort on a budget (Part 2)

Phase two of transforming your small space

We’re continuing on with tips you can implement into remodeling your rental space, no matter how big (or small) your outdoor space is. We redesigned a 6’x12’ balcony in Santa Monica, California, using only things we found at a home improvement store, and did it all in one day with a minimal budget. Once you install your base elements, it’s time to top it off with these final additions to give your space a luxurious, resort-like feel. 

Light it Up

One of the simplest and fastest ways to transform your outdoor space is with a quick lighting change. No matter the size of your space, strategically placed lighting features can unify the area without having to do any major construction work.

The Ambient Light Bars by Foxterra have the power to quickly and easily change your patio, balcony, or backyard with custom landscape lighting. Featuring the first of its kind LED and RBGW technology, the Ambient Bar is available in white or colored options so you can infinitely modify the color to enhance your mood. 

For this balcony remodel, we couldn’t drill anything into the walls, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t mount the Ambient Light Bars! We wanted the lights to sit flush against the walls, so we used a wood base, cut with precise measurements, to create a pressure wedge that holds the beams in place without any fasteners. The Ambient Bar comes with three brackets and we drilled those into the wooden beams to finish off the mounted light look.

A Plant Finisher

With a rental space, you want to make sure you can pack up your yard when you move, and that includes the plants. Instead of in-ground plants, accent the area with a few table-side or potted plants to bring color and life to the area. There’s something inherently cheerful about mixing live plants in with the artificial greenery. Seeing plants grow and flourish makes the house a just little homier.

Make sure you choose plants that fit the environment you’re placing them in. Many plants are fitted with instructions on care and consideration. Determine how much shade versus direct sunlight the area gets, and how much time you’re willing to care for your plants. Mind your home’s climate and the species of plant to determine how often to water, fertilize, or repot your plants.

Rental to Resort

There’s something relaxing about coming home to a place that feels like yours and creating an atmosphere that is distinctly your style where you can relax and recharge. It doesn’t matter if your rental boasts a sprawling yard or a cozy balcony because with a few simple changes you can redo your space yourself and capture that resort-like feel, right at home.