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Outdoor/Garden
How to Design the Best Backyard for Entertaining
You don’t need a big garden to be able to entertain your guests comfortably. You just need these smart tricks for designing the flow and adding some wow-worthy amenities.
The best backyards for entertaining are all about creating a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors and providing plenty of casual seating areas for everyone to gather. Every year this family of five hosts a big party with over 100 guests. Their beach house, just steps away from Manhattan Beach, California, boasts a... READ MORE
Written by Margie Monin Dombroski
Photography by Bret Gum
Styling by Jickie Torres

wide view of a finished and renovated backyard

Patio dining table with blue and yellow accents
Chic Entertaining. Featuring a rich Mangaris wood and a quartz top with a central fire unit down the middle that uses bioethanol fuel, this outdoor dining table was custom designed by James to create an attractive gathering spot. Slipcovered chairs give the space a luxurious indoor elegance.

The best backyards for entertaining are all about creating a seamless transition from the indoors to the outdoors and providing plenty of casual seating areas for everyone to gather.

Every year this family of five hosts a big party with over 100 guests. Their beach house, just steps away from Manhattan Beach, California, boasts a Cape Cod-style facade and wide-open backyard area, but an oversized fireplace and a giant wall separated the two spaces and their guests whenever they entertained friends and family.

“The goal of this project then became how can we open up the backyard space and give it an indoor/outdoor feeling?” says L.A.-based interior designer James Hernandez

Covered patio area with outdoor tile and an outdoor couch
Good Flow. “Since this is a family of five, I wanted to maximize the seating, so when they host dinners or parties we could have as many people sitting outside as inside with the new backyard layout,” James says.

Because the fireplace and wall obstructed the view to the outdoors, James removed the fireplace and installed Monterrey-style bi-fold doors in the family room and French doors in the breakfast room to open the rooms up and give them access to the backyard and outdoor living area.

“The yard has more room to breathe [now], and the area flows so much better between the indoor and outdoor space,” James says. Here he explains how he reworked these two spaces into one cohesive indoor/outdoor space.

Built in fire pit surrounded by grass turf and a small seating area
Hot Look. The fireplace is situated near the main lounge area and built-in grill to maximize the fun. Amenities like the outdoor shower sleekly concealed in the patio post make this a dream backyard.

The former patio layout consisted of a loveseat and side chairs around a coffee table, and James added more furnishings to make the most of the space for any type of event, large or small. The new setup can accommodate many more guests, with a sectional sofa that can seat six and a low coffee table, a bar with four industrialstyle barstools, a fire pit with a lip that doubles as seating, and an outdoor dining table with four chairs and a bench.

Patio bar with wood beams and large tile countertop
Modern Rustic. James updated the family’s existing barbecue, which once featured a peachy stucco look, by wrapping it in planked Mangaris wood and giving it a warm gray paint touch-up for an urban vibe.

“Flow is key here,” James says. “You could enter from almost any side of the house and still feel connected, from the breakfast room to the outdoor dining room, from the family room into the outdoor family room. The main thing is to maximize the seating without overcrowding the space. There’s seating for everyone and a consistency and flow that allows for entertaining many people.”

Patio dining set up with blue and yellow accents and a bench
Wood + Copper. Without straying too far from the earthy tones and traditional flair of the home but wanting to do something different than the standard blue, white and seashell beach aesthetic, James opted for and shiny copper. “Pops of color can brighten up a backyard space,” James says.
fire table details and dinnerware set up
Sleek Mix. Cobalt-blue wine glasses, yellow outdoor pillows and polished copper complement each other as well as the backyard scenery. The woven mat keeps the look naturally chic.

To visually connect the home to the outdoor living area, James designed a redwood pergola, which was stained to complement the home’s wood-shingle exterior. While the back patio once had a retractable awning, the new pergola extended the roofline and draws the eye from the home out to the backyard.

“It’s made to look like it’s part of the existing structure of the house, so it doesn’t look like an afterthought, and it makes a natural transition with color,” James says.

Patio dining table with elegant chairs and blue accents
Indoor Comfort. Plush upholstered dining chairs for the patio table add that comfy touch and make for a more intimate vibe.

Proper lighting is equally important in creating ambience. A two-foot-by-two-foot star pendant light soars above the patio. With the glow from the candles on the coffee table; hurricane lanterns on the bar, fire pit, and dining table; and French cafe string lights from the pergola across the backyard, “there are different hues of light everywhere.”

Now that the backyard outdoor living space is a true extension of the great room, the family can enjoy the connected spaces much more. “The new layout is continuous and harmonious. It creates that unified indoor/outdoor space of California living that everybody wants, and it works for all seasons.”

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