The Great Outdoors: Hardscape & Landscape

At Tim Barber Architects, our process involves designing the entire home, inside and out, roof to basement, front to back, while paying uncommon attention to the interior architecture. We also design patios and pergolas, pools, fireplaces and fountains, walls, fences and lighting, defining views and privacy. And we collaborate with the superb talents of landscape designers to integrate all things green. As spring approaches (which means time for new plantings!), we spoke with our team about favorite features from their projects that celebrate our love of indoor-outdoor living. 

Rainwater Reuse

Project Manager Jim Coyle’s new build project in Hermosa Beach, CA meets low impact development requirements (LID) by catching and storing stormwater on-site. Along with landscape designer Laurie Lewis, we designed a rain garden — which holds rainwater and slowly releases it into the soil. We also incorporated 50-gallon rain tanks (produced by HOG) hidden below the pool deck to hold water for the adjacent vegetable beds. “For this project,” Jim explains, “we explored the option of using larger, above-ground rain tanks. The homeowner ultimately chose below-deck tanks. While they are more costly than above-ground tanks, they are completely hidden and do not take up space on-site or within the home.” Discreetly integrating sustainable features, such as these rain tanks, is a priority within our work. At the start of design for any home, we explore a variety of ways to protect the health and safety of our homeowners and our planet.

Left: For Jim’s project, horizontal tanks were chosen. This graphic by HOG, a rainwater harvesting solution company, illustrates how the tanks work. Right: Horizontal rain tanks after installation (image via HOG).


Pool safety is top of mind for homeowners with young children. We often integrate child-safe pool enclosures into the hardscape design. Senior Project Manager Kelly Becker and Job Captain Kyra Bauman recently designed one for a growing family’s new Brentwood, CA residence. The pool is surrounded by a fence and three separate gates, all with self-closing latches. A motorized retractable cover can easily close when the pool is not in use. “Together, the pool enclosure and cover help homeowners to feel relaxed and enjoy their beautiful outdoor living space without having to worry about their little ones,” Kelly says.

Pool Plan Tim Barber Architects

The pool plan, designed by Kelly and Kyra, ensures our homeowners’ young ones stay safe while having fun.


“Natural light is an important feature in any project,” notes Job Captain Kyra Bauman. “It impacts building orientation and placement on the site, but also determines window design, pool location, roof overhangs and solar collectors.” To examine this, Kyra performed a sun study for a project with Senior Project Manager Ari Engelman. “The homeowners liked the idea of a balcony on the east-facing front façade, but were concerned about the overhang blocking too much natural light on a site that was already partially shaded by large trees,” Kyra explains. “We created a simple 3-D model of the proposed design and simulated different times of the morning throughout the year. This illustrated the balcony’s impact on the light that reached the rooms on the first floor, compared to a design without the balcony.” 3-D sun studies like this are just one of the many ways we help clients envision their home prior to construction.

Sun Study Tim Barber ArchitectsA snippet of the sun study (front perspective), illustrating the sun’s location at different times of day.

Outdoor Kitchens

In Southern California, almost any day is a good day for outdoor dining. For a recently completed new build residence in Beverly Hills, CA, Project Manager Katie Peterson designed an adaptable indoor-outdoor space. “We designed a built-in kitchen adjacent to the covered porch, located just outside the main kitchen and breakfast area. This allows for easy food prep, whether a small gathering or a larger party that extends into the lawn,” she says. The efficient design includes a BBQ, under-counter refrigerator drawers and a sink with storage doors below, recessed into an alcove with integrated hood.

Rear Perspective Outdoor Kitchen Tim Barber ArchitectsRear perspective of the residence, a new custom home in Beverly Hills, CA. Notice the kitchen alcove with recessed cabinetry and appliances, plus an integrated hood. This design complements the overall rear façade.

The outdoor kitchen install as seen during a construction site visit.

Water Features

Water features are visually delightful and music to the ear, but they can serve other valuable uses. For one of Senior Project Manager Korey Kromm’s new build residences in Santa Monica, CA, landscape designer Laurie Lewis suggested a pond as part of the project’s low impact design strategy (see more about LID in the “Rainwater Reuse” section): the pond collects and reuses rainwater to irrigate landscaping. A fountain within the pond will be admired from the large living room window while minimizing the neighborhood sound.

Landscape Plan Laurie Lewis DesignA portion of the home’s final landscape plan, drafted by Laurie Lewis. The pond sits at the northwest corner of the site.

Patios & Porches

BIM Manager and Job Captain Celina Minas is currently working on a full-home renovation alongside Senior Project Manager Ari Engelman. A covered porch is one of the highlights of this project, as the backyard is surrounded by mature oak trees that provide the perfect setting for outdoor dining. “The new porch columns were designed to complement the natural rhythm of the tree trunks and frame the views from the indoors,” says Celina. Several exterior skylights in the porch roof provide light to the patio, and also to the indoors within the adjacent living room and kitchen.

Left: The homeowners were inspired by the covered porch of our Southern Colonial residence in Atherton, CA. We integrated elements of this into their design, including pendant lights. Right: A portion of the first floor plan, featuring the covered patio. The three exterior skylights are adjacent to the kitchen and living room. Photo by Laura Hull

Outdoor Fireplaces

Senior Project Manager Ari Engelman also recently completed an extensive renovation and addition to a now Classical Contemporary residence in Beverly Hills, CA with an expansive outdoor space. As part of the newly designed terrace with steel pergola, an outdoor open-hearth fireplace was created as a focal point. “The terrace serves as an outdoor living room, so the fireplace seemed a natural fit,” Ari says. “While it is a gas fireplace (new fireplaces cannot be wood-burning in the state of California) the brick firebox and chimney make it feel as if it were original to the house, built almost a century ago.”

Left: The 2-D CAD elevation of the terrace’s outdoor fireplace. Right: The completed terrace and fireplace, part of our Classical Contemporary residence in Beverly Hills, CA. Photo by Sam Frost.

Looking for more hardscape and landscape inspiration? See our projects.