Backyard Inspiration: A So-Cal Makeover

swim spa installation

When a Southern California homeowner went to a pool and spa show, they were not sure what to expect. They were going to browse the available hot tubs and maybe get a few ideas for a backyard makeover.

The space, they knew, was not used to its potential. The backyard was mostly grass but in drought-prone Southern California, they struggled to get it to grow. There was a deck, flower beds, and an apricot tree.

But it was not a hot tub that would transform their space. The couple left the show with a contract, having purchased a swim spa.

Working with a designer, the homeowner turned his backyard into an outdoor retreat.

in-ground swim spa
The deck is made of Ipe, a Brazilian hardwood. It is durable and weather resistant.

In-Ground Plunge Pool Alternative

With the exception of the palatial homes owned by celebrities, most Southern California homes do not feature spacious backyards — especially if they are close to the beach. There’s not often a lot of space for a swimming pool.

A swim spa, though, can be installed in almost any space — even small backyards. It can be an ideal alternative to a plunge pool for those homeowners who want a private, comfortable pool at home.

To maximize the living space, the designer and homeowner chose to install the swim spa in a vault. The spa is partially recessed so that the vault and surrounding deck create a bench for seating.

backyard before picture
Before the backyard project, the space featured a deck, flower beds, and a grass lawn.

Outdoor Living

Southern California has amazing weather that can be enjoyed year-round. With the renovation, they added about 2,300 square feet of livable space. It allowed the homeowner to blur the lines between the indoors and outdoors.

The bungalow, which is less than 2 miles from the beach, has a set of French doors that open up to the backyard. It makes it easy to move between the spaces throughout the day.

“We live outside now,” the homeowner says of the backyard makeover.

With the swim spa, they are outside even more. The homeowner will take a dip or relax several times a day while the kids will splash around.

“It’s great to come back from the beach and swim in clean water as opposed to saltwater,” he adds.

Entertainment Center

The homeowner enjoys entertaining, and the backyard design is ideal for hosting gatherings. Many weekends, rather than going out, they invite friends and family over. A Super Bowl party had about 80 attendees. The homeowner had TVs placed throughout the space, while children played in the swim spa.

“The swim spa is like a magnet for children. It keeps them entertained,” he says.

The backyard was designed so that the swim spa could be seen, no matter where you are. That line of sight makes it easy to watch kids as they swim and play.

outdoor kitchen inspiration

Outdoor Kitchen

An outdoor kitchen was a must for this family. The space features a refrigerator, grill, beer taps, and a pizza oven. The wood-fired oven might seem like a luxury but it’s an ideal place to roast fish and vegetables. You can even bake a dessert.

In Southern California, where many homes don’t have air conditioning, the pizza oven is a place to cook when you it’s too hot to turn on the range.

backyard makeover
A poured concrete couch offers plenty of space for guests to relax.

Outdoor Seating

An outdoor seating area features a built-in L-shaped couch. While it’s made from poured concrete, cushions create a cozy spot to relax. The design also took into account modern habits, with the designer adding outlets for charging phones. A fire pit offers warmth while low-voltage LED lights illuminate the area.


The designer’s renderings for the backyard makeover featured lush, drought-resistant plants. So when it came time to select plants, the homeowner went with more mature plants. They were more expensive than smaller options. However, he didn’t have to wait years for them to grow and get the look he wanted. The plants offer color, texture, and privacy in the magazine-worthy backyard.