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So Cal Landscaping Ideas

Boring Backyard Transformed into Entertainer's Delight

How a pool, rope swing, bocce court & more unite in a hacienda-style yard

  • This hacienda-style pool features a rope swing and a 40 foot water slide.
  • A close up of the bell tower rope swing, the kids favorite part of the backyard.
  • Coming in a close second, the 40 foot waterslide winds down a hill and into the pool.
  • The raised spa has a deep well with hydrotherapy jets and a nearby fire pit.
  • The basketball court, which has a full key and three point line, faces east for playing in the afternoon.
  • A bocce ball court, a favorite of the adults, was installed in the home's side yard.
  • An outdoor kitchen with split-level concrete countertops was located near the backdoor.
  • An outdoor shower allows swimmers to rinse off after a dip in the pool or spa.
  • A perspective drawing of the pool and surrounding landscape.
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Get more tips for Spanish-style landscaping.

Project Highlights:

  • Location: Thousand Oaks, CA
  • Lot Size: 26,000 square feet
  • Budget: 450 - 500k
  • Landscape Firm: The Green Scene

Client Requests:

  • Outdoor kitchen
  • Basketball court
  • Swimming pool
  • Water slide
  • Rope swing
  • Fire pit

After returning from a tropical Hawaiian vacation this family wanted to recreate the resort-like atmosphere in their own backyard. They were inspired most by a large rope swing on which they had swung into the pool at their hotel. When they first approached Scott Cohen of The Green Scene, a swimming pool, landscape design and construction company based in Northridge, CA, they wanted large faux boulders, bamboo accents and tropical plants. Since this theme was not in keeping with the home's Spanish architecture, Cohen suggested a Mediterranean style landscape instead. The owners embraced his plan for "La Hacienda de la Fiesta" because it married their memories of Hawaii with their home, property and lifestyle.

Landscape SolutionsThis yard featured a steep hillside which Cohen wanted to minimize by building retaining walls and setting the pool and spa back into it. However, once The Green Scene crews began excavating they hit solid rock. "We spent two extra weeks chipping and chiseling away for the pool and a few more on trenching for sprinklers," explains Cohen. His advice to other contractors is to include a rock clause in your contract that covers the pool, walls, irrigation and other features. This will protect your company from having to take on the additional costs of unexpected man hours. (Learn more about landscaping rocky soil.)

Another goal Cohen had for this project was to create distinct outdoor rooms. "One of the best ways to separate outdoor spaces is by changing the elevation" he says. This is why he chose to raise the spa and fire pit above the pool. Cohen raised the spa three feet above the pool, which is also industry standard for outdoor counter height. Concrete countertops with hand-seeded glass were added to the outer edges of the spa. "The bar tops make it so everyone can be a part of the party whether they are in the water or not," says Cohen. The spa accommodates up to 8 people, has two stools and a deep-well with therapy jets. Water circulates from the spa to the pool via a spillway that was tiled with one inch glass mosaic tiles. The fire pit is gas burning and has built-in bench seating. Placing a fire pit next to a spa is a good idea because it allows bathers to stay warm while drying off.


  • Concrete pavers for the pool deck
  • Travertine pool coping & wall caps
  • Poured-in-place concrete countertops with embedded glass
  • Cast concrete tile liners with a vintage garden pattern
  • Epoxy rubberized sport coating
  • Cobalt blue glass mosaic tiles

Fun & GamesOne of the most unique aspects of this project is the bell tower and rope swing. Cohen adapted this idea from a swing supported by bamboo posts which the clients had enjoyed in Hawaii. "The tower took extensive structural engineering and is 32 feet tall," Cohen recalls. It rises 18 feet above the water level, plunges through 8 feet of water and extends 6 feet below the pool shell, making it a sturdy structure that will be safe for swinging for years to come. Swingers can jump from a four foot platform just behind the bell tower and swing out into the deep end of the pool. The bell tower was roofed with terra cotta tiles to carry on the Spanish Hacienda theme. White stucco, simulated stone veneer and cobalt blue tiles complete the look. The fun in this pool doesn't stop with the swing, there is also a 40 foot long slide that comes down the hill and into the water.

The family had specifically requested a basketball court be incorporated into the design of their yard. Upon determining that they would be playing mostly in the afternoon Cohen positioned the court in an east facing location so that they would not be shooting into the sun. The court measures 30' by 40' and has a full key and a three point line. An epoxy rubberized coating from Plexipave was used to cover the playing surface. "This product comes in many colors, so you can match your court to your home or go with the colors of your favorite team," says Cohen. The Green Scene brought in a specialty contractor to apply the coating because it takes an experienced hand to get the surface level.

  • Pro Tip: Avoid blocking views from inside the house. On this project I positioned the outdoor kitchen and basketball court far off on opposite sides of the yard so that the focal point would be the pool and bell tower.

In addition to the requested basketball court, Cohen suggested a bocce ball court. "A bocce court is a great way to make use of a side yard," he explains. It is important to have proper drainage installed beneath a bocce court so that standing water doesn't turn the playing surface into a muddy mess. In this case, Cohen used a French drain beneath the court. An 18" wall with integrated light fixtures runs along one side of the bocce court to serve as seating.

Other noteworthy features of this project

  • An outdoor kitchen with split-level counters, grill, sear zone & beverage station
  • An outdoor shower for rinsing off after a swim
  • Two fire bowls flanking the pool's baja shelf

All in all this active family got exactly what they wanted - a backyard where they can play, cook, socialize and relax with friends and family. Thanks to The Green Scene, their new outdoor living space has transformed their home into "La Hacienda de la Fiesta" or The Party House. "Our yard is truly an entertainers' delight," says the homeowner.

The Green Scene
Northridge, CA

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Contributing Author:

Sarah Hutchinson, contributing writer for Landscaping Network

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