Shaded Natural Play

Often shade is considered a problem in the landscape - especially when you have kids and want to provide a nice lawn for them to run around on. At this project in Northwest Hills the backyard was heavily shaded and sloping. The homeowners wanted a design that included some “lawn” while maintaining a natural area that would foster creativity and unstructured play.


To create a functional yet pleasing landscape, a section of the backyard was leveled with a short steel retaining wall and artificial turf was installed to create the feel of a traditional lawn. The remaining backyard was left slopping with large boulders providing access to the natural play space. Drainage patterns were enhanced with decorative arroyos built from on site boulders and river rock that was brought in. Cedar logs were installed over the creek beds to provide a bridge to the different sections of the natural area. The existing topography was enhanced to create opportunity to play and to enjoy nature.

The finished design is both modern - the steel and artificial turf terrace - and naturalistic - the remaining sloped area with arroyos, boulders, and “fallen” logs. The combination of these two spaces creates a versatile backyard with creative solutions for a shady and difficult site.