How to Make an Outdoor Oasis—and Then Make the Most of It
After moving back to her home state of California a few years ago, the jewelry designer Jaclyn Mayer decided to renovate part of her Oakland home, basically becoming her own general contractor. And that’s when things started getting really complicated. “I found out in the middle of the project that I was pregnant with my second child and realized that if anything was getting updated, it was now or never,” she says. “So we ended up gut-renovating the whole thing.” The final—and most important—piece of the puzzle was creating a backyard refuge with enough space for entertaining adults and little ones alike. Here’s how Jaclyn made what’s on the outside count as much as what’s on the inside.
“We started with a completely blank slate, but I had a very clear vision. I knew I wanted a big deck off the back of the house with benches that went around the sides for seating and planters. That was our jumping-off point. And we needed a lawn for our kids to run around. Next to that, we built another little patio with some paving stones to hold our BBQ, and we built a few raised beds around that for vegetables. That was something else we wanted to do for our kids to see how food grows and to be able to pick things and then bring them inside and cook them together.”
“A close friend of my parents is a landscape architect, so she shared lots of helpful advice about which plants can take what kind of sunlight, what will go dormant, what will bloom year-round. I really wanted a lot of flowers, so we ended up planting a lot of perennial flowers. We got these huge hollyhocks, and I put in a passionfruit vine and a smokebush. There are also some fig trees that are starting to grow. It’s so cool to see what it looks like from week to week, as it’s been changing so much.”
“We put a big table out on the deck—we don’t have chairs yet, so we just bring the indoor ones outside. Our whole community was on the East Coast, so we’re getting to know other families with kids out here, and it’s a great place to do that. We love sitting out there eating dinner and watching the kids play together.”
“My husband loves to BBQ, and I love to cook. We’re both huge fans of ribs. I do a really slow-cooked version that spends hours in the oven at a really low temperature, and then my husband puts them on the grill at the last minute to really crisp them up. My son threw all of these zucchini seeds in the beds, and we had no idea so many would take. So we have a plethora of them that we’ve been grilling and serving with pesto and mozzarella.”
THE HARD-WON ENTERTAINING ADVICE
“Clean up when you’re done. Just do it the night of! I’m a big advocate of not leaving it until the next day because it’s always so much worse. And I really like to prep the night before, at least to try to get everything cut up and ready to be prepared so you can actually enjoy your guests while they’re there. What else? Make sure your rosé is chilled. And delegate! Don’t be afraid to ask people to bring things and make it easier on yourself.”