Transform your mid century patio and backyard into an oasis inspired by the bliss of a summer getaway. These two yards, both located in the vacation destination of Palm Springs, California, offer up clever solutions and stylish ideas.

A home's exterior showcasing its mid century backyard.

Tip #1: Keep It Clean and Simple

Keeping things sleek, designer and homeowner Sally Julien focused on three main features in her mid century patio and backyard design: the pool, patio furniture, and drought-tolerant landscaping. In planning the space, the designers, who also happen to be the homeowners, balanced aesthetic with utility. “We wanted it to be simple and clean and with defined areas,” Sally explains. “We also wanted to be sure it didn’t feel like the entire thing was concrete,” she adds, “so it was important to integrate a planter into the patio area.”

At the same time, the yard embraces the comfortable livability that flows through the house. “We wanted it to be an extension of our living space, so we needed to be sure it could be used for dining and conversation, as well as lying by the pool,” Sally says. The streamlined space, with its minimalist approach to furnishings, easily accommodates each of these uses.

Tip #2: Go Green!

Even in arid areas, plants can go a long way in sprucing up your mid century patio and landscaping. Whether you’re sticking to a small handful of shrubs or putting your green thumb to work on numerous varieties, planning is essential. “See what the natural environment looks like first,” Sally says. “A tropical, lush garden in the desert is not only irresponsible and incredibly difficult to maintain, but it looks out of place.” On the other hand, “Hawaii … is the place for tropical. So really looking at native plants is key.”

Once you’ve developed a working knowledge of your surroundings, consider consulting an expert. Turn to an avid gardener or local nursery to find out what plants do well in your climate. Then, look for unique varieties that will add sculptural interest to your overall design.

Tip #3: Take the Artistic Approach

“My favorite way of doing a landscape is like geometric art on a small scale,” Troy says. That means “using large shapes [and] blocking off different sections,” often in relation to the angles of the architecture.

A mid century backyard featuring an open atrium and geometrically placed plants.

Likewise, Troy lets the shape of the home determine the location of the vegetation. “The lines of the house dictate where I’m going to plant,” he says. “I want to look outside the window and feel like a plant’s right next to me while I’m sitting inside the window.” And for optimal fresh-air viewing, he situates the outdoor furniture in proximity to the plants, placing seating areas where guests can take in views of the yard.

A backyard featuring a freshly-cut lawn and cream-toned decor.
When designing an outdoor space, first determine your preferred use of the area. For intimate fireside chats, select a space with a good view and opt for comfortable seating. For an entertaining-friendly atrium, mimic a living room-style seating arrangement.

Whether you’re growing pines or palms, don’t forget to look toward the future. Troy suggests planting small and leaving space for the plants to grow.


Need some more backyard inspiration? Here is an exclusive look at another Palm Springs home, guaranteed to fuel your renovation savvy!

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