written by:
photos by:
March 26, 2014
Originally published in The Great Outdoors
as
From the Ground, Up
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An ipe deck slopes sharply skyward behind Amy Persin’s house in Menlo Park, California, creating a secluded backyard getaway that feels like an outdoor extension of her living room. A single step on either side leads to patches of gravel, which her children have claimed as areas for unstructured play.
Photo by 
1 / 6
modern landscaping outdoor ipe wood vertical planter
The vertical planter in the deck contains ten varieties of succulents.
Photo by 
2 / 6
modern outdoor landscaping stoop facade
Persin and her children, Lu, Mae, and Calvin, pose on their front stoop, built with ipe left over after the completion of the back deck. “It looks lush—almost like a fur blanket,” Persin says.
Photo by 
3 / 6
modern landscaping outdoor ipe wood deck bench vertical planter
Cox initially conceived the deck as a conventional surface for relaxing and entertaining. With the bench, however, he seized an opportunity to create something both functional and visually arresting. “You go down these paths and, as the design mutates, other ideas attach themselves and make it stronger and more interesting,” he says.
Photo by 
4 / 6
modern landscaping outdoor ipe slatted fence pavers
Cox says he and Persin “went on an ipe run” after committing to the material for the deck, using it to build the slatted fence around the backyard. Rainbow Warrior New Zealand flax, a perennial, complements the material, while off-the-shelf pavers helped keep costs down.
Photo by 
5 / 6
modern landscaping outdoor site plan
Menlo Residence Site Plan A Ipe Deck (rear) B Gravel C Concrete Pavers D House E Driveway F Ipe Deck (front) G Ipe Fence and Gate
Photo by 
Courtesy of 
Groundworks Office
6 / 6
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An ipe deck slopes sharply skyward behind Amy Persin’s house in Menlo Park, California, creating a secluded backyard getaway that feels like an outdoor extension of her living room. A single step on either side leads to patches of gravel, which her children have claimed as areas for unstructured play.
Project 
Menlo Residence
Landscape Architect 

Amy Persin, a single mother of three rambunctious children, survived the renovation of her 1950 ranch-style house in Menlo Park, California, before she turned her attention to her yard. A crumbling concrete patio, its red paint faded to a garish pink, was the focal point of a rather uninviting backyard, while in the front, the Kentucky bluegrass demanded time and attention that Persin simply couldn’t spare. She turned to landscape architect Brennan Cox for help.

Cox, the principal at San Francisco’s Groundworks Office, drafted two plans, the more adventurous of which included an upturned deck with a bench and an embedded succulent garden. To his surprise, she went for it, and construction finished in May 2012. Persin got the idea for the canopy—a brail curtain that slides over the deck on four cables—from her children’s school.

“It’s like a terrarium; it’s this little oasis of peacefulness,” she says. “I like being able to look through the house all the way to the street. It’s private, but you’re still connected. It just flows."

Cox initially conceived the deck as a conventional surface for relaxing and entertaining. With the bench, however, he seized an opportunity to create something both functional and visually arresting. “You go down these paths and, as the design mutates, other ideas attach themselves and make it stronger and more interesting,” he says.

Cox says he and Persin “went on an ipe run” after committing to the material for the deck, using it to build the slatted fence around the backyard. Rainbow Warrior New Zealand flax, a perennial, complements the material, while off-the-shelf pavers helped keep costs down.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

havart 170
Updating standard pieces, designer Gaëtan Havart turns a misused space into a vibrant kitchen.
May 04, 2016
Martis Camp 141 in Truckee California
Martis Camp 141 celebrates it mountainous surroundings with local materials.
May 04, 2016
tech support stillwater dwellings prefab exterior napa
In Napa, a custom menu of apps helps a frequent traveler keep track of security—and his garden—from afar.
May 04, 2016
home for good renovation montreal family rear facade steel cladding footbridge garden
This family opens up an old structure and imagines a long-term house.
May 04, 2016
BKLYN DESIGNS 2016 location
From panel discussions to virtual reality demonstrations and more, this weekend will bring out the designer in everyone during BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few activities and installations to check out.
May 04, 2016
cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
houseofweek
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
intage Milo Baughman chairs, Darren Vigilant side table and B&B Italia sofa define the living room.
A family doesn’t have to travel far for a private oasis away from the busy city.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016