Outdoors Re-Imagined — Landscape Design for the Modern Bay Area

With its stunning topography and mild-mannered climate, the San Francisco Bay Area lends itself well to an outdoor-focused lifestyle, which is why landscape architecture is a particularly vibrant field to be in here.

We asked Brian Koch, owner of Terra Ferma Landscapes, headquartered in South San Francisco, to enlighten us about the latest trends and trajectories in local landscape design. Here are the highlights gleaned from his expertise designing and building landscapes for luxury clients around the Bay Area.

MicroClimate Customization

While typically mild, the climate across the Bay Area is far from uniform. Depending on a home’s precise location, it might be socked in with coastal fog most of the year or experience constant sunshine and very little precipitation. Regardless of the precise location of a home, climate and the recent California drought have created more awareness about water usage and homeowners are keen to adapt their properties to their microclimates.

“Our current water situation inspires us to think beyond the typical large lawns and dense flower beds,” Koch tells us. “We have to decide what we can do on our end to respect our state’s natural resources and preserve them as much as possible — while still keeping our clients happy.”

Evaluating each site carefully is paramount to creating a landscaping strategy that respects the terrain and accounts for its microclimate. The designers at Terra Ferma select flora for each site so that landscapes are optimized for success.

Transitional Style

A consistent trend in outdoor design is to marry the particular architectural style of the home with a modern landscape responsive to California weather and lifestyle. This “transitional” style of landscape design helps avoid a disjointed experience between interior and exterior spaces.

Outdoor Comfort

In a place where being outside is a given nearly year-round, people want outdoor spaces where they can relax and revel in comfort and style, just as they would in their living rooms. “We try to tap into what makes our clients content,” Brian says. This means creating a vibe with the design: calm, cozy, and charming. To achieve this, Koch recommends elements such as custom lighting, hand-picked pillows, state-of-the-art outdoor heaters, and chic fire tables.