Today’s Home Magazine

Organizing your yard into rooms you love to live in is a great way to get full use of the landscape surrounding your home. The art of using outdoor spaces as “rooms” is a design principal perfectly suited to Northern California . Some say the concept first took hold in 1955 when landscape architect Thomas Church published his book Gardens are for People”. Others point out that deisgnating certain landscape areas for specific use dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans. No matter how you look at it, there’s no mistaking today’s homeowners want their yards and landscapes to play a big role in their daily lives. And that takes some planning.

Your ideal design should include areas for the things you like to do outdoors: eat, entertain, read a book or newspaper, take a nap, play board games, soak in the sun, do some bird watching, work on your laptop, or just sit around and sip a cool drink. The rooms should also provide space for things you don’t have room for indoors.   An area to store supplies for hobbies, for example, a place where you can work on your bicycle or throw a big party. Some homeowners even include little nooks or alcoves for their daily meditation and tai chi regimes.

Award-winning landscape contractor David Kato, of Katoscapes, Inc. in Los Gatos says that he was greatly influenced by the principles of Thomas Church in his early career. For the last 20 years, Kato has been creating outdoor environments that offer his clients a refuge from the world. Everything he installs, he designs himself. “If I can create a garden where I feel I can get in touch with myself, I feel that’s a way for my clients to get in touch with themselves,” he says. “I want to create gardens people can become a part of rather than separate from. I think of the garden as a healing space.” Kato says that he relies heavily on his intuition when planning a site. “I think one of the problems we (all) face is we rarely get in touch with our spirit,” he says. “For me every project is a process of unfolding…myself, and the site and my client. It’s all integrated.”

A landscape Kato recently designed surrounds an estate with a distinctive Mediterranean style. There are several different rooms: a spacious alcove for dining with a built-in banquet and pizza oven, a circular water feature surrounded by built in benches where the homeowners can practice tai chi and a spa/living space area off the kitchen. It’s encircled with a wall and has a floor composed of Spanish tile. One of the major structural and design features of the site is Kato’s integrated palette of natural stone adding a calming influence to the site in addition to harmonizing with the home’s architecture.

Kato used stonework to connect the different “rooms”, but he didn’t stop there. “We worked with the homeowner’s feng shui specialist to integrate the interior of the house with the garden.” He says. “Energy is what connects the rooms.”

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