The family moved to Sacramento from “a tiny apartment” in San Francisco three years ago, Valencia says, and can’t get enough of the sun and outdoor space. “We use our backyard all year,” she says. “We are California natives. Being outside and in the sunshine is really important to us.”
Patio at a Glance
Who uses it: Christina Valencia, Kele Dobrinski and their three sons, Jack, 5, Wyatt, 3, and Adler, 1
Location: Land Park neighborhood of Sacramento, California
Size: Backyard (including pizza oven, fire pit and deck) is 1,650 square feet (153 square meters).
The couple, who co-own the creative studio Colossus Mfg, completely overhauled the house, a 70-year-old Spanish Colonial Revival. After moving in, they turned their attention to the backyard, which “was just dirt,” Valencia says.
With the aid of Dobrinski’s dad, a retired general contractor, the designer couple paved part of the backyard; built a fire pit, tiled fountain and raised bed; and transformed a crumbling pile of bricks into an outdoor pizza oven. “This area has become a natural extension of our home,” Valencia says.
The fire pit and tiled fountain wall anchor the outdoor lounge space. Visible from inside, the black-and-white porcelain tiles reinforce the modern-meets-Spanish Colonial Revival style Valencia intended and tie in with the home’s decor and color scheme. “We wanted it to be present but not be overwhelming,” Valencia says. The catch basin allows the kids to sit and splash in the water on hot days.
The gas fire feature is block-wrapped in stucco to match the home’s exterior. Poured concrete tops the fire pit, doubling as a great spot to place drinks, rest feet or take a seat (when the fire is turned off, of course). “In terms of durability, it’s awesome,” Valencia says.
Other features in the space include benches on both sides of the fountain, which can be used for storage seating or built-in planters. The low-voltage downlight seen here on the front of the fire pit is one of the subtle lighting elements that make the space safer and more enjoyable after sunset.
Working with a mason, the couple also transformed a crumbling outdoor stove into a functional brick pizza oven. They reused as many of the existing bricks as they could to create the new oven. “It cuts down on costs and is environmentally friendly,” Valencia says. Concrete counters on both sides of the oven offer convenient prep space.
Besides providing the family with fresh, delicious pizzas, the oven brings them together with their community. The couple host frequent neighborhood pizza parties and often cook with their children, pulling herbs from their garden to use as toppings. “It’s really fun to get the kids involved,” Valencia says.
The concrete patio is where the couple’s two older children, seen here, spend a lot of time in the yard. “They ride their scooters; they’re chalking out there,” Valencia says. As they’ve gotten older, the kids have started to use the narrow strip of grass (shown in the first photo) more for sports and exploration. “We really do use almost every inch of our backyard,” she adds. The front yard includes a swimming pool.
Though the outdoor space is set for now, expanding the outdoor dining area is next on the project list. “It turns out our pizza parties are a hit,” Valencia says. “Creating community was the genesis for all my decisions around the house. That has been my goal, and so far it has been working out.”