Sonoma County backyards built for play


Forget the dingy man cave with its poker table, lighted beer signs and worn-out La-Z-Boy. This trend of the early years has given way to the lure of the great outdoors.

Guys want to be outside and glamping in their own backyards with outdoor kitchens, lounges with TV and music, and spaces for active play, from putting greens to bocce courts. Instead of just retiring to their own dark hiding spots, many men now want to spend time in the sun or under the stars with their family and friends.

“What we’re seeing now is more families who tend to build an area where the whole family can have fun outdoors,” said Guy Aranda of Guy’s Yard Design in Sonoma County. “They’re creating their own parks in the backyards.”

Men take an active role in deciding what will be in their playground. And flames are a key component. They want fire pits, more elaborate gas grills, pizza ovens, and smokers. But the desires go beyond the mere device. The chefs in the outdoor kitchen want to spice up their game with sufficient storage space, storage options for barbecue equipment, mini-fridges and pergola roofs that provide shade when grilling.

Anthony Westergard spent some of his extra time at home during the pandemic to fulfill a long-cherished dream. He installed a pizza oven in his backyard in Santa Rosa.

Long a luxury item only for the well-heeled, pizza ovens have fallen in price and are available as small appliances from several hundred dollars.

Westergard, a Santa Rosa firefighter, paid $ 500 online for a stainless steel pizza oven that runs on gas or wood.

As a teenager, he worked at the old Gina’s Pizzeria on Highway 12, where he not only learned how to roll dough, but also to throw it in the air. He never lost touch.

“I used to do that when I was working, and since then I’ve always wanted a pizza oven,” says Westergard, who claims he can throw a pizza cake eight feet into the air.

He clad a simple metal hearth by building a base with curved retaining bricks. A source of heat is essential for outdoor entertainment in Santa Rosa even in summer, he said.

“I just like to hang out there,” he said of his suburban backyard domain, where he is the master of the grill. It’s daddy’s kitchen.

“I cook and grill and the pizza,” he said. “My wife cooks well. I’m doing a barbecue. Grill steaks are my specialty.

But thanks to the pizza oven, he can prepare cakes for every taste, even for his vegetarian daughter.

On Father’s Day on Sunday, he will be happy to feed his family, which includes four adult children and nine grandchildren between the ages of 6 months and 7 years. For the bigger boys there is a trampoline in the playground in the backyard.

Comfort is important to outdoor cooking, and many families add wooden pergolas to reduce the rays. Hanz Enz, a retired firefighter from San Francisco, built a shed-style wooden awning over his outdoor kitchen.

“We don’t have air conditioning. On days when it’s very hot, I cook outside, ”he said. Enz came up with the idea online for a 16 by 12 foot pergola over his smoker, gas grill, and sink. With a cement deck, he didn’t have a way to set four posts, so he built one with two posts stuck 3 feet into the ground by the fence. He used pressure-treated wood, but clad it in redwood to beautify it. It reduced the tiny leaves that kept falling into its workplace.

“I’m out practically every night. If I can be outside, I’m outside. I live in my backyard, ”says Enz, who also built an outdoor lounge with a television. It’s used more, he said, than the indoor living room.

Cozy space and outdoor games

Landscape architect and plumber Scott Vice has slowly rebuilt his garden in Santa Rosa’s Grace Tract into his own idea of ​​a garden canopy, a place that is flexible for adults, family fun, or for his three daughters to hang out with friends.

The pandemic has only fueled the trend towards high-intensity outdoor living, with many people doing long-delayed projects out of necessity as it was unsafe to entertain indoors.

“People are a lot more at home and want their backyards to look more like a resort,” he said.

That’s exactly what he does in his own backyard. He has an outdoor, cabana-style living room furnished with every amenity from plush couches and chairs to a large 55-inch TV for watching the Giants.

Tongue-and-groove cladding gives it the look of a finished room. Roll-up curtain shades, available from Redwood Awning (about $ 1,000 per side for a cranked model), provide protection from the sun, insects, and the cold on the two open sides.

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