Backyard Fantasy

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A Laguna Beach design team creates outdoor dreamscapes. – By Somer Flaherty

Whether it’s designing a formal English-style outdoor space complete with clipped hedges, a 75-foot lap pool lined in marble tile and a miniature parterre garden flanked by a child’s playhouse—or a more simple coastal retreat with native landscaping and river rock water features—Richard Leyva and Rich Wilde, the design team behind Laguna Beach’s Leyva & Wilde, perfect the art of highly personal outdoor design that’s as unique as the owners who will use the space.

The two have always enjoyed design—Richard’s father was a developer, so he had exposure to many design professionals during the evolution of his projects, while Rich was fascinated with plants at a very early age and even studied horticulture in junior high and high school. Their careers have spanned a combined 40 years designing outdoor areas in locations as far as Saudi Arabia and the West Indies, as well as right at home in Laguna Beach.

Outdoor spaces can be overlooked, but for residents fortunate enough to call Laguna’s mild climate home, the area should have just as much thought and detail as any interior space, as indoor-outdoor living is so prevalent here. Richard says the importance of the outdoor space makes the process of designing a garden or entire backyard very personal. They help achieve dream gardens with careful preplanning, such as a conceptual landscape design that includes all the hardscape elements—what areas will be paved, where the pool and spa will be and where fountains or pergolas may be added—and all softscape elements, such as ornamental plantings.

When that garden is finally realized, the two say proper maintenance is key. “Gardens are living creatures, they change and evolve,” Richard says. “As with a business, develop a mission statement for your landscape and actually look at your garden in the context of that mission statement. We are constantly called in to fix gardens that have run amok; sometimes finding the thread of the original design and sometimes not.”

If you’re taking on garden design by yourself, check out the duo’s five tips for creating the ultimate wonder-space.

1. Less is more. Your home is not a botanical garden! Understand that the scale of the property has a direct bearing on the complexity of the garden. Unless you’re specifically re-creating an East Coast perennial garden, try to limit the palette of hardscape choices and plants to something that is appropriate for the size of the property. Trying to incorporate a large number of elements onto a relatively small property can make the exterior spaces feel small and disjointed.

2. Match the style of the architecture with the style of the garden. It looks awkward if you’re trying to superimpose a Mediterranean garden onto an English Tudor house.

3. White flowers in a garden look wonderful and bright at night.

4. Choose either cool or warm colors. Cool pastels such as lavender, fuchsia, pink and magenta work well together and conversely, warm colors such as yellow, orange and red blend nicely. Rules, however, are meant to be broken: Yellow and violet look wonderful together.

5. Don’t mix colors of bedding flowers. Depending on the size of the property, broad strokes of single colors read much better than incorporating every color of the rainbow.


The Outdoor Scene

Functional furnishings create a welcoming backyard space. Even if you weren’t born with a green thumb, you can still create an outdoor getaway with the right furniture, art and a little extra space. LBM


Outdoor sculpture by local artist Jon Seeman, available at the artist’s studio(1901 Laguna Canyon Rd., #6; 949-494-4746;

Outdoor pillows by Elaine Smith, available at Stephen Frank Garden and Home (477 Forest Ave.; 949-494-2014;

 Latitude outdoor furniture, available at Tommy Bahama (400 S. Coast Hwy.; 949-376-6886,

Fusion rocker by Hancock and Moore, available at Von Hemert Interiors (345 North Coast Hwy.; 949-494-6551;

Nataola Lounge, available at Modern Studio Furnishings (290 Broadway; 949-376-0103,






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