Category Archives: New Landscape

In the Swing of Things


The city of Oakland is just that: the land of Oaks.  And when you’ve got one in your backyard as mighty and beautiful as the Fox family did, there’s only one thing to do:  get a swing!



Lucy and Kaya Fox enjoying their new backyard swing


The backyard boasts many spatially efficient details, of which the swing is emblematic.  Architect and landscape designer Cindy Chan helped transform the yard from cramped enclosure to tranquil sanctuary.

The original yard felt narrow and was sloping, with minimum patio space.   Jarvis proposed leveling the grade in part of the yard, in order to produce a larger and more inviting patio.  An offshoot patio hosts the swing, which has become the favorite of the kids and the kids-at-heart.  The new landscaping was installed by Dawn Landscaping, Inc.



The new design utilizes the top of the garage to create a second sunny patio. A simple metal stair, selected for its subtlety and visual permeability, connects the two patios.  A vine trellis was installed inside the original fence, providing a similarly spacious and open quality to the patio’s perimeter.



A new wood burning pizza oven, installed with the new patio is the heart and focal point of the patio.


Before: cramped quarters

French Countryside, Bay Area Style

Recently featured on the Children’s Support League’s Heart of the Home Tour, this Oakland home was landscaped with a nod to the French countryside, and designed to serve the needs of a growing Bay Area family.  Jarvis Architect and landscape designer Cindy Chan used deer-resistant, drought-tolerant, and edible plants to create an efficient and ecologically-minded space where parents and children alike can enjoy the splendor of the outdoors.


The back yard, designed with the family’s three young kids in mind, is host to a large lawn and play structure, and edged by a vegetable garden of edible greenery.  An outdoor kitchen and gas operated fire pit provide leisure-seekers with the full accoutrement to entertain, whilst an outdoor spa provides moments of pause and relaxation.  Purple and pink flowers pepper the lawn’s periphery.


Above: outdoor spa and lawn



Above: fire pit, spa, and lounge area in the backyard



An edible garden is nestled next to the play structure, encouraging the kids to be mindful of where their food comes from


  The front yard presents a contemplative counterpoint the boisterous play and activity of the backyard.   A custom metal railing fence encapsulates lush greenery, and rustic gravel pathways draw the yard dweller in to focal points such as a quatrefoil fountain and a sitting area surrounded by boxwood hedge and trellis.  Mature Oak and Pine trees shelter the elevated patio from the street, both visually and acoustically.  Climbing roses add a dash of pink, elevating the romantic tone of the yard.


In Your Neighborhood – Modernized 1950’s Home in Orinda

This recently completed addition and remodel to a 1950’s tract home in Orinda created a more light filled, open, energy efficient and comfortable modern house with a more efficient plan.  The rear of the house now opens to a newly landscaped garden designed by Jarvis Architects for indoor/outdoor living to fit a contemporary lifestyle for a family of four.  A dry stone creek for the outdoor spa shower provides surface drainage, turning excess ground water from an issue into a feature.

In addition to the more common upgrades of energy efficient lighting and appliances, solar PV for electricity and thermal panels for water heating, the following improvements were included as part of a deep energy retrofit:

Thermal envelope:

  • Improved air tightness with ‘eco-seal’ at walls and spray foam insulation at roof
  • Extra insulation at walls, floor and roof, including heating ducts within the thermal envelope for added energy efficiency.
  • Added passive cooling comfort with ‘cool roof’ shingles.


  • New furnace with ventilation feature: ‘Lifebreath’ high efficiency hybrid furnace with built-in ‘heat recovery ventilation’ (HRV) circulates continuous fresh, clean, tempered air throughout the house.

‘Home Energy Rating System’ (HERS) inspections to verify improved thermal efficiency and create eligibility for state rebates and credits:

  • ‘Quality Insulation Installation’ (QII) inspection
  • Blower door test for air tightness of thermal envelope. Vastly improved air seal rating approaches ‘passive house’ standards.
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