We called our first California house “The Microhut.” At 813 square feet, it was a two-bedroom, one-bath charmer we found after relocating to California from a three-story brick Victorian in a less hospitable climate. It felt like we were living in someone’s glove compartment, and we took perverse pride in our ability to vacuum the entire place without having to unplug the machine from the bathroom outlet.
Our concern about diminished square footage was offset by the home’s backyard. A bi-level deck stretched across the rear of the house. The elevated side was the perfect spot for an outdoor dining table and chairs. The other side was built around the trunk of a spreading grapefruit tree, with hand-built benches around the outer rim. The deck essentially gave us twice the room to roam, and possibly saved our marriage.
Added space was only part of it, though. In addition to the grapefruit, previous owners had planted trees that bore apricots and Meyer lemons. The boughs of a neighbor’s giant avocado hung over the fence and dropped guac bombs into our yard. Our dog learned to listen for the thump of their arrival, and eventually to grasp them with his front paws and peel them with his teeth. It took us the better part of a year to figure out why our whippet-thin mutt was packing on the pounds. He began to look like a small hippopotamus in a silky fur coat.
Seven years and two kids later, we reluctantly left behind our deck and fruit trees for a bigger house in nearby Los Alamitos. While we gained square footage, we occasionally got misty thinking about the wonderful yard where we first learned the everyday thrills of outdoor living, Southern California-style.
This month, we celebrate a much-envied fact of life here with our cover story, which begins on Page 69. We offer the latest trends in design, furniture, grilling, pools, and outdoor accessories, and remind you, as summer begins, to slow down, sip something cool, and remember why we’re here.
Martin J. Smith
Illustration by John Ueland