Add a sculptural dimension to your yard with decorative boulders, fountains, benches, or sculptures. These can fill in gaps between indigenous or other drought-tolerant vegetation, and goes way beyond garden gnomes! Here are a few inspirational images to get you started (click images for sources):

Spanish Revival is a popular style in the Santa Barbara region. Graphic tiling,  benches, and fountains allow a beautiful indoor design aesthetic to creep out into the backyard. Indoor/outdoor living is a staple of architectural design for the Santa Barbara lifestyle.
Spanish Revival is a popular style in the Santa Barbara region. Graphic tiling, benches, and fountains allow a beautiful indoor design aesthetic to creep out into the backyard. Indoor/outdoor living is a staple of architectural design for the Santa Barbara lifestyle.
These whimsical stepping stones provide tonal variety, organic shape, and beautifully highlight stone materials. Plus, it looks even better when you’re behind on your yardwork!
This creative solution adds greenery in the deep run of an outdoor staircase by including succulents, mosses, and hardy herbs. Blending walkways and beds allows an immersive experience in your yard or garden. Lush and welcoming, these beds are relatively low-maintenance.
Lawns are notoriously thirsty. Even if your backyard square footage is limited, consider using that area for an alternative outdoor living space instead. Grills, stone pizza ovens, Moorish fountains, and graphic tiling are common elements in outdoor living design.
If you’re lucky enough to be situated on or near a parcel of open land, a stylish gazebo like this one can be an elegant and minimal outdoor living solution.
A secluded, spa-like atmosphere may be a more accessible alternative to the standard backyard than you realize. Shade, mulched and minimal plantings, starkly linear arrangements of luxury stone, and a few side tables spell many a relaxing afternoon and evening with friends without the burden of heavy irrigation.
Valle de Verde Landscape Architects suggests mixing and matching materials to create zones in your outdoor space. Here, pavers are used closest to the house, with concrete around a fire pit and gravel in between.
Valle de Verde Landscape Architects suggests mixing and matching materials to create zones in your outdoor space. Here, pavers are used closest to the house, with concrete around a fire pit and gravel in between.
This design by Pedersen Associates proves that the living room needn't be an exclusively indoor idea. In Santa Barbara, where rain is a rare occurrence, the starry night sky is an intriguing companion for nighttime lounging in a comfortable outdoor space like this one.
This design by Pedersen Associates proves that the living room needn’t be an exclusively indoor idea. In Santa Barbara, where rain is a rare occurrence, the starry night sky is an intriguing companion for nighttime lounging in a comfortable outdoor space like this one.
If something less traditional is more up your alley, consider shaping walkways and seating areas with tunnels or sculptural elements like this, inspired by dog parks and obstacle courses.
If something less traditional is more up your alley, consider shaping walkways and seating areas with tunnels or sculptural elements like this, inspired by dog parks and obstacle courses.
Design associate Andrew Spiering of Terra Ferma Landscapes suggests casting shadows on the southwestern exposure of the home using large deciduous trees, like oaks, sycamores and elms. "Other ideas include increasing humidity around the home using layered planting or reducing hardscape," he says.
Design associate Andrew Spiering of Terra Ferma Landscapes suggests casting shadows on the southwestern exposure of the home using large deciduous trees, like oaks, sycamores and elms. “Other ideas include increasing humidity around the home using layered planting or reducing hardscape,” he says.
Here, the long lines of the oval containers create a striking futuristic design on this Los Angeles rooftop. Again, minimalism is key — the designer used nothing but the containers and cool, neutral-toned hardscape materials to create a clean, orderly feel. 10 Expert Tips for Growing Edibles in Containers.
Here, the long lines of the oval containers create a striking futuristic design on this Los Angeles rooftop. Again, minimalism is key — the designer used nothing but the containers and cool, neutral-toned hardscape materials to create a clean, orderly feel. 10 Expert Tips for Growing Edibles in Containers.
Hardscapes are an exciting dimension of outdoor design because the possibilities are endless. Even if you're not as contemporary-minded as the above container gardening, a rustic European style like this one is also achieved primarily through the use of stones like flagstone and cobblestone.
Hardscapes are an exciting dimension of outdoor design because the possibilities are endless. Even if you’re not as contemporary-minded as the above container gardening, a rustic European style like this one is also achieved primarily through the use of stones like flagstone and cobblestone.
To avoid the "scorched earth" look, work with inflammable floorings (such as tile and stone), mulch (such as gravel) and plants with low fuel/high moisture content (such as lawn and succulents). This home's courtyard provides a firebreak that uses noncombustible hardscape and less-flammable plants.
To avoid the “scorched earth” look, work with inflammable floorings (such as tile and stone), mulch (such as gravel) and plants with low fuel/high moisture content (such as lawn and succulents). This home’s courtyard provides a firebreak that uses noncombustible hardscape and less-flammable plants.

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