Creating A Big Impact With Limited Space In Mission Hills

Landscape Design and Construction Creating A Big Impact With Limited Space In Mission Hills

Many of the ‘flashier’ landscape projects we have featured on this blog have been on larger suburban properties with plenty of room for experimentation and growth. San Diego proper is a highly urbanized environment, meaning there are thousands of properties with limited outdoor spaces, which presents an alternative challenge to both homeowners and landscape designers.

The neighborhood of Mission Hills, located in the hills straddling the space in between Mission and San Diego bays, is a perfect example of one of the city’s densely populated residential areas where real estate is at a premium. As the neighborhood developed, property sizes decreased, leaving many with just a small strip of land outside of the home and a balcony which in this case is located on a canyon.

Despite this limited space, many property owners are determined to get the most out of what is available to them. One such homeowner, enlisted the help of Torrey Pines Landscape Company to expand their outdoor spaces and give their outdoor environment a much-needed facelift.


This space consisted of three primary levels: a patio on the ground floor which connected to a lower level walkway overlooking the canyon, a second story balcony connected to the back of the house, and a third-floor balcony connected to the back of the house on the main, street level that looked over the canyon. 

The first problem to solve would be the lack of function on all levels of outdoor space. The ground level patio was made up of nothing but a bed of rocks and scattered hedges, while the balconies consisted of simple narrow platforms and glass railings.

After a brief discussion with the owner, it was decided that the remodel would utilize a contemporary style for both levels. The balcony would be focused on entertaining and comfort, while the patio would focus on functionality and ease.

The Ground Level Patio 

One of the first decisions made during the planning process was a solid foundation of bluestone tiles would be used to create a patio and walkway, providing a level platform with clean, uniform lines.

The loose stone wasn’t abandoned completely, however. The washed-out grey stones were swapped out for more neutral-colored pea gravel in the planting areas and the stone staircases leading to the canyon remain. 

This stone planting area would feature the primary aesthetic draw for the patio, a large, stone basin complete with a bubbling fountain. The bed of gravel would also function as a planter, pairing the fountain with topiary boxwood shrubs.


With new structural supports and footings on this level, the third-floor balcony was able to expand to wrap around the house. The existing staircase to the second story balcony connected to the back of the house was opened up by removing the hedges. See photos below for some insight to the construction progress. 

The Balcony

The property’s balcony was due for a complete transformation, going from a simple platform to an outdoor kitchen that would expand laterally toward the side of the home. A railing wall was constructed along the side of the house balcony expansion and the original flooring was replaced with gray wood-look decking that would marry the old balcony with the new expansion. 

A new railing of glass was installed to provide users with a clear view of the canyon. As no other homes are in the canyon, it still feels secluded and semi-private. As mentioned earlier, the new expansion, on the side of the house, would use a solid wall for privacy from the next door neighbors. 


On each end of the balcony, kitchens were constructed of NatureKast cabinetry and Dekton countertops, these areas would provide ample space for the homeowner to lay out a spread when entertaining guests. Entertaining guests would require some options for food preparation, so in-built appliances were provided at each end of the outdoor kitchen. On one end, a Gozney pizza oven was installed alongside a fridge built into the cabinetry, while a Lynx grill was inserted into the other.

To finish off the project, the design team ordered some additional features that would enhance the modern aesthetic of the construction. A fire feature in the shape of a massive bowl filled with fire rated river stones took center stage to help keep guests warm during cool fall and winter nights. Interspersed along with the new outdoor furniture were matte black pots containing a variety of greenery and flowers, to provide natural color in the space.

Tying the aesthetics of all levels together, the house and the woodwork were painted a sage green, and with that final detail, the project was completed, much to the property owner’s satisfaction.

Whether large or small, Torrey Pines Landscape Company can turn even the drabbest outdoor area into a comfortable and welcoming environment. If you have a property whose landscape is in dire need of a facelift, contact us today.