From vacation retreats in wide-open parcels to tight urban lots bordered by busy streets, functional outdoor spaces extend the boundaries of home and enhance the lives of those who inhabit them. Our 2009 CUSTOM HOME Design Awards jury repeatedly praised thoughtful connections of house to landscape in the projects they honored. Three examples from the winners pool show how carefully curated outdoor areas help elevate a house to award winner. (For more on these projects, see the May/June issue of CUSTOM HOME.)

View Maker Designer Susan Morse found a gem of a hilltop lot high above Santa Monica Bay. Befitting the coveted locale, she crafted a site plan that maximizes sweeping scenery and outdoor living while still treating the landslide-prone lot with care. “We had to stay 20 feet back from the top of the slope,” Morse explains, “so I used cantilevers to get more views.”

Rebecca Garrett A spacious kitchen deck floats out toward the edge of the long swimming pool overlooking the bay far below. Certified sustainable mahogany boards cradle a corner sitting area, while glass railings unfetter water views. A custom spa sits a few steps above the pool on grade with a grassy lawn running alongside the interior public spaces.

Morse wanted sight lines from the pool to be pleasant in every direction, so she decorated the ground underneath the cantilever with bands of moss and river stones. “Because you're down in the pool, I put a lot of thought into what you see underneath the deck,” she says. “It also prevents the deck from feeling like it looms over you.”

Builder: MG Partners, Camarillo, Calif.; Designer: SML Design Studio, Los Angeles; Photographer: Rebecca Garrett.