How a Simi Valley couple transformed their backyard into a tropical resort decked out for year-round enjoyment.

Written by ELA LINDSAY   Photos by IRIS SMOOT

A  sign hanging on the outside bar at the De Maios’ Simi Valley home captures the essence of their backyard hide-away: “Lorraine and Vince’s tropical bar resort—where every hour is happy hour. Relax and enjoy.”

DiMaio Backyard

Vince De Maio says even he’s impressed with the way it all turned out.

HappyHour“I wanted an outdoor space with all the conveniences of the indoors—and I wanted it to feel like a resort.”
And it does just that, but getting there was not smooth sailing. After the original contractor went bankrupt, De Maio, who worked in the car business for 26 years, had to don a contractor’s hat to oversee the completion of his vision.

He must have been a quick learner because the project, which took 19 months to complete, brought in a first place award from California Landscape Contractors Association for residential estate installation. Landscaper Oak Springs Nursery Inc. received that honor.detail

“The backyard is my baby,” De Maio says. “Even if it’s raining, we can have a barbecue and watch TV outside because it’s all under cover. And during nice weather, don’t knock on the front door; come to the back gate because we spend most of our time there.”

The 750-square-foot, outdoor cabana is actually three rooms (without walls) with a dining room, a living room and a kitchen equipped with fridge, barbecue, stove-top burners, microwave and a countertop cooler for ice and drinks.


Everything about the installation is state-of-the-art. A fully automated remote-control system operates the cabana’s three flat-screen televisions, Blu-ray player, Internet radio and speakers. The automated features in the pool and spa are also operated via remote control. At the push of a button, De Maio can change the color of his interior pool light, turn on the spa bubbles or adjust the music playing for his guests.

“The lighting is all LED and energy-efficient,” says De Maio of the more than 100 bulbs that illuminate the yard. They are only 12 watts instead of the usual 65 watts which translates into huge savings. “That way I don’t mind turning on the lights every night . . . and it’s very romantic.”

BarWhen they’re not in the pool or spa, guests can congregate at the 25-foot-long bar, gather around the gas-burning fire pit or lounge on easy chairs near the fireplace. The dining area has sit-down seating for eight guests.

The pool features a Mexican-inspired Baja shelf, a roomy foot-deep area that’s perfect for lounging on a chaise partially submerged on a steamy day. Two swim-up cocktail tables are ideal for sipping margaritas in the shade of the palapas. Chosen for their real palm material, the tiki-style umbrellas add to the resort flavor. Two infinity edges give the pool a stunning nighttime presence.

The outdoor wood-fired pizza oven is another De Maio triumph, but it took a while for him to learn how to use it.

DiMaio Backyard“The first pizza didn’t turn out. The second was worse,” he says with a laugh. But apparently he’s got the hang of it now because the couple often throws parties with homemade pizza on the menu.

No detail has been overlooked. Ceiling fans draw fresh breezes into the cabana, and heaters keep it toasty in the off-season. There’s natural Arizona Sweetwater stonework throughout and artificial turf, which is clean and low-maintenance. A full alarm system deters any would-be partycrashers.

All this is nestled under the spreading boughs of a huge oak tree that has been part of the landscape for several hundred years.

The capper on this outdoor haven is an 8-by-10-foot air-conditioned shed, complete with hardwood floors, cabana tiles, deep -freeze chest and commercial icemaker. A sign on the door says: “Resort Mini Suite #525.”

“It’s the day we got married,” says Vince De Maio, “May 25.”

DiMaio Backyard

The cabana is actually three rooms, merged under a single roof. There’s a living room seating area, a fully-equipped kitchen with bar seating and a dining room area. The pool has two distinct infinity edges.

Celebrating 29 years together this year, the couple say their personal Margaritaville was worth every penny.

“It’s not a backyard; it’s a resort.”