Actress Diana Maria Riva often sits in the backyard of her Spanish-style Burbank home and reflects on its many incarnations — it once held a playhouse for her children when they were younger, and then a small swimming pool, and then a mound of dirt while she was trying to decide what to do next.
“I’ve recalled all the transformations, and the story along the way,” said Riva, who shares the home with her 15-year-old daughter (her son is away at college) and two rescue dogs, Ty and Coby. “It’s been a good story, a real-life story. And now, in its newest phase, it’s something still for the family — but something special I gave to myself too.”
Riva has a busy shooting schedule. She appears on the NBC show “Sunnyside,” on Netflix’s “Dead to Me” and in Disney’s Christmas movie “Noelle.” But when she’s home and the sun is setting, she likes to retreat to what she calls her “comfort space” in her backyard, a small area with a fire pit and a set of chairs that hold a special meaning for her.
Why is this your favorite space?
There are many nights when I come home from work and I want a little tranquility and serenity and this space affords it to me. It feels private and protected. You can see the colors of the sunset, and there is plumeria with beautiful pink blossoms. But it doubles as a great entertainment space with wonderful conversations when people come over. I like anything that makes you feel happy to be in my house.
What was this space like when you first moved in?
I bought the house in 1999 and the backyard was just a rickety patio with some grass and very thick ivy, which took up a lot of space and harbored a lot of critters. We cleared that out, and that gave new life to the back yard.
And one part of your outdoors is special to you?
There was a dirt square where the pool used to be and I didn’t know what to do with it for many years. But then everybody was coming into town for my son’s high school graduation, and I knew I had to do something out there. You know what they say — if you want to get anything done around the house, invite people over.
What was your plan?
My gardener suggested deconstructed granite on the ground. And I knew I wanted a fire pit and some comfortable seating.
And the chairs are extra special.
I was looking at these Midcentury Modern-style lounge chairs on Pinterest; they looked like they wouldn’t take up too much space and were comfortable. I went away for a weekend and my son downloaded the plans, went to Home Depot and bought the lumber, borrowed some power tools and built and stained them for me. When I came back on Mother’s Day, they were in the backyard ready for me. It’s a wonderful thing to think about every time I go out there.
Where are the other pieces from?
The ceramic end tables are from Target and the steel orange stools from Cost Plus (World Market). I got the fire pit at a great price during a Memorial Day sale.
And this fire pit area is separate from your main outdoor entertaining space?
Over a decade ago I built this canopied area. I found old railroad beams on which I hung a scalloped awning. We have a terracotta floor — I wanted it to feel like we were in a hotel in Miami, tropical and whimsical. Then the fire pit area is next to it, not conflicting but being an extension of it. I love sitting out here in its newest phase.