“It’s really an extension of the house,” says Matt Preuss of the outdoor spaces he and his crew transform into innovative, fresh-air lounges. When he first lays eyes on a new client’s yard, the landscape designer and builder has a goal: “To erase those defined areas between indoor living spaces and the outside. To create a seamless transition.”
It’s a skill and art that Preuss has honed since he first fell in love with landscaping as a 14-year-old in Indiana. “My mother was a real estate agent,” he explains, “so I cut grass and ran my own maintenance company all through high school.” Since those adolescent days, “you could say working outside has been in my blood,” he adds.
What followed was a landscape architecture degree at Ball State University in Indiana, then a move to Southern California, lured by its weather. It was a fine fit for Preuss, with its agreeable year-round climate and inhabitants who yearn to spend as much time as possible outdoors—from sunny poolside days to starry nights in front of a crackling fire—and in stylish comfort.
In 2004, Preuss started Cutting Edge Landscape Design in the South Bay, titling it a landscape design-build firm in order to describe the breadth of his services. “We’re about outdoor living,” he says. “Your backyard is our domain.” A domain that Preuss and his crew can reconfigure with elaborate green spaces, decked with pergolas.
Covered patios. Fireplaces and fire pits. Swimming pools and spas. Barbecue stations. Drought tolerant planting, including xeriscaping. “It’s gardening that doesn’t require a lot of water,” explains Preuss. “It needs minimal water and has a minimal look, without it looking too desert-like.”
Preuss and his designers work to create strategic outdoor symphonies on yards big and small, in coastal communities from Manhattan Beach to Newport Beach. (His firm’s design showroom in Los Alamitos, is open to the public.) He describes this approach as “working outside the box, and inside the box, to grant my homeowners every wish they have.” His clients, mostly affluent, rarely say ‘No’ when it comes to his designs. Instead, they typically ask: “What more can we do?”
To execute at this level, Preuss stocks his firm with well-vetted designers, most of them college graduates. He himself holds a general contractor’s license in addition to a landscape contracting one, and those working in the field with him, he says, focus on hands-on precision: “I tell my guys, ‘The Devil is in the details.’
” When first looking at a yard that needs improvement, says Preuss, “I can see what needs to be done pretty quickly.” It’s a vision honed by decades of experience, and refreshed by visits to trade shows and to luxe resorts with his son and wife. “They tend to have nice outdoor living spaces,” he says, “and I like to see how those work.”
It’s all in the pursuit of uplifting outdoor spaces, and having them match or surpass favorite indoor rooms. “We’re going to give you a fresh idea,” says Preuss. “That fresh idea of custom outdoor living. You’ve built that million-dollar house—let’s create that same design outside.”
10900 Los Alamitos Blvd.
Los Alamitos, CA
PHOTOGRAPHS: COURTESY OF CUTTING EDGE