Midtown, Updating a Front Space and Creating a Courtyard

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The young couple that owns this townhome had completely customize the inside. Their tastes are modern, upbeat, eclectic and colorful. Now for an outdoor space to complement the inside. They were expecting their first child and wanted more privacy and a place to enjoy growing herbs, playing in the grass and sitting and relaxing. Here is the before photo with Shawn getting ready to take measurements while I photograph.Before we start designing we need to see the survey. In this space we wanted to find out if we could move the fence line closer to the side walk. The space was very congested and completely useless. The shrubs next to the house were over grown and really not complementing the home. My favorite thing is when the client tells us get rid of it all. I love a blank slate! We took out the old metal fence and came out toward the side walk at least another two feet. Working with the existing path to the door we created two spaces. The space is tied together with a theme of contemporary materials combined with natural materials all in shades of gray. We were consulted on the house color and I encouraged them to go with their desire for a big change. The gray and white is refreshing and contemporary. The pop of color with the orange door will be reflected in cushions and pottery. The plantings will be minimal. The raised beds will be left empty so the home owners can plant them with their favorite herbs, succulents and annuals. On this project we amended the irrigation to be able to water more efficiently using drip tubing. You can see below the hard pipe comes up into the raised bed and from that we add the brown drip tubing. On these beds we used the narrow 4 inch cinder blocks to create a sleeker profile. They are then skim coated on the inside to keep moisture from wicking into the blocks and on the outside to create a poured concrete look. We use cement pad frequently because they are a low cost and functional material that provides a clean modern look. We have them custom made locally. I like them better than poured in place because they can be moved and replaced easily if ever there needs to be something excavated underneath or a stain on the cement that is unbearable. First we had to build a small retaining wall to create more level ground. After that we built the fence. Here we are getting the grade right and working on setting the cement pads out in a grid. It takes a bit of math to find the right size pad for the space and desired look. While they are custom made for each project we only have a limited amount of sizes to chose from. We prefer a 2 to 3 inch gap filled with gravel to keep them in place. We are using my favorite rainbow gravel on this project. It is more rounded than most gravels in our market. The various colors are fun and the white ones pick up the light in the evening. Above you can see the finished fence. The owners stained it a nice neutral gray brown. The design idea behind this fence is to create privacy without feeling too closed in or block air flow. The space is small and to maximize it, while still having green from plants, I designed the sides with welded wire instead of the narrow slats. We planted Dessert Trumpet Vine, Podranea ricasoliana.  This vine has shiny leaves and pretty pink fragrant trumpet shaped flowers. It re-blooms spring through autumn with woody stems that can reach 10 to 12 feet long. Great for attracting local pollinators and creating striking visual interest from inside and out.Street view during construction. This shot shows how when standing you can see out (or in) but much more private if sitting. I think it works well for a front yard space. Street view after we finished…just need to put up the post box and add the locks to the gates. Below looking west across the space. The front door is flanked with 2 Oscar’s Dwarf Yaupon holly. They are also in the narrow space between the fence and the sidewalk (see above). These low growing dwarf yaupons only want to be 2 feet tall, smaller than the normal ones we find in our market. They have a more mounding form and are just the toughest little shrubs you can hope to find. Seriously, wet feet, dry feet, sun, shade they just take it all!We didn’t get a shot but here is one the client sent of the tree in the corner near the side gate. This is a Ligustrum Wimbei (Chinese Priviet), Ligustrum sinense ‘Wimbei’. I like its fascinating branching shape and the tiny little leaves. We added large rainbow colored rocks, that match the small rainbow gravel, around the tree and across the courtyard around the fountain. Please excuse the cans of paint stain. Looking east across the space, so much more room, remember the before picture!I love the little seating area. This couple has such an eye for fun furniture and accessories. In a small space I recommend using furniture that can be moved to accommodate any type of gathering. In Houston with our humidity it is good to keep in mind wood furniture will get moldy. The plastic is perfect. The fountain in the corner helps block out the street noise and create a soothing effect that water brings to a space. You can see the vines are already starting fill in and bloom. I had such fun collaborating with this creative young couple. I like imagining them enjoying our lovely winter these last few month sitting outdoors with their young daughter!

Happy Gardening!

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