Before and After

“Contemporary Spanish Retreat”


Front Courtyard

With its green wall of ficus and odd raised bed of gravel, the front courtyard was essentially orphaned from the house and looked uninviting. The new design called for replacing the hedge with a real wall, stuccoed green, to create a courtyard, along with a new hedge with a fresher, airier look. The new built-in sofa and octagonal fire pit nestles into the corner; and the varying shades of green keep the feeling light.

Spanish Retreat: Front - before
Spanish Retreat: Front - after


The old view from the drive entry shows a typical approach from this construction period. We decided to open this “window” to allow access from the entry alcove. The arch window now serves both to open the view visually and to permit passage to the new sunken courtyard.

Spanish Retreat: Entry - before Mask
Spanish Retreat: Entry - after mask

Courtyard Access from Living Room

In examing this uninteresting access from the living room, we discovered buried underneath it all an old concrete patio, construction debris, gravel, and mummified turf. We had a veritable layercake of trash to remove! The new steps and railing provide a more gracious access to the sunken courtyard. Plantings and an overhead rail help to soften the new hardscape, and the fountain snuggles between the two access points.

Spanish Retreat: Livingroom - before
Spanish Retreat: Livingroom - after

Courtyard Looking Toward House

The “before” image shows the front courtyard with the demolition almost complete. Afterward, looking back from the sofa and fire pit, it now offers a much more comfortable view! The deep serpentine planter on the right provides a nice balance with the fountain on the left.

Spanish Retreat: Courtyard - before
Spanish Retreat: Courtyard - after

Back Yard

Excessive concrete in the pool area dominated one’s first view into the back yard. Replacing some of this concrete with a light buff flagstone and planting areas helped to soften the view and added dimension to the whole area.

Spanish Retreat: Backyard - before Mask
Spanish Retreat: Backyard - after mask

Pool Area

The predominance of timber bamboo made the area overall look too dissheveled and out of control. We removed the bamboo and installed a striped wall within the hedge to add some much needed punch to the space.

Spanish Retreat: Pool - before
Spanish Retreat: Pool - after

A common request is to transform outdated landscapes of small Spanish bungalows. This usually involves adding comfortable seating and entertaining spaces in a garden setting. In this case, the design also called for a walled front courtyard.
— Laura Morton