Subscribe Today
Give a Gift
Customer Service

Phoenix Home and Garden
Subscribe Today!
For the HomeFor the GardenFood & EntertainingResourcesArticle Archive
For The Garden

Pure Pleasure

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: August, 2009, Page 98
Photography by Richard Maack

Low-slung walls define an expansive new front courtyard. A path of cantera pavers leads through a wooden gate to a second private entry courtyard
Exterior changes ramp up a home’s function and beauty

In its former state, this 1960s Ranch-style house was tidy but hardly distinguishable from other homes on
its pleasant Phoenix street.
That no longer is true. Refreshed with desert-smart plants, and beautified with water features and stone and wood embellishments, the home’s exterior went from ordinary to its current state—loaded with charm and south-of-the-border spice. “It really stands out on this street,” says homeowner Jenni Leinbach.

In fact, it was the home’s curb appeal and all-around fine exterior that influenced her and husband Rob’s decision to buy the house when they were relocating from Seattle. The previous homeowners, Lisa and Eric Inabinet, had engaged landscape designer Kenny Zelov of Landscaping by André to do a major overhaul of the outdoor spaces. That included removing all but a mesquite tree from the front yard and adding a wealth of mature cacti—several that are between 35 and 40 years old, Zelov reports.

But beyond creating a “pretty face,” Zelov says an important goal of the renovation was to make both the front and backyard more usable. For example, once a bland mix of grass and gravel with a tiny entry area, the front yard now functions as a place of welcome and relaxation. Zelov replaced the lawn and gravel here with a large cantera-floored courtyard. A second, more private entry courtyard is defined by a stone fountain, decorative low walls and a profusion of desert landscaping. It is reached through a custom rustic wood gate.

Exterior Before
In addition to refurbishing the swimming pool, the landscape designer took other steps to make the backyard more user-friendly. He incorporated multiple sitting areas to take advantage of mountain views—“outdoor rooms that range from quiet and serene to open and interactive.” A raised patio is such an example. It was formed by grading a severe slope in the lawn and shoring up the spot with masonry retaining walls. Not only did the creation of this quiet setting capture a view of Camelback Mountain, “It allowed us to reclaim some flat usable space for the grass as well as a basketball court,” Zelov says.

All around the property are attractive manmade examples of the Mexican influence he sought, such as chiseled cantera cornices at windows and carved stone fountains. As in Mexico, these water features and a surrounding oasis of cacti, succulents and colorful plants provide cool escapes from the heat, Zelov comments.

The total effect is one of pure pleasure for the lady of the house and her guests. Smiling, she relates, “Friends and family who come here from Seattle say they feel like they’re coming to a little resort.”

In the front yard, totem pole and senita cacti, as well as sculptural yuccas and agaves, become attractive foils for a dramatic Camelback Mountain backdrop.

Relocating an air-conditioning unit was the first step in changing this narrow area beyond the home’s entry foyer into a gem of a courtyard. A wall-hung fountain, a decorative cantera window cornice, and pretty paver arrangements completed the transformation.
A carved-cantera fountain and lacy wrought-iron lanterns lend the entry courtyard a Mexican hacienda look.

Photos - Above left: Outsize cantera scuppers with a primitive Mexican feel carry water into the refurbished swimming pool. Coping beneath the scuppers and surrounding the pool is composed of Mexican beach pebbles Above right:  Landscape designer Kenny Zelov turned a difficult sloping lawn in the backyard into a raised sitting area. Defined by sculptural desert plants, the relaxing spot is reached by a wide pavered stairway. Below left: Renovation of the pool area and the additions of a fire pit and raised sitting area resulted in a resortlike atmosphere. While the shape of the pool was maintained, it was made more usable with a wide shelf entry and refurbished with a Pebble Tec finish. Decking was replaced with burnt-adobe tiles that meet the pool’s new cantera edge. Landscape designer Kenny Zelov created a cactus garden in unused space behind the pool’s scuppers. Colorful flowers bloom in garden plots and concrete wok bowls. Below right: Pool area before
Subscribe Today!