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For The Garden

Patios Go Mexican

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: August, 2013, Page 122

Once Considered Unusable, Revamped Patio Spaces Now Offer an Appealing South-of-the-Border Vibe

Photos - From left: Before • A palette of blacks, creams and burnt oranges defines the entry courtyard, where a newly added banco and furniture grouping can accommodate up to five people. It also is the sunniest spot in winter, a plus for the homeowner, who enjoys reading in the warm alcove.

Photos by Tim Fuller

Winter homes in warm climates can be wonderful getaways, but when their outdoor spaces are low-functioning and lacking in interest, they don’t always serve their purpose. Such was the case at the north Tucson home of Kansas resident, Connie Koester.

“I bought the house 13 years ago and never really liked the patios. They felt like wasted space,” says the homeowner, who is a University of Arizona alumnus and vacations regularly in Tucson. “A few years ago, I realized it was time to renovate.” After seeing a project in the neighborhood completed by designer Kathryn Prideaux, APLD, Allied ASID, Koester hired her. “I really liked what she did. It was clear that she does small spaces well.”

For Prideaux, the challenge was in making the awkward patio spaces useable. “The path to the front door jogs—with two offshoots—a long one in front of the window and a short one between the garage and kitchen,” she explains. “The back patio is long and narrow, and both patios were almost completely bricked in, with few to no plantings.”

The designer proceeded to remove all of the existing brick in the front patio and replaced it with Saltillo tile. She then removed a dated fountain; added a built-in water feature on a side wall that is much more suitable for a focal-point piece; created two sitting areas; and added shade-loving plants in beds and pots, all of which present a welcoming atmosphere.

“The back became all about sub-spaces,” Prideaux explains. “We reset the brick to create brick “rugs,” with four-inch spacings between sections that are filled with river rock. Each sub-space fulfills a purpose, she notes. One houses a barbecue, one a fire feature, another a dining space, and the last one, a small lounging area.

Colorful tile work, attractive fabrics and a mix of rustic materials create a look that Prideaux calls Modern Mexican. “It’s about using the textures, finishes and styles of Mexico, but blending them in a modern way by using a more limited color palette and modern forms.”

For Koester, it’s a look that suits her to a T.

The updated back patio, which faces west, has become a favorite spot for enjoying cool evenings. A recycled propane tank filled with fire balls serves as a fire feature; it sits atop a base clad in Mexican tiles laid in a chevron pattern.

A built-in barbecue makes use of a side wall and keeps the user from squinting into the setting sun, says designer Kathryn Prideaux. The tile work features the traditional blues and whites of Talavera ceramics.
A rustic chair, ottoman and custom cushions fill a 6-foot-square niche that once housed a fountain. To draw attention to the height of the open space, a custom steel light fixture was suspended overhead. Shade-loving Japanese aralia (Fatsia japonica) in an oversized pot helps soften the hardscape.

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: Space constrictions. “In the front, the patio is broken up into many different areas,” notes designer Kathryn Prideaux. “The back is long and narrow.”

BIGGEST SURPRISE: More useable space. “I can’t believe how much I use both patios now,” says homeowner Connie Koester. “And they’re so much nicer looking!”

BIGGEST SPLURGE: The custom pillows. “I knew I wanted something a bit different and unique, and the custom indoor/outdoor fabrics provide that,” Koester remarks.

Photos - From left: Before •  A cantera and tile-accented wall fountain was constructed in the front entry. “The layout required that the water feature hug the wall as tightly as possible so as not to limit the walk to the front door,” explains Prideaux.

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