After 3-1/2 years of dreaming and planning and 3 months of sporadic construction, the front of my house has a fresh, more contemporary look thanks to a small but detailed remodeling project—adding a gable roof to the front porch—and new landscaping. I’m delighted with the new look, which opens up the entry and gives it more prominence, adds dimension to the roofline, updates the front walk and solves a drainage problem, and turns a traditional foundation planting into a xeric courtyard with sculptural accents.
BEFORE: Here’s how it looked last winter—sad and bedraggled. The previous owners took much better care of this area than we did, and it looked pretty nice when we moved in (before we stopped edging and watering the lawn sufficiently, and let the liriope border die out). But the traditional look just wasn’t my style, and I felt the space could be more interesting—more inviting—as a courtyard-style garden with just a few striking plants.
BEFORE: Here’s another view of the entry soon after we bought the house, before I removed the nonfunctional shutters, painted the door green, and ripped out the overcrowded dwarf nandinas on either side of the step. The biggest problem, which I couldn’t solve with a simple cosmetic fix, was the crumbling Saltillo tile walk, which sloped down from the driveway to the front steps, delivering a pool of rainwater to the base of the steps every time it rained. Plus the elevation change just felt wrong: you walked down the sloping path and then had to step up to reach the door. The whole space felt cramped as well.
AFTER: For the new walk, I envisioned floating concrete pads for a more-contemporary look. Poured in place, they span the sloping space between driveway and house, eliminating the downward ramp and allowing just one step up to reach the porch. Gravel-filled spaces between the pads allow water to flow through from the courtyard to the new dry stream on the right, which leads around to the side yard. Originally I thought to replace all the Saltillo tile and resurface the porch, but there was zero clearance for any replacement material thicker than tile, and the Saltillo continues inside the house, so ultimately it seemed appropriate (and cheaper) to leave this portion.
BEFORE: I removed the ‘Will Fleming’ yaupons but transplanted the remaining foundation plants to other places in my garden. All that thirsty, patchy grass on the left? Gone! And see those dinky, builder-grade exterior lights?
AFTER: They’re gone!—replaced with boxy, contemporary lights I ordered online. For those interested in the other materials: the wood is stained cedar, the roof is bronze standing-seam metal, and the concrete pads have a mirror finish. I obtained design help from Robert McKay, and the builder was Archadeck of Austin. The plants on the left include ‘Jaws’ agave in the low planter, toothless sotol (Dasylirion longissimum) in the vertical steel pipe, and Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha), bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), and ‘Alphonse Karr’ bamboo planted in the ground. I will probably add a few softening Mexican feathergrass behind the agave this fall.
AFTER: A new dry stream will help funnel water off the driveway and around to the side of the house.
AFTER: New porch decor, gleaned from elsewhere in the garden
Now if we could just get a good, long rain to test out the drainage pattern and deliver some relief to the parched garden.
All material © 2006-2012 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.