After years of living with the yard in disrepair, this newly empty nest family was ready to take back their front yard. The home is located in one of Albuquerque’s oldest areas of town known as the historic Atrisco neighborhood. This couple bought their home in Atrisco along the escarpment for the expansive views of the city but un-expectantly gained a community where families and history run deep.
There were many issues with the front yard that the homeowners had just grown accustomed to. The steep slope of their driveway made it difficult to park a car on, small retaining walls were falling apart, and a large side yard merely collected trash and debris from past home improvement projects. Amongst the debris, the side yard had a unique feature, a historic iron bell hung from rough cut timbers. This bell had gone into disrepair, the side yard was full of weeds and dirt, and the retaining walls holding up the steep slopes were showing their age.
After meeting with the homeowners and discussing their needs, budget, and desires; we created an overall Master Plan for their front yard. This included rehabilitating the steep slope with new retaining walls, addressing drainage issues from roof runoff by adding a swale, and creating an outdoor living area outside their living room sliding glass doors. The master plan would be their guide for creating their dream yard step by step over time as budget allows. In fact this family was no longer using their driveway due to its disrepair. Instead they were walking down 12’ of steps to and from their house carrying groceries week after week.
These yard issues were overwhelming to the homeowners who were left wondering where to even begin. Once I understood their concerns, issues, and needs I went to work creating them a Master Plan that was broken up into priorities that fit their budget and needs. Breaking down the yard into small doable tasks is important to the projects success.
In the side yard we were able to provide the homeowner with 600 additional square feet of outdoor space off their living room. We did this by creating a northern exposure patio space with flagstone pavers, stucco seating boncos, and planters. (PRO TIP North and eastern exposures are a great place to locate patios because they remain cool and protected throughout the hot summer months.)
The homeowners live in a very friendly neighborhood, in fact after being there for a month overseeing the construction I was welcomed into the community. The neighbors regularly get together for evening drinks and dinner. This side yard was the perfect space for inviting the neighbors down into the home. The couple did surprise me by requesting an outdoor brick oven for baking bread. Traditionally called an horno, you can find these located outside of practically every home in the New Mexico pueblos. We decided to create a beautiful horno to anchor the space, as a nod to the rich history of New Mexico, and to provide nourishment (in the form of bread or pizzas) to family and friends.
Due to the steepness of the front entry this side yard was barely visible to the street, we wanted to make it more inviting to the community. We did this by raising the stucco wall along the property line and opening up a few views into the space from the street. By strategically planting the terraces with a mix of evergreens, ornamental grasses, and perennials we were able to create a semi-transparent buffer area with strategically placed vantage points into the yard.
This couple now regularly enjoys their front yard either with a quiet glass of wine listening to the trickling sounds of the water feature or with an impromptu neighborhood potluck complete with fresh baked bread.