Summer romance

An entry courtyard sets the scene for balmy evenings

Finding outdoor living space on a small lot shaped like a slice of pie can be a challenge. But landscape designers Bob Truxell and John Valentino met this challenge head-on with a courtyard that serves as both an entryway and an outdoor living area for a home in Fresno. Working with interior designer John Cummings (the homeowner), they squeezed a contemporary, clean-lined courtyard between two house wings. A circular fountain adds the soothing sound of water, while a built-in sofa and seating area give the space all the comfort of an indoor living room. Small recesses in the wall behind the sofa are shaped to echo the square planting beds flanking the fountain.

On balmy summer nights, the courtyard takes on a romantic glow as candlelight illuminates white flowers. 'Natchez' crape myrtles fill the planting beds, bearing flowers during the warm months and leaves that turn fiery shades in fall. 'Iceberg' roses bloom along the walls.

Patches of tall fescue lawn and concrete paving that's been tinted a light tan expand the mingling space when the Cummings entertain. For more intimate gatherings, the owners and their guests can relax in the sitting area, then move to a nearby dining area for supper under the stars.

LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Truxell & Valentino Landscape Development Inc. (559/292-2871)

DESIGN: Cummings and Cross (559/226-6428)

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