Desert connection

Echo the natural landscape with rustic materials and native plants

Arizona desert
Photo: Steven Gunther

A mountain view truly comes alive with flat grassland or desert plantings in the foreground for context. Yet Janet Simon and Ron McCoy bought a home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, where the panorama had been walled out. The long, narrow concrete-block house was sited east to west on the property, with the southern side facing Camelback Mountain. A big, deep arroyo cuts through the land to the south, so no neighboring homes block the couple's splendid vista. But the offending wall cut across that south-facing space; you could see the mountains in the distance over the wall but none of the natural landscape. And the gardens were planted with non-natives ― mostly oleanders and struggling palms. "There was no sense of living in the desert at all," Simon explains.

The couple, both partners in McCoy and Simon Architects, asked Phoenix landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck to remedy the situation. They'd seen how Ten Eyck's gardens embrace the desert and make the most of its native plants' fierce beauty, so they knew she could give them an emotional connection to their surroundings. They also wanted an entertaining area with flexible seating that would allow them and guests to fully enjoy the view and weather. "Our hope was for the house, garden, and natural landscape to all be in harmony," says Simon.

 

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