Steven Gunther

Take full advantage of scenic views in a hillside backyard

Sharon Cohoon,  – January 23, 2007

Good views shouldn’t go to waste. This Tucson property is blessed with two: a panorama of desert and mountains in one direction and the lush carpet of a golf course and twinkling city lights in the other. So the owners asked landscape designer Margaret West to create an entertainment patio that would take advantage of both vistas in a space that feels as contemporary as their home, but also evokes a water hole in the wild.

West began by encircling the mounding property with retaining walls to create level space for landscaping and outdoor living areas ― including a patio, pool, spa, fireplace, and barbecue ― and guard against the 5-foot drop.

Atop one wall, she installed a dramatic rusted-steel fence that curves around and cants toward the patio. Though highly decorative, the fence doesn’t compete with the larger landscaping beyond it, says West. “It invites you to approach and take a closer look.”

Three great ideas from this garden

1. Keep landscaping below eye level. Margaret West used low-growing plants, such as lantana and angelita daisy ( Hymenoxys acaulis), around the entertainment patio so they wouldn’t obstruct the view.

To draw the eye toward the view, she planted Texas ranger and Mexican bird of paradise at ground level beyond the fence. 

2. Connect indoors and out. For a seamless transition, West repeated the interior flagstone flooring on the patio; beyond the roofline, she shifted to more durable exposed aggregate concrete in the same tone.

3. Use radial lines to add excitement to serene curves. The design of the backyard is based on circles and semicircles that repeat the curves of the roofline and enhance the hovering-in-air quality of the property. To add dynamic tension, the layout juts away from the arc of the circle at two key places: the zig-zag edge of the infinity pool that’s completely open to the view and the fireplace area. “The radials literally point to the view,” West says.

Info: Design, Margaret West Designs, Tucson (520/577-6448). Fence by Custom Metal Design, Tucson (520/388-4888).

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