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Tucson backyard transforms from dirt to designer showcase

Tucson backyard transforms from dirt to designer showcase

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Ever wish your backyard would get noticed by HGTV?

One Oro Valley backyard with a panoramic view of looming Pusch Ridge did. It got some love from the cable television station.

It earned an HGTV award for local landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux and is featured on the station’s website, (search for Ultimate Outdoor Awards).

Prideaux’s 2015 design won the HGTV Ultimate Outdoor Awards editors’ pick in the outdoor escape category.

HGTV is a cable television station that focuses on homes and gardens.

Prideaux’s blank canvas was a backyard full of rocks and a perimeter fence that shortened the amount of usable space, she says.

The homeowners, who did not want to be identified for privacy reasons, wanted a pool, gathering spaces and something that took better advantage of the Santa Catalina Mountains view.

The old stair-step metal fence had masonry posts. In front of it were built-in masonry garden beds.

Since it was at the same level as the house, the fence and beds essentially cut off the sloping part of the property for landscaping. It also visually cut off the backyard from the natural desert beyond the lot.

Prideaux’s design replaced that fence with a metal one that goes down the slope and out of view. That opened up the area for adding plants that blend into the desert beyond the property.

Prideaux then put the pool smack in the center view of the big picture window that looks out into the backyard.

Because the pool colors mirror the colors Prideaux also used in the interior design, the feel is that the indoor living space moves out into the yard.

“I’ve always been a fan of the pool being seen from the inside of the house,” she says. It attracts the eye with a large focal point and becomes a visual water feature.

That move put the pool right in the middle of the landscape, which helped Prideaux with another issue: allowing people to easily socialize.

She doesn’t like the look or functions of “islands” of activity, she says. This creates isolation in that some people are at the pool while some are several yards away in a gathering space.

“I wanted connectivity between the pool and covered patio,” she says.

In the Oro Valley design, someone sitting at the dining table or in front of the fireplace can easily chat with someone lounging in the spa or in the pool.

other features

Hacienda updated. Prideaux took the Spanish Colonial style from inside the home to the patio. An iron chandelier with globes, common talavera pottery colors and dark wood posts echo the style. Prideaux used fewer flourishes to give the feel a modern simplicity.

Vista point. Facing directly at the mountains are four ledge lounges, which are anchored to the shallow end of the pool. They are shaded by two folding umbrellas that also are set into the shallow area. That makes for a comfy way to enjoy the view at any time of the day.

Defined areas. Prideaux carved out specific sections defined by furniture and different flooring.

For instance, the dining area for 10 is defined by a “rug” of white pavers made of concrete and shells. The tiled area is edged with Mexican beach pebbles.

The gathering area—a sofa and chair facing a fireplace and television—has a “rug” made of larger shell-inlaid concrete pavers rimmed by decomposed granite.

The feeling that the outdoor furniture is sitting on rugs is further made by the “floor” of the rest of the patio area, which is made of etched finished concrete.

Airy patio. The homeowners originally wanted the patio to be covered from the house to the fireplace a few yards away. Prideaux convinced them to place spaced beams over the dining area. It provides natural light and makes the space more airy than having a solid ceiling.

Grass. The grass lawn provides play space for kids and pets. Grass also grows around large pavers that is used as a path from the lawn past the pool to the living space.

Irrigating the grass growing between the pavers would eventually stain the concrete, Prideaux says. The landscaper installed perforated pipe to deliver water to the roots. The lawn is irrigated with pop-up sprayers.

Contact Tucson freelance writer Elena Acoba to

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