March 2020 - July 2020
This family came to us with the incredible challenge of finding a way to park off-street while not making the space all about their vehicles. The east Austin house sits high up from the street, and the original walkway slope was not easy for everyone to traverse as it was built without a railing. Also because the site was so sloped, it was unusable as a play or living space.
Our design goals were to create parking spots within the front yard for vehicles, a usable front-porch-style living space, thoughtful terraces intertwined with transparent fencing, a finished grassy playspace, more connectivity to the back, and lush gardens.
The front yard is retained with board-form concrete walls and steel terracing. Concrete walls are the best solution for retaining over 3’ in height. These concrete walls frame the two-car driveway, and jut out from the site back towards the road, where one side serves as the mailbox. The driveway walls create an entry point into the yard; the fencing and entry steps/terraces lead the user up towards the house or into the zoysia turf grass playspace of the backyard. The upper terrace is now fenced all together (to keep in small children and animals) making the usable space feel bigger, instead of the previous fence dividing the front and back right at the porch.
The fire pit patio sits just off the entry path, and the threshold pierces the concrete walls. Drama is created by the concept of compression and release. The front and backyard patios are created with cast-in-place concrete, and flanked by dense mostly-native vegetation mulched with Texas basalt gravel or native riverstone to prevent erosion. Clumping bamboo creates a dense wall of green while screening along the side and back yards; native perennials, grasses, and groundcovers cascade across the remaining sloped beds.