Before: Desert IslandGisele and Carlos fit in perfectly with the multicultural melting pot of the Miami area: Between the two of them, the couple can claim Brazil, Italy, Japan, Switzerland and Honduras as part of their heritage. But their backyard has none of the spice and interest of their backgrounds; instead, it wavers between plain and "plain awful." Rising to the challenge of creating a South Florida oasis on a $20,000 budget are Ted Baker, Tom Laubenthal and the team of Matthew Doyle and Rafael Batalla.
Instead of a patio, Gisele and Carlos had a tiny spread of outdated tiles topped with a puny kettle grill. Without shade or space for seating – or even a walkway from the house – they couldn't wait to escape from this awkward patio island.
After: Tropical ParadiseThe view from Gisele and Carlos' back door went from trauma to drama, thanks to this elegant patio designed by Matthew Doyle and Rafael Batalla. Travertine tiles with a European flair lead to a pondless fountain at the end of the patio, backed up by a lush wall of greenery. A custom pergola provides much-needed relief from the hot South Florida sun and serves as a climbing structure for colorful bougainvillea (Bougainvillea sp.).
The Plan: Room for EveryoneMatthew and Rafael's design gives Gisele and Carlos plenty of room to entertain small groups, while preserving ample green space for their young daughter to frolic with her own friends. Extensive plantings help mask the adjacent yards and muffle traffic noise from this busy suburb. The plan did see a few changes on the way to a finished landscape, however: The pergola became larger to meet hurricane-related building codes, and Gisele and Carlos decided to wait until their daughter is a bit older before building her sandbox in the upper-right corner of the property.
Before: Still Life with HoseEverything grows in South Florida – so why is this yard so barren? Gisele and Carlos needed some life in their landscape, not to mention a way to hide their air conditioner.
After: Plants GaloreA Simpson's stopper hedge (Myrcianthes fragrans) conceals the unsightly air conditioning unit, and a planting bed including 'Mrs. Iceton' croton (Codiaeum variegatum) and Philodendron 'Congo' dresses up the side of the house. A Hawaiian ti plant (Cordyline terminalis) adds spice in another area of the yard.
Before: Baked BackyardFlorida is supposed to be sunny, but Gisele and Carlos' old backyard was either baking in the sun or shrouded in the shadow of the house. Even though their barbecue area was small, it was the dominant element in the landscape.
After: Elegant EntertainingCarlos and Gisele chose wrought-iron furniture that picked up on the Italian aesthetic of their travertine tile, taking advantage of the extended patio for entertaining and family dining. Thanks to several shade trees – including Christmas palm (Veitchia merrillii), glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum) and coconut palm (Cocos nucifera) – their outdoor time will be all about enjoyment instead of just endurance.