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Finest by Maria Cortés González

CHILDREN ARE OUT OF SCHOOL. THE WEATHER IS TYPICAL EL PASO — HOT AND SUNNY. And Father’s Day is just around the corner. Which can mean only one thing — El Pasoans are outdoors, barbecuing on stainless-steel grills, taking dips in backyard swimming pools or sipping tea under a refreshing pergola. El Paso may be known for its desert terrain, but it’s still home to some amazing lush and picture-perfect Southwest landscapes. With some expert advice, hard work and general gardening knowledge, some El Pasoans have created their own retreats in their own backyards. Though not an easy task, El Paso Style took a stroll through some of the city’s finest yards and picked five stunning landscapes that would make Martha Stewart jealous. We’re talking about sitting in a sophisticated outdoor room and sipping wine while watching the sun bid adieu. Or enjoying the view of the mountains while sinking your body into the hot, soothing waters of a gurgling hot tub in your pool. Or how about this, Martha — feeling like you’re in a cottage garden as you take a walk around a multicolor bed of roses, or sway in a wooden swing from a decades-old tree, while water trickles through a stone fountain nearby. So get yourself a glass of your favorite cool beverage, sit back in your favorite chair and take a pictorial tour of some of El Paso’s finest landscapes. Now this is outdoor living.

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photography Rudy Gutierrez

outdoor KITCHENS THE OUTDOOR KITCHEN HAD ITS HUMBLE beginnings as a grill in a cabinet enclosure. These days, the grill is only the beginning for an amazing outdoor kitchen, which can rival its indoor counterpart when it comes to entertaining. And when it’s about hosting family and friends outdoors — this West El Paso kitchen under a romantic wooden pergola rivals most. For starters, there are the top-of-the-line Viking appliances including spacious grill, and an ice maker and beverage cooler conveniently under the bar. You just know you have a well-designed outdoor kitchen

Italian design A tin table, inspired by Italian design, provides plenty of space for outdoor dining and a great backdrop for colorful summer dishes.

when no one is scurrying back and forth for ice. Interior designer Anne Steele, who helped her clients create their ideal outdoor space, said this couple needed plenty of dining space for their entertaining lifestyle. “It was real important that they had a table that would seat 10 for the family that comes over,” she said.

Votive candles and lanterns spaced throughout the patio help provide ambience once the sun goes down. The homeowners also have done a great job of integrating their love for outdoor entertaining with their yard. Pots of color, brimming with petunias and other annuals or an elegant topiary, help soften the look of the brick hardscape around the kitchen.

A tin table, inspired by Italian design, provides plenty of space for outdoor dining and a great backdrop for colorful summer dishes.

“At the end of the day, this is where they like to spend their time,” Steele said.

Raised beds and potted plants surround a nearby outdoor fireplace, creating a cozy room within an outdoor room.

By the looks of this comfortable and inviting outdoor display, absolutely nothing is wrong with that sentiment. june/july 2009


outdoor haunt From the warm rust colors of the furniture cushions and the Canterastyle concrete of the fireplace to the natural surroundings, every element of this room contributes to an amazing ambience.

outdoor AMBIANCE

ASK EL PASOAN MARIA WOODY ABOUT HER favorite room in her Mediterranean-style home in the Willows, and she’ll take you for a walk — outside. Woody, who is a Master Gardener, spends more time outside than inside during the summer. Nothing beats “being al fresco,” she said, especially in her outdoor room, which looks like an indoor room, except for the clear blue sky. The outdoor patio is one part of the expansive yard, which also includes a variety of raised beds, a rose garden, a swimming pool and a separate, enclosed vegetable garden. “The whole idea is that we have great weather in El Paso 10 months out of 12 and we definitely wanted to be able to enjoy it and do a lot of outdoor entertaining,” Woody said.

photography Mark Lambie

Woody put a lot of thought into designing her outdoor room, making sure to include an outdoor fireplace and durable wrought-iron furniture. The patio is extended so that it gets some morning sun, without it bearing down on the weather-resistant seating pieces. And yes, El Paso does have some chilly nights that just call for sitting around the majestic fireplace, while sipping a glass of wine. The aroma of the burning pine wood adds to the evening splendor. “It is so inviting, and we have like the best view of the town and the mountains,” Woody said. “In the mornings on the weekends, we like to go out there and read the paper, and in the evenings, it’s just the two of us out there watching the sunset,” Woody said of herself and her husband, Darren. “It’s romantic and peaceful.” june/july 2009


waterfall blends The sound of water flowing through the waterfall blends with the contemporary, instrumental music playing throughout the home.

AFTER CAREFUL SCANNING, JACK WINTON PICKS his favorite spot in his backyard. “It has to be in this lounge chair where I can see the pool and the plants and on a clear day, the mountains of New Mexico,” he said, of a couple of rattan-style lounge chairs outside the family room. Winton, of Winton & Associates, and his wife, Joy have created the perfect setting for intimate and relaxing brunches or for entertaining friends and family in their back yard.

photography Christ Chavez

The two-story abode sits on a high elevation on the West Side that allows the couple an overview of the still-growing West Side, Mt. Cristo Rey and a touch of Northern New Mexico. When entertaining, the couple can open the retractable doors of their family room and instantly create an indoor-outdoor room. There are numerous comfortable chairs to lounge by the pool, a durable patio set tucked in a shady corner of the yard, as well as an outdoor kitchen outfitted with a Wolf barbecue grill and refrigerator. Guests are welcome to travel upstairs to the game room, to play a game of pool, or enjoy a glass of merlot on the balcony overlooking the back yard. The swimming pool, built by Paradise Pools, is laguna style, with enough curves to make a Hollywood starlet envious. A natural-rock laden spa with clear, blue water is inviting for an intimate dip. Then there are those little details that only an experienced, high-end home builder might envision.


Remote-controlled screens on various outdoor arches can glide down, to block the harsh sunrays of a typical El Paso afternoon. Though she’s an avid traveler, Joy Winton has come to realize she doesn’t need to leave her doorstep for an outdoor retreat. “I can stay home and have my own resort,” she said.

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outdoor pool YOU HEAR ITALLTHE TIME — IT’S HOTAND DRY HERE IN THE SOUTHWEST. But there are some oases in the desert. This lagoon-style swimming pool is a refreshing and stunning focal point of this West El Paso yard. It sits in the middle of the well-designed yard, which also features a small lawn area, several flower beds and a pergola over a stainless-steel barbecue grill and outdoor fireplace. Joe Beechler, owner of Paradise Pools, is the designer of this swimming pool with a vanishing edge. “It’s called by different names — infinity edge or negative edge,” he said. “Basically, it creates the illusion that the water is hanging in midair from a certain perspective.” When you stand at certain spots in the pool, it can look as if the water touches the horizon, without any means of support. The high elevation of the house, overlooking the West Side, enhances the enjoyment of this feature while providing plenty of privacy. The pool also has a stunning waterfall, with water jetting through three small rock pockets into a hot tub. The waterfall also serves as a privacy wall between the pool and the lawn. The waterfall, hot tub and pool are surrounded by a dark red, Colorado-harvested rock, known as moss rock. Rain or the humidity from the pool encourages moss to grow on the rock, providing an attractive bright green texture. During drier times, the moss simply goes dormant. Beechler, who has been in business for 22 years, said he has pretty high standards for himself and his clients. “Ultimately, we want something that is uniquely theirs, built to the highest possible standards and with the best equipment available,” he said. No doubt, uniqueness, beautiful surroundings and the best in pool features come together in this West Side landscape.

water paradise During the day, the pergola provides some shade over the pool. But nothing beats watching the sun go down, from the comfort of your own water paradise.

photography Rudy Gutierrez

colorful palette Again, the colorful palette stands out against the home’s

outdoor garden

white exterior walls.

IT MIGHT BE HARD TO IMAGINE A LUSH COTTAGE-STYLE garden in the middle of the desert — until you step into this West El Paso landscape. It’s like opening a beautiful page in Better Homes & Gardens, but better, because you can actually smell the roses. It is evident this garden is a treasure for owner Mary Gaddy. Containers brimming with purple and yellow pansies, geraniums and bright purple lobelia greet visitors as they walk out of the Cape Codstyle home. Throughout the landscape, there is a wonderful contrast between the bright hues of blooming flowers and the bright, clean white, exterior walls, benches and swings. Visitors must stop to take in the numerous vignettes of color and flowers, some in raised beds, that surround the main grass area. On one side of the home is a half-moon bed of roses, in shades of pink, red and white. Again, the colorful palette stands out against the home’s white exterior walls. Steppingstones lead visitors to a towering mulberry tree that provides plenty of shade and the perfect setting for an afternoon tea.

While every flower seems perfect in its spot, Gaddy is relaxed about what she grows and how she grows it. She doesn’t mind plants overflowing or mixing bright colors together. She certainly doesn’t mind her golden retriever and his dogs, Trapper and Grateful, meandering through the yard. And even when she’s alone pulling weeds, she is surrounded by creatures, dear and small. “I have tons of hummingbirds and robins visiting... and a razorback woodpecker family. It’s just really fun to watch all the birds,” she said. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, you must return soon. On every visit, you’re sure to discover something different in bloom. ◗

photography Rudy Gutierrez

The grand tree easily supports a white porch swing, facing a flower bed brimming with spring color including aromatic alyssum and slender irises and lilies.

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fran timbrook

Bring the indoors


Textures and treatments transform patios with illusions of rooms

When creating an outdoor room, plan it the way you plan your home, giving consideration to its use and how each area relates to the inside of the house.


an interior designer, I work on new homes and remodels daily. I specify finishes, colors, plumbing fixtures, lighting and furniture that are not just for the interior of the home. Frequently I am also asked to design the exterior living spaces of the home.

Our glorious El Paso climate allows us to use our patios and gardens nearly nine months out of the year, so why not take advantage of the extra square footage and make it just as livable and comfortable as the inside? Today’s patios include outdoor kitchens outfitted with all of the latest appliances, seating areas around a fireplace and/or television and dining areas. When creating an outdoor room, plan it the way you plan your home, giving consideration to its use and how each area relates to the inside of the house. The kitchen area should be close to your indoor kitchen to allow for easy transfer of the food and utensils. The living room should have comfortable seating groups that can be easily drawn around the fireplace and engage everyone into conversation. And the dining area can have several square tables for intimate seating or grouped together to create a large family-style gathering table. Place a small twoperson breakfast table in the best viewing spot, where you can enjoy an early cup of coffee and plan your day. But there is more to creating an outdoor room than just furniture. A

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el paso style

kitchen created with rustic materials and modern appliances can include a refrigerator, beverage center, cooking island, warming drawer and dishwasher in addition to the grill (and remember to add a vent above the grill if there is a roof over the area to prevent it from catching on fire). Add a sink and icemaker for even more convenience. Because most patios tend to be long rectangular areas, you can break up the space with the addition of columns or a different wall material. Stone can be used to delineate the space and give each area a distinctive feel. Color for contrast on the walls and ceilings helps create the illusion of rooms, while deeper tones that have less of a reflective character tend to cool the space. Draperies from outdoor fabrics can be tied back to create a tentlike feel. Add interest and depth to the patio with an extension that is covered by a pergola and has the same flooring as the main patio.Floor materials should be skid-resistant because they are frequently wet, but they can include stone, tile, treated wood and even carpet. Polypropylene products look like sisal but will stand up to the elements. Stained and stamped concrete can create interesting texture on the floor. Ceilings look great when covered with wood and beamed or even covered with faux brick. Last, consider the lighting, because it is an integral part in creating ambience. You need to provide several sources of light by using ceiling fixtures, wall sconces and indirect lighting from landscape lighting. Add plants and accessories to these elements, and you will have created a comfortable outdoor living room. â——




Different textures, patterns can complement each other I’ve recently moved to El Paso and love the Southwest look. How can I transition my furniture to fit in with the new pieces I need for my new home?

The trend has been all about mixing styles, wood finishes and great-looking fabrics. One of the important considerations to keep in mind is the scale of the pieces. I love mixing styles “eclectic,” not matchy-matchy, but the pieces in the rooms need to complement each other in size. That is one of the challenges we have — if you’ve had your furniture for a long time. I’m sure you’ve noticed the larger scale of the furniture being produced now. New homes have open connecting spaces that allow you to add a few larger pieces and make the room feel warm and cozy. Some of the existing pieces can be used as accent pieces. Remember you can use that living room piece in the bedroom — who knew?



I used a wonderful round small dining table as a great living room piece next to the sofa my client ordered. The chairs she used in her living room were great accent chairs for the guest bedrooms. She also had antiques that worked great with the new furniture. The different wood finishes were a wonderful complement to each other. Accessories were so very important to pull the styles together. That’s what made so many of her old pieces work with her new ones. People are more comfortable mixing fabric patterns, colors and textures. For the most part, adding upholstered pieces is getting easier without replacing the existing furniture because of all the fabric choices. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns and textures — as long as the palette is similar. Have fun with the great fabrics — from contemporary to traditional. I love a whimsical piece that also helps pull the old and the new together. It’s all about comfort, and every look should reflect your style and say something about — “YOU”! ◗


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before and after

From Pakistani cuisine and Italian entrees to juicy, grilled burgers. VERSATILE KITCHEN CAN HANDLE

Plenty of Guests by María Cortés González

photography by Mark Lambie


When it comes to cooking in the kitchen, the couple in this home love to mix it up, while having lots of friends over. Their original kitchen, however, was not made for two cooks who love to eat in. It was tucked in one corner of the house and offered little view. And the white-washed oak cabinetry made it look dated. A complete remodeling, including relocating part of the kitchen to make it more spacious, now has the couple singing its praises while preparing dinner for their 30 closest friends. The chef can see vistas of the Upper Valley while mincing garlic on a 10-foot long, granite-covered island. The new, contemporary–transitional kitchen features walnut cabinetry, which provides plenty of storage space including thin, pull-out spice racks. Appliances are stainless steel, including two dishwashers and a sixburner stove with a grill.

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The remodeled kitchen flooring is a hand-scraped dark wood with a small area of travertine tile between the island and kitchen sink, to make wiping up spills an easy task. It still may not be good manners to be late. But thanks to a warming oven with six compartments in this kitchen, even the last guest to arrive will not miss a warm, scrumptious morsel. ◗


el paso style

ready to xeriscape? Here is some food for thought:


Think of intended uses for your landscape. If you have children or dogs, keep an area with lawn. If you like to entertain, include a patio for the grill and patio furniture.

This Upper Valley yard is in full bloom with drought-tolerant plants including ice plants, several sage plants and a palo verde.

irrigation: Look into drip irrigation or underground irrigation, which is more efficient than traditional watering with a hose. •


Look for nurseries that carry drought-tolerant or native plants. Great flowering plants include lantana, penstemons, butterfly bush, damianita, cherry sage and yellow bells.


plants with a purpose:

Native plants tend to have interesting colors and shapes. But they also are functional: shrubs can provide a foundation for the landscape and be used for screening or aesthetic barriers. Deciduous trees can provide shade in the summer and allow sunshine through in the winter.

water: When planting new plants, give them water several times a week until they acclimate. Once established, plants don’t need as much water.


Drought-tolerant plants tend to look scrawny at first, but will fill out within a few years. When planting, be sure to consider their mature size. Plants and shrubs with similar watering needs should be grouped together in the landscape.

sunny disposition:

Remember that drought-tolerant plants thrive in sunny areas and are used to desert terrain. So there’s no need to amend the soil when planting.


Always mulch plants to help retain moisture and control weed growth. Popular materials include bark chips, pea gravel, and shredded pine cones. ◗

C O RT É S G O N Z Á L E Z , A R E P O RT E R F O R E L PA S O S T Y L E M A G A Z I N E , I S A M A S T E R G A R D E N E R .

june/july 2009


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OUTDOOR LIVING AT ITS backyards by Maria Cortés González

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