Strand: the land bordering a body of water.
Weekend talk radio in the Valley of the Sun is, I think, fairly unique in its programming given the culture, lifestyles, and demographics of the area. We’ve got lots of retirees down here, so there’s lots of programming about retirement planning, financial and stock portfolio management, quacks selling all kinds of products designed to make you feel younger and healthier, golf talk (not as interesting as one might think), and – of course – real estate. Most of the time it’s all half-listened to – especially now that Tracey and I are well ahead of the retirement planning game, which means I don’t have to feel guilty while someone is promoting his or her services and upcoming events complete with the inevitable and free chocolate chip cookies.
But every now and then, something someone is says something that breaks through the noise and causes you to pay attention, even if it is for the briefest of moments. In this case it was a Saturday real estate show featuring a lady named Carol Royce who is a well-known real estate agent around these parts who nationally advertises with the slogan, “Carol Has The Buyers”. She’s obviously pretty successful, but it wasn’t her selling technique or the properties she was presently seeking buyers for that caught my attention; it was what she was talking about as far as properties and first impressions go.
Basically, her view was that, what people first see outside your back door as seen from inside the house makes a powerful statement about your property and how that property relates to the kind of potential lifestyle the house represents. For example, if the whole idea of your house is a turnkey operation requiring very little in the way of maintenance and upkeep (perfect, in other words, for snowbirds with an active lifestyle) the view out the backdoor should reflect that: austere, no pool, not a lot of foliage, lots of rock. It’s not necessary that everything has to have a theme or has to make a statement, but if it does and is well appointed and represented, your house stands a much greater chance of being sold.
Not we’re not interested in selling our house – at least for the foreseeable future – but it did get me thinking about the backyard. Primarily thanks to the initial owners we bought the house from, the backyard was already nicely designed: walking out onto the patio there was a lawn area under a big mesquite tree with a large sandbox (they called it their “beach”) to the right, the pool deck just off center left, and then the swimming pool on the left. There was a large palm tree straight ahead and three more palms in the far left corner. With a palate like that to start with, it became pretty easy to create my idea of a whimsical “St. Somewhere” kind of tropical paradise. The patio was redesigned and painted in colors and appointed in a sort of Caribbean / Margaritaville theme, and the sandbox was filled with a tiki bar and various tikis to create a Hawaii / South Seas kind of motif:
To push the theme even further, I supplemented the palm trees with mini date palms interspersed between the desert bushes already planted along the back and side walls. (You can see one of them along the west wall in the above pic.)
In and of itself, that was probably good enough, but after listening to that real estate show I took another look at the backyard through the doors from our kitchen and saw that more could be done to the area separating the right and left sides that was created when I redesigned the lawn area last year to reduce its overall size, align it with the tiki bar area, and make it easier to water. I now had a larger area that was basically sitting there and doing nothing, practically begging for a re-do. Presently, the area was a jumble: the big palm, two good-sized cactus I had grown from scratch, a funky piece of metal art in the shape of a large roadrunner, two red yuccas left over from when the area was a lot narrower, and a chiminea we rarely used.
Originally, the thought was that the area could perhaps be used for an in-ground barbecue, but discussing it over with my landscaping guru Daniel from Hawkeye Landscaping (he and I have overseen all the major landscaping projects ever since we came here, starting with the east yard, the front yard restore following our sewer line replacement), and the backyard irrigation system replacement and lawn redesign) we decided that the area was too small for the typical size of BBQ you see around these parts, and that between the yard as presently constructed and our lifestyle we really didn’t need to go that route.
So what to do? He agreed with my desire to create a strand: a big, bright, open area with clean lines that would stand out simply by its very openness. The first step would be to remove the two red yuccas left over from when the area was a lot narrower. The roadrunner, of course, had to go – it could be moved to the cactus garden on the west side of the house where it could add a splash of color and whimsy when you’re looking out one of the living-room windows. Same thing with the chiminea: there was a spot at the entry to the cactus garden where it could kinda sorta fit in (at least for now). Daniel liked my idea of planting a new palm tree on the right side as a companion to the one on the left. We could then add another spot light so that it, like the other palm, could be lit up at night. And, we would get rid of all the old brown rock and replace it with the lighter, almost but not quite white rock used when the lawn was downsized and re-bordered. And once that was done, the final touch would be a good-sized, smiling tiki that would give off this new bright and open area positive vibes. Tracey’s contribution was to suggest that we emphasize the theme of bright and open by replacing all our current patio furniture (brown wicker and green metal) with white.
So how will it look when all is said and done? Stay tuned…