HJT Landscape Architects creates an outdoor oasis in Sugar Land, Texas.

A space that is enticing and livable.

Its the perfect descriptions for Heath Thibodeax’s design for a Houston-area home.

Heath and his team with HJT Landscape Architects designed the 7,500-square-foot space at the request of Architect Paul Brow.

Brow was working with the family on a major home renovation in a high-end subdivision and wanted a backyard retreat to complement his work.

“My first step is always a fact-finding mission to determine how my clients like to live,” says Heath. “Our client has five children, from elementary school to high school, and she wanted a yard not just to entertain but draw them outside. The end result is a garden that is lived in, not just seen from the curb.” 

Heath looks at his projects as a sequence of spaces.

He considers the context of the home and the surrounding architecture.

Once a loose diagram is complete with the client’s vision, Heath dives into the details. 

“Not only are we creating space but also giving subtle cues as to how these spaces should be approached, moved through and used,” he says. 

To invite the homeowners into the backyard, Heath created a step down from the house into the garden.

A small gesture that helps define the space. 

“Whether it’s a grand lawn, pool garden or an approach through a side garden, we should always understand the value that these spaces add to the property as a whole and to the client’s experience—not an inch should go unconsidered,” says Heath. 

Then, he puts the initial concepts into a context where the contractor can price it. 

“Until that point, it’s all roses and cherries and the client loves everything,” jests Heath. “But before we move forward we have to talk price. It’s time for reality.”

For this job, Heath worked with AP Builders on the hardscaping.

They were already on site for the house renovation.

Heath says the job of a landscape architect is to see everything the client may not even notice—the sun, prevailing winds, drainage patterns, existing vegetation and soils. 

“There are a lot of numbers involved in making sure the things are correct,” he says. “The layout, various heights, property elevation, amount of planting and rock. My job is to make sure everything is done correctly.”

Heath likes to start with the hardscape and then determine the best plant material to complement the flat work.

For this project, he worked with Yellow Rose Lawn Maintenance to carry out the landscaping design and plant installation.

Heath created a layering effect with the plantings, selecting irises, azaleas and a boxwood border to set off the edge of the brick wall.

Other plant material included around the property includes roses, Viburnum burkwoodii, evergreen clematis and zoysia grass.

Merlot redbud trees and DD Blanchard Magnolias were also planted for additional texture and privacy.

“When considering the make up of a garden room, you’re thinking about your shrubs and perennials as walls or window seals,” he explains. “Ornamental trees become your windows, walls and ceilings. Flowering ornamentals are the ever-changing wallpaper, and canopy trees become yet another layer of ceilings or roofs. The complexity of these elements and the spaces that they form are further intensified by the way the visitors use that space, whether they are sitting, walking, or standing. These spaces ebb and flow with one’s eyes which draws you further into the gardens beyond. ”

To build out the spa and pool, Heath worked with Sunshine Pools.

Considering the varying ages of the family, a bench runs around the perimeter of the pool. 

Heath designed multiple levels within the pool’s spa area as well as a spillover for a soft effect.

A monolithic bluestone step that allows you to cross over the spillover reservoir into the spa.

The black ceramic tile at the waterline of the pool accentuates the black marble of the fountain.

Around the pool are Pennsylvania bluestone pavers, which complement the lead pots for a tone-on-tone effect.

“We try to create a garden for the client, respectful of the architecture and within the context of the neighborhood,” says Health. “Our projects end up being timeless. If you do something too trendy, it will look dated in five years.”

Thibodeaux installed an outside shower for convenience, but also to create a focal interest along an otherwise plain garage wall.

The firepit, opposite the pavilion that Brow designed, is a polished concrete.

The gravel looks great around the firepit and fountain and serves as important drainage for the garden. 

The backyard is easy on the eyes, and the various amenities are completely balanced.

That’s because Heath created one center line from the seating area and the firepit, across the spa area and pool, to the pavilion.

Not only does it look perfect, but the family has a great view for their movie nights while floating in the pool. 

Heath says at the end of the day, it’s not about the landscape architect. It is about how the client enjoys the space. 

Photos provided byZac Seewald Photographer.

Heath Thibodeaux is the principal at HJT Landscape Architects, a boutique firm in Houston. He received his bachelor’s in landscape architecture from LSU. (713) 256-5948

Partners and Suppliers

AP Builders, General contractor, www.apbuilderstexas.com

Paul Brow, Architect, paulnbrowarchitect.com

Yellow Rose Lawn Maintenance, Plant Procurement/Installation, yellowroselawn.com

Sunshine Pools, Swimming Pool, sunshinepoolsinc.com

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