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Sometimes it’s what’s on the outside that counts. In “Front of House,” we dig into all the elements that give a home “stop the car!” kind of curb appeal, from main character mailboxes to much-welcome yard transformations.

For 18 years, photographer Elizabeth Messina’s front yard went unused. Her family’s Los Angeles property is on a small elevation, so the house is higher than the street, meaning the wide, grassy area out front is awkwardly sloped. Plus back when she and her husband first bought the place, their three children, Mykela, Jasmine, and Malik, were young, so they focused on fixing up the inside of the home and building a backyard studio so Messina could work from home. “The front yard just wasn’t a priority,” she says.

Now after a three-month-long renovation, the once-overlooked outdoor space is like a second living room (in fact, the lounge-dining area complete with Article furniture is even bigger than the one inside). “I can’t believe that we didn’t do it when we first moved in. It’s changed our life so much,” says Messina. The key to making the area functional was to dig—way down (around 3 feet) in order to make the ground level. After carving out a flat, sunken space and adding more steps to the front porch, it was time to lend some homey touches and make the most of the year-round hangout.

Put Your Walls Up

Messina and her husband had built a retaining wall around the outer portion of the yard a few years back, before the big remodel, to keep their two dogs, Weimaraner Luna and beagle-mix Margaux, safe. This time they added a second, smaller interior wall around the new patio with plant beds that hold Texas privet trees to ensure privacy. Both the barriers are stuccoed to feel like an extension of the home’s 1920s Mediterranean–style architecture. “I wanted it to seem as if it had always been there,” notes Messina.

Keep Growing

Messina’s best splurge was bringing in floral designer Kim Sanders to help her create the garden oasis of her dreams. In addition to the trees, they added edible herbs like basil and rosemary, as well as strawberries and tomatoes. “We don’t have a professional gardener keeping up the yard,” says Messina. “The kids and I take turns watering and tending to the plants.” Not only is it an ongoing money saver, but it helps them stay connected to the space.

Bring the Indoors Out

The low height of the Lubek sectional from Article accentuates the privacy wall. The wood legs and gray upholstery (also seen on the matching Calova lounge chairs) keep with the subtle Mediterranean theme. The living room–worthy items are what truly make the space feel as cozy and welcoming as an indoor one. “We become unaware of our proximity to the world around us. It truly feels like an oasis,” says Messina.

The revamped outdoor zone gets used all 12 months of the year, mostly by the kids. Her son and his girlfriend can be found there playing cards, while her youngest is set up at the antique dining table finishing up homework. The eldest takes advantage of the area the most (not only is she the best gardener in the group, but she knits and crochets for hours, making custom textiles for her business, A Red Byrd). It’s a breath of fresh air for the whole family.