At Modern Luxury, connection and community define who we are. We use cookies to improve the Modern Luxury experience - to personalize content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyze our traffic. We also may share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. We take your privacy seriously and want you to be aware that we have recently made changes to our Privacy Policy, which can be found here.


Julie Soefer's Backyard Is The Outdoor Space Of Our Dreams

By Mimi Faucett Trahan | May 1, 2020 | Home & Real Estate

Houston photographer Julie Soefer’s idyllic outdoor oasis is shared between her family home and her photo studio. Here, architect Natalye Appel and Tellepsen Landscaping’s Michael Hernandez tell the story of the space.

“We took a minimal approach to the patio spaces surrounding the pool,” explains Tellepsen Landscaping designer Michael Hernandez. “We created just enough space for pool furniture, outdoor grilling and generous transitional walking spaces that connect both the home and the studio in a graceful manner.”

The Concept

NA: The clients were looking for a beautiful and functional site to support their live-work lifestyle, with a good amount of relaxation and entertainment space. Our vision was for a private oasis that allowed for a separate studio entry for work, and strong connectivity between the existing home and new studio. Our site plan used the existing trees and new pool to create the zones, and we planned the studio porch and entry to make the most of the concept.

The Team
NA: For the studio, it was myself and architects Stephanie Millet and Megan Sheffy; Jana Erwin and Audrey Moore of NEST Design Group; Brad Dougherty of Insight Structures; Karen Rose Engineering & Surveying; the late Mark Scioneaux and Michael Hernandez of Tellepsen Landscaping; and general contractor Onézieme Mouton of Streva Construction.

The Materials
NA: The studio facade is stucco and the roof is a traditional tile to match the existing historic district home.
MH: Our involvement in material selection for the outdoor living spaces ranged from fencing to hardscapes and softscapes. The plant material and landscape design follow the same concept that the fencing and hardscapes did: minimal, clean, simple and modern. We used more ornamental grasses in sunny areas, and shade-tolerant ground covers in areas that lacked sunlight. We played with a variety of textures and colors that enhanced the outdoor living spaces. We also designed a loose ‘screen’ hedge along the driveway to help screen the adjacent neighbor’s tall home. The plant palette proposed was hardy, low maintenance and could handle Houston’s rough soil conditions.

An Outdeco wood screen was incorporated into the design of the studio gates, which offer some privacy from the street.

The Challenge
MH: Houston weather and soil dictate any site’s possible plant materials. We have a ‘Houston-proof’ plant list that has proven itself in our local climate and soil conditions over the years.
NA: The studio porch allows use of the pool and entry in rain or shine, and all materials are selected for durability in our humid climate. Houston soils are terrible for construction, so Insight designed a structural slab on deep-drilled piers, which is not dependent on soil capacity for structural integrity.

The Outcome
NA: Design, historic district and permit approvals and construction were completed within two years. I have been lucky enough to enjoy two parties [on-site]. The outdoor space worked beautifully for everyone to gather around long tables of food, as well as relax in smaller conversation groups around the pool.

Large extents of windows and glass patio doors intentionally bring in abundant natural light for Soefer’s photography.


Photography by: Julie Soefer