How to modernize a traditional Spanish

Combining a traditional Spanish look of a house with a more modern flair can definitely be a challenge. That’s what I thought when I first picked up this project, especially because the whole place needed renewal and the yard architecture was quite prominent —the garden was overgrown and unkept, and the whole place looked old, lacked space and functionality. It was apparent that it needed a lot of work.

However, surely I wasn’t going to let something like that stop me! 😉

With a little thought, creativity, and small rustic details, my team and I could bring everything together, opening up the space and giving it more life.

Please join me in this journey of giving this yard a new face!

Dark gray concrete

The stairs were by far the most run-down element of the traditional Spanish garden. They were falling apart and that definitely didn’t help with the overall looks of the yard. So, instead of working with what was already there and just refreshing them, we decided to remove all of it—the stairs, the old plants and pathway, and the dried-out grass— and build everything from scratch.

We wanted to pour all the dark grey concrete in one go. That included a barbecue grill counter, a new sitting bench, diamond pavers, entrance stairs. Each element was poured 4-inch thick and all the caps were reinforced with rebar. We used a dark grey (8084 from Davis Colors), which I know can be a little bit dramatic and a risky choice, especially with the rustic look of the front of the house, but combined with the brick mosaic pathway and the pavers, it all came together beautifully.

Ps, don’t pour your concrete at 1 pm if you don’t want to stay until 7 pm finishing it up, LOL. We got a late pour and concrete finishing takes time! Especially with this many features being poured at once! 

Stairs and pavers

We went with a solid pour for the entrance steps & for a diamond pattern for the path because it went along with the triangle pattern of the wall.  We purposely left empty spaces in between just so I could go a little crazy and get some plants. Those little planties add color and life by combining the hardscape & softscape elements of the yard, preventing the whole structure from looking monotonous.


What do you do when the yard has full shade on one side and full sun on the other? Try to find plants that can handle both conditions or… find plants that look similar to each other like combining Kangaroo paw on the full sun side and Dianella on the shadier side. 

Here are a few plants that work well in sun & shade situations: Agave attenuata, Dietes, Rhaphiolepis and Asparagus ferns. I like the yard to feel balanced on either side of the path, so that was the main focus. 

In the case of the pavers, I went for two types of plants: Baby Tears in shade and Isotoma in sun. What I missed is the sun moving in the summer and burning up the baby tears… so we decided to change out all the plants and use Dichondra seeds which filled in great!

Brick mosaic pathway

And finally, one thing that I think brought the traditional Spanish and modern looks together, was this beautiful brick mosaic pathway.  I like to call it the rainbow brick road! I had many brick options for the edge but in the end, I went for a dark Endicott brick from Nebraska.  The pathway itself was made of old red and orange bricks mixed with 3 or 4 different endicott colored bricks. We placed the bricks on compacted base and filled in with decomposed granite. Check out the a smaller version I did here with Stihl.  

This is a totally untraditional way main pathway as it is imperfect and has slight variances to it. But it has so much character!  I am happy to say it’s been in for a few years now. I’ve topped on the filler Decomposed granite only once so far and it pretty much looks the same! 

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