The only rules of this local celebrities backyard oasis is a lot of sipping, grilling and chilling going on!
Story by Ann Butenas | Photography by Matt Kocourek
If you need a great excuse to just drop what you are doing and head outside for some sun and fun, then take a peek at this spectacular backyard oasis, blending a cornucopia of elements that not only reflect the homeowners’ lifestyle but also add a unique layer of excitement to the landscape. For most of us, the backyard can be a place of recreation and sanctuary. If you plan to relax, jump in the pool, fire up the grill, or just spend a cozy evening with friends around the fire pit, this Kansas City area slice of Heaven on Earth has the cure for what ails you.
The homeowners of this welcoming retreat are familiar faces in Kansas City. Ian Byrne, originally from Ireland, and his wife Kathy Quinn, born and raised in KC, are local celebrities who inarguably add a great deal of style to the Kansas City entertainment scene. Byrne is known not only for his spectacular wood working talents as owner of Byrne Custom Woodworking, but he is also a crowd favorite as the front man with The Elders, a six-piece Celtic rock band that has its roots here in Kansas City. Quinn is an Emmy award-winning journalist born and raised here who reports on FOX 4’s number one morning show. She is also the producer and reporter of a weekly segment called “Pay It Forward,” in which viewers are surprised with $300.00. A power duo, indeed, but what makes them even more engaging is they are a couple for whom kindness is an instinct. Whether family or friends, if you want to come over and hang out in the backyard, just bring a towel and an attitude for fun! However, it wasn’t until this summer that this backyard really had something to offer, but it required a bit of a team effort to make that a reality.
Byrne had no shame reflex in confessing he originally felt the backyard area was more of a burden, as it seemed as if there was so much work involved to bring it to life and initially he really didn’t want to bother with what seemed like an overwhelming project.
“The pool was getting old, and I would be working inside and look out the window at the pool and just sigh,” reflected Byrne. “But Kathy took it over and got a team of people involved and then I become more excited about the development. As the weeks went by and progress was made, he witnessed it become more like an oasis.
One area of note about which Byrne felt there was no hope was a rather neglected spot under a big tree that had appreciable growth under it. Over the years, this spot had become a place for their dogs to take care of business and it was a rather ignored corner of the yard. However, once the fire pit was installed and a round patio was poured, everyone goes there… well, goes to that spot to gather, anyway! It has truly become one of the major focal points of the backyard.
When it came to breathing new life into the kidney-shaped pool, Quinn called on expert William Chaney of Mid-West Plastering, who essentially gutted it to its concrete core.
“He tore the pool down to bare bones,” said Quinn, referencing the kidney-shaped pool. “I did not want a modern shaped pool. I wanted to keep this one and just rebuild it, taking the old pieces and making it new again, and William accomplished that, reusing the materials and bringing it to its former beauty.”
Adding her own layer of exquisite touch to the space was designer Sara Antin, owner of GardenStyle with Sara Antin, and she was thrilled to have a blank slate from which to work.
“We brought an organic look into the scene,” Antin noted. “Before, it was basically all concrete. I brought in a lot of terracotta to complement the color palette chosen by Kathy and Ian.” Antin had the time of her life working with the couple and enjoyed the unique bright colors, a nod to the Hispanic part of Quinn’s Mexican/Irish roots. Of course, there is also strong Celtic vibe to the space to honor Byrne’s proud heritage.
“I didn’t want a traditional blue-colored pool,” smiled Kathy, who admitted she is not one to not stand out. Her husband, despite his engaging stage presence, is much quieter off-stage.
“He loves his music and plays the drums, the bagpipe and is the lead singer for The Elders,” noted Quinn, who delighted in the fact that the backyard patio space is also a perfect stage for those impromptu concerts on a warm summer’s night. Yes, Quinn does have some musical prowess herself, but joked, “They don’t let me play!”
Working with Antin to breathe new life into the landscape, it became evident it was a harmonious relationship, where each gave the other the complete freedom to just be themselves. Through the process, the ladies discovered they are quite similar.
“We were really in tune,” smiled Quinn. “She was able to read me and understood that I can be outspoken.” Of course, Quinn rarely knows a stranger and seems to get along well with most anyone. Together, Antin and Quinn worked to bring Quinn’s vision to life.
“This is not necessarily an expansive backyard, and the space was somewhat limited, but by providing specific plants of varying heights to the garden areas, a feeling of depth and more space was created,” expressed Antin.
Byrne applauded Antin’s work, “Sara has a great eye and a vibrant personality.” He also added that the pool installers were highly passionate about their work, adding to the overall quality and appeal of the yard.
For Quinn, this was probably the best decision she ever made in her life, next to marrying Ian, the love of her life.
“This is my oasis,” she beamed. “I come home from work and can relax with family, read and just enjoy the yard and the pool.” Quinn and Byrne are all about family, so this allows for repeated large gatherings, which include Quinn’s seven siblings, along with the couple’s three kids – Kian, Caitlin and Andreina along with grandson Olan. Quinn’s mom also had 28 grandkids, so traffic is undoubtedly at an enthusiastic high most days of the week here.
“Everyone lives close by, and if someone just calls and asks to come over to hang out by the pool, I just say, ‘C’mon by!’” smiled Quinn, whose personal mantra is Mi casa es su casa. “I love this house so much. My family loves to come over all the time. It’s such a calming and soothing area.”
So, when Byrne thinks back to earlier days this year when he really just wanted to fill the pool with dirt and call it a day, he is grateful he opened the door to Quinn’s creative insight.
“I almost felt guilty about not having confidence in the whole project in the first place,” he laughed. “We recently had some people over and it was Heaven.”
Landscape & Backyard Design: Outside Interiors/GardenStyle | Projects & Events Detail: JLA Design Co | Pool Re-Surfacing: Mid-West Plastering LLC | Pool Work: Kansas City Concrete | Furniture & Accessories: Kim Wood Designs | Patio Cushions: Custom Sewing by Sherri | Original Pool Installer: Banks Pool & Spa