This family wanted to take in the magnificence of country life from the vantage point of a backyard retreat.
Story by Michelle Mastro | Photography by Aaron Leimkuehler
Have you ever dreamt about what it might be like moving your living room to the great outdoors? You could have all the comforts of home while basking in the tranquility and wonder of nature. Birds would fly overhead, occasionally you might spot a bald eagle or two, blooms sway in the breeze, and on quiet nights you hear coyotes making their plaintive cries off in the distance.
“We wanted to experience all of nature,” says Eric Williams, clarifying why he decided to make his family’s new patio separate from the house. “We just wanted to make a really nice outdoor area. We have a refrigerator, a TV, a woodburning fireplace — the kind you can cook in. It’s really like an outdoor living room.”
After the ups and downs brought on by 2020 and after, who can blame the family for wanting a fun backyard retreat into nature? Apart from the fireplace, the covered patio does feel like a living room of sorts. There’s a roof but no walls, allowing one to look directly on the loveliness of the natural surroundings. Eric describes the lengthy list of fauna they enjoy. “We get to listen to the cicadas or the coyotes howling down in the ravine near the house. We watch the birds, hawks, and bald eagles. We have enough enclosed areas in the home, so with the patio, we wanted to be out in the open.”
Guests can even sit out there and enjoy the patio during a thunderstorm. “It’s neat having the rain coming down all the way around you,” says Eric. His patio seems to support many moods or ambiances. “In the fall, we like to watch the football games and listen to the rain. We sit out there and enjoy the leaves and fall weather.”
Typically, Eric starts each day on the patio. “I get out there at like 3am in the morning. As long as the weather is decent, I sit out there with my coffee and listen to the news.” To help make this dream of a backyard retreat possible, Eric had turned to Maverick Pickering of Maverick Landscaping.
“We had an idea of what we wanted and then we got ahold of Maverick and talked through our ideas. We had originally lived in a house with a lot of wood decking, and I didn’t want to do that again. We didn’t want the maintenance of the wood anymore, having to recondition wood every few years.” So, Eric, his wife Amber, and Maverick sat down as the latter sketched out the pair’s dream outdoor spaces.
“Really, we wanted to provide an entertaining area with two porches,” says Maverick, pointing out the smaller porch immediately next to the house. “This one would be right off the back stoop of the home to include a grill, a sink, and refrigerator and cabinets. All this leads down to steps going to the main covered patio with the fireplace.” Being next to the home, this first area makes it possible to pop in and out to grill even during the coldest of winters.
But both areas, the smaller stoop and the larger lower patio with the fireplace, sidestep any wood decking. The countertops are natural bluestone hailing from Pennsylvania. The fireplace stone comes from Oklahoma. And the unique backsplash features glass tile from a company in California. The tile and bluestone helped make the all-natural accents pop, says Maverick.
In the end, the finished product was a result of teamwork. “Amber is really good at decorating, and for this project she brought her skills outside,” says Maverick. “She collaborated with interior designer Jill Painter for help with the outdoor cabinet and backsplash tile selection, which was a composite outdoor cabinet material. Eric has his own business, EW Plumbing LLC, and is a talented plumber and great at construction, so a lot of that work was overseen by him.”
I only working on one project at a time, and we only use natural materials,” says Maverick. The secret to a beautiful backyard, he explains, is looking ahead. “Our landscape architect thinks about how the project evolves over time — for example, thinking about the negative space around the plants so don’t they grow into each other.”
In the backyard, Eric, Amber, and their guests take in the grandeur of the hydrangeas, Black-eyed Susans, purple cone flowers, and boxwoods. From the backyard, you can’t see another house. Seclusion, along with the tranquility it affords, reigns supreme here. Eric and Amber have a great flower big garden and blackberry patch. And certainly, “nothing competes with a woodburning fireplace — those crackle and pop sounds and its wonderful aroma,” says Maverick. “It’s primordial. You can even cook in there. And when you’re all finished, you can let it burn down to embers as you fall asleep under the stars.”
- Landscape Design & Install: Maverick Landscaping
- Outside Kitchen Design: Bella Kitchens
- Landscape Architect: Rick Barrett
- Bluestone Countertops: Sturgis Materials
- Magic Grill, Storage: Fireplace and BBQ Center
- ULine Refrigerator: Doolittle Distributing
- Lighting: Wilson Lighting
- Plumbing: EW Plumbing, LLC