High Style in Black & White

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With an exceptional eye for design and an edgy black and white palette, Sarah and Dwayne Washington turn their backyard into a sleek outdoor retreat.

Story by Jeanne de Lathouder    |    Photography by Matt Kocourek

Starting an outdoor project of this magnitude during a global pandemic might seem like a bold ambition, but for homeowners Sarah and Dwayne Washington, it actually worked to their advantage. Where most would be daunted by all the design choices, the couple admits they simply took what they could get at the time. “With all the supply chain issues, we weren’t too picky,” laughs Sarah. “If it was in stock and we thought it could work, we went with it. Our furnishings range from Target, Home Depot, and NFM to Article, CB2, and Pottery Barn.” 

Residents of Copperleaf, a scenic Kansas City neighborhood enhanced by a sprawling tree-covered natural preserve, the couple had always dreamed of having an outdoor oasis with several different areas to enjoy and entertain. However, their former upper deck and lower-level cement slab were tiny and unattractive, and no one ever wanted to be outside. So, during the pandemic, when everyone had more time on their hands, they began to turn their vision into reality. The overall project took two years to complete, starting with the architectural and engineering designs, and waiting on the city to approve the design and the final completion. The couple opted to tackle the pool first, and then, for phase two, they added a pool bath, storage area, and covered screened-in deck. 

“We knew we wanted the deck to be made of smooth cedar and have big chunky eight by eight beams,” says Sarah. “We wanted a vaulted, tongue-and-groove deck ceiling with more chunky cedar beams, and our finishing touch was the custom black metal awnings — the perfect final addition that took the project full circle.”

Surprisingly, the couple did not work with a designer. Instead, Sarah and Dwayne had their own vision and an excellent eye for style. They began by choosing a striking black-and-white color palette, which is carried through to everything, including the umbrellas, the pool color, the house itself, and the black-and-white patterned tile on the fireplace and bar area. They even selected a unique volcanic black fiberglass pool, and its elegant contemporary hue is what highly influenced the entire design. 

“We were wanting something a little bit different — with a wow factor,” notes Sarah. “We loved how special and modern the dark color made the space feel. We knew we wanted a more contemporary look for the pool area, so the black color and clean diamond-cut concrete pattern created the vibe we were going for. The X-railing design for the deck is what truly sets it apart from every other deck we’ve seen.”

The pool’s boldly modern design features comfy chaise loungers for lazing right in the water and basking in the sun. Stunning four-by-four diamond-cut concrete pavers surround the pool area and lend a luxurious resort-style feel. A wooden privacy wall and fenced area cleverly hide pool equipment and other outdoor essentials.  

“The gas fireplace is a gorgeous standout feature with beautiful black-and-white patterned tile,” says Sarah. “It really creates a warm ambiance in the evenings, and a neat touch is that it’s completely see-through. Dwayne had the fence company attach the fence to either side but not directly behind it, so it doesn’t block the view through the fireplace.”

The lower-level patio, outfitted with an under-decking ceiling and recessed lighting, makes this space feel almost like another interior room in the house. The couple removed three large windows and installed black sliding doors to keep the area more open. The bar area, topped with a unique black Zimbabwe honed granite and accented with tile, creates an impactful focal point and yet another wow factor. “The outlets around the bar all have USB ports so everyone can charge their phones while hanging out,” Sarah adds.

With their new screened-in deck, fireplace, and heated pool, the family can now enjoy their outdoor area from early spring to late fall. Since the project’s completion, they’ve hosted deck crawls for their neighborhood, weekend pool parties, and Chiefs watch parties. 

“My husband also loves to grill and enjoys his separate grill deck with his Blackstone and charcoal grill,” says Sarah. “The upper screened-in deck with its beautiful railing design and vaulted ceiling is our absolute favorite place to chill on the couch and watch movies with the kids.” 


  • Pool Contractor: Hinkle Hardscape
  • Custom Black Awnings: Wheat & Weaves
  • Fireplace, Patio, Deck: S&T Christian Remodeling

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