Shawnee homeowners don’t have to travel far for a waterside escape.
Story by Rachael Hedgcoth | Photos by Stone Solutions
Life is pretty busy for Lonnie Roberts. And he seems to like it that way just fine.
As owner of Stone Solutions in Merriam, Kan., Lonnie’s days are spent assisting contractors, designers and homeowners seeking outdoor pavers, paving stones, segmental wall block and natural stone.
The Dodge City, Kan., native has been immersed in the hardscapes industry since 1984 and is well-versed in creating sensational outdoor living spaces using products ranging from pavers and stone fireplaces to lighting and outdoor kitchen accessories.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that one of Lonnie’s finest outdoor creations can be found right in his own backyard.
Built in 1977 by Lonnie and his wife, Sally, the Roberts’ Shawnee, Kan., home is surrounded by pine, oak and ash trees and steeped in quiet charm. But the two-story home and one-acre lot have evolved much over the years.
The vibrant couple have shared a lively 38 years in their home while pursuing successful careers, raising their daughter, Amy Rehkop, bookkeeper for Stone Solutions and son, Scott, a high school principal, and hosting myriad gatherings of family and friends while, above all, enjoying life.
Fun in the Sun
The family has always enjoyed spending time outside, but their alfresco recreation reached a new level when the couple had a spacious L-shaped, in-ground heated pool installed in 1984.
“We built the pool, a pool house, added stockyard pavers and created a railroad tie retaining wall,” says Lonnie.
That was the beginning of the Roberts’ backyard transformation. And from then on, the Roberts’ home was increasingly tapped as the preferred gathering site for family and friends.
Luckily, Lonnie and wife Sally, associate dean for teacher education and undergraduate programs for Lawrence’s University of Kansas School of Education, are gracious entertainers who have always been more than happy to share their home.
Through the ensuing years, the couple continued to enhance the amenities in their backyard oasis, much to the delight of their children, grandchildren and friends.
“In 2007, we tore out everything except the pool,” says Lonnie. “We added the stone fireplace, interlocking pavers, segmented retaining walls, a pizza oven and an outdoor kitchen.”
Four years ago, a basketball court and pond were incorporated, and three years ago, a 48-square-foot kitchen was built inside the pool house, complete with granite countertops, a gas stove, flat screen TV and custom cabinets.
“We really needed a place to clean up after cooking,” explains Lonnie of the indoor kitchen.
Because here’s the thing: While there may be plenty of swimming, water volleyball, lounging and conversation in the Roberts’ backyard, there may be even more cooking.
When asked who most uses the outdoor kitchen, smoker, the pool house kitchen and the wood-fired oven, Lonnie doesn’t hesitate to answer.
“My son and I are the cooks,” he says.
On any given occasion, Lonnie and his son, Scott, principal for Blue Valley Southwest High School, might be found marinating, searing and smoking rib roast, pulled pork, salmon or slabs of ribs.
Of course wood-fired pizzas are an enduring savory favorite, especially for the couple’s eight grandchildren.
“We roll the dough out on the island and let everyone make their own pizzas,” says Lonnie. “It’s like a big assembly line.”
He says the pizzas take about five minutes to cook in the Chicago Brick Oven which can heat up to 700 degrees.
“Once you heat this oven up, it can hold heat anywhere from 200 to 400 degrees for up to 20 hours,” says Lonnie.
Birthdays and holidays, including Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas and a host of impromptu gatherings, have brought family and friends together time and time again in this cordial resort-like setting.
With ample seating, three TVs, outdoor fans, a covered patio with a refrigerator and wine cooler all paired with layered ambient lighting, this sensational retreat translates into a unique suburban escape.
Lonnie says having the massive stone fireplace has helped extend the opportunity for outdoor living from chilly early spring days until deep into crisp fall evenings.
One thing is for certain.
Whether swimming laps, grabbing an 8-ounce coke from the vintage Coke machine or simply gazing at the pond’s large coy fish or listening to its soothing waterfall, leaving the daily grind behind is a breeze in this wonderfully inviting setting.
The tight-knit Roberts family is looking forward to spending many more days together around the pool in the coming months.
In fact, party plans are underway for Sally, who recently retired from KU at the end of the 2014-2015 school year. Preparations for a Roberts family reunion in July are taking shape, as well.
“I can easily entertain 50 to 75 people,” says Lonnie with clear enthusiasm at the thought of such events.
Lonnie laughs when he thinks back to the pool that seemed to serve as the catalyst for his backyard’s multi-faceted metamorphosis.
“You know what they say,” he says. “If you build it, they will come!”
If past years are any indication, there is no doubt plenty of guests, good times and fond memories are still yet to come.
Retaining Walls/Paving Stones: Stone Solutions | Fireplace: Firerock | Pizza Oven: Chicago Brick Oven | Firemagic Charcoal Grille: Fireplace and BBQ Center | Refrigerator Drawers/Wine Rack/Ice Maker: Marvel Appliances | Pool House: Terry Brock | Electrical: Irwin Electric | Sound System/Flat Screens: Starlight Satellite and Sound