Natural Escape

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A new outdoor space makes for perfect autumn days and crisp nights.

Story by Michelle Mastro    |    Photography by Matt Kocourek

What’s the advantage of having a great outdoor space when you have little to no sun protection? This was the conundrum Richard Clayton Barrett and his wife Catherine faced. Their ample backyard had a paved hardtop, perfect for grilling and entertaining, but without adequate shelter from the summer sun, it felt like they and their guests were the ones baking in the heat. 

“Our previous outdoor space featured just a pergola,” explains Barrett, “and it was too hot out there to be able to use it all summer. Facing south, it was just unusable in the summer when you want to use it.”

Enter Maverick Pickering of Maverick Outdoor Living and Design. Pickering had actually worked with Barrett (a landscape architect) on and off for 25 years. “I’ve worked on many projects over the years with him,” recalls Barrett. “For my own home, I knew what I wanted, and he was the only one I wanted to work with.”

Together the pair collaborated on the best ways to utilize the home’s outdoor space. “We knew we wanted a screened porch and a fireplace, the focal point of the room,” says Barrett. At first the sky was the limit, and Barrett and his wife considered adding a plunge pool to the list of must-haves. “But then we opted for an outdoor shower after talking with Maverick,” he says. “Sometimes you must compare cost and outcome, and so we landed on some things through Maverick’s help. He is great at bouncing ideas off of.”

Maverick helped them design a screened porch with a connected deck. “We wanted the room to look like it had always been there and that the new deck belonged on the house,” he explains. The idea was to have one space easily flow into the other through a two and half foot elevation change. “And instead of the usual square, the deck comes off at a 45-degree angle,” adds Barrett. “It’s a more dynamic set up this way, more visually interesting, more exciting.” 

Throughout the process Pickering was there each step of the way. Coming off the pandemic, the screened porch and deck took some time to fully construct and decorate. “We found ourselves waiting on materials, but Maverick was there all the way.” Yet even without the problems of the Pandemic, renovations can be challenging. “People think this sort of project should go like clockwork, but with a home project of any size, it never goes that way, which is why you have someone like Maverick onboard from helping figure out who’ll do the screening to all the stone masonry. This requires different contractors, with different skill sets, and you’ve got to have someone like Maverick to coordinate that.”

The resulting screened porch was a breath of fresh air. More than that, the  covered room could bring the outdoors inside without the disadvantage of all the sun and subsequent heat they used to contend with. “My wife and I are outdoor people, and we can use this room for anything we want,” he says. “The floor-to-ceiling screens and fans make all the difference in the world — suddenly you’ll get a nice breeze through the room.”

The screened porch is also bigger than most. Seven people plus a dinner table can fit in the space with plenty of room to spare. At 24 by 20, the room easily accommodates the couple, who like to watch tv in the evenings, enjoy yoga or coffee there in the mornings, and on colder nights, they can have a cozy evening in by the roaring fireplace. “Maverick built us a nice fireplace for the fall and winter. Here we can use the room 10 or 10-1/2 months of the year.”  

Outside on the deck, a suburban wilderness awaits. Pavers help transition the deck from total hardscape to the softness of the grass yard. While the couple opted not to have the plunge pool, they hope one day to have a water feature off the patio, especially if it can help support native pollinators. “We are big proponents of pollinators and love bees,” Barrett says. “We always opt for plants that bees and butterflies like.” 

Most of their landscaping is native. Black-eyed Susans, hydrangeas, rose verbena, goat’s beard, purple cone flower, and of course, milkweed tick off all the boxes of butterfly-friendly plants. In fact, the couple has so many blooms, the monarch butterflies love that their garden has been approved as a certified monarch waystation. 

According to Barrett, none of this could have been made possible without the help of Maverick. “Maverick was integral to the whole process. He has many ideas, and we work well together. If a homeowner takes on a role like this, by themselves, they will realize how hard it is.” Turns out, teamwork makes the dream work.


  • Landscape Designer: Richard Clayton Barrett
  • Stone: Sturgis Materials
  • Fireplace: Maverick Outdoor Living & Design
  • Grill: Fire Magic MOL&D
  • Screening: Screenmobile of Shawnee Mission
  • Fans & Lighting: Wilson Lighting
  • Roof: Buckley Roofing and Stucco
  • Stracture Stand: Structural Engineering
  • Framing: DSC Construction

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