Perfect for Gathering

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The new patio of this Johnson County home makes an outdoor visit all the more enjoyable with deep set couches, gleaming firepit and a delightful swing loveseat! 

Story by Michelle Mastro    |    Photography by Matt Kocourek

Judy Sturman knew what she wanted for her dream patio. A covered space, a pergola, enough sitting room for all her family and friends, basically everything to render outdoor living not only possible but agreeable were the items Sturman entered on her list. Of course, there were some surprising, spur-of-the-moment decisions. “The egg chair was a complete pandemic purchase,” she laughs, “I found it, I wanted it, and it may have been more expensive than I hoped, but I thought, ‘this is going to bring me joy, and I’m going to stay at home more, so I’m going to order it.’ And it was the best purchase I ever made!”

At a time when more of us are staying home, embracing what sparks joy is important. And for Sturman, having family and friends over brings her and her husband, Jeff, the most happiness. “Particularly through the pandemic, feeling isolated was hard. I was so glad we had this space, which had enough room that everyone felt comfortable social distancing,” she explains. 

Luck would have it that Judy and Jeff’s patio was completed prior to spring 2020, so being at home could afford the couple —with an ever-expanding family of grandchildren and new acquaintances — the ability, along with the ample capacity, to see loved ones. “Having a space where people could still feel comfortable gathering because it was outside and big enough to support people — it was a game changer for me really.”

In addition to being outdoors, the patio’s assortment of chairs and couches have hidden charms that provide the perfect space for gathering. The couch can spread out into three separate pieces. Plus, with a scattering of chairs and the swing loveseat from Sutherlands, the patio’s already amble room can extend much farther to accommodate plenty of guests, who, Sturman says, felt relaxed together. 

Even her favorite purchase, the egg chair, was big enough and deep enough that “I can have my grandbabies sitting in there with me and we can hang out.” From smaller social gatherings to momentous occasions, like baby and bridal showers, the patio’s abundant space has paid off.

Yet the patio was not always so sizeable. “For years and years, we had a postage stamp patio,” says Sturman. “The original patio was basically a sliding glass door that stepped out to this little cement slab, so I always called it my postage stamp patio.” At most, the petite space was perhaps six by six feet, and it had come with the house. “It was never big enough, and so I always dreamed of something like my new patio, and I would go to home shows, picking up brochures, hoping to find the right designs.” 

Sturman, who owns her own drapery fabrication company, Stitches by Sturman, has the experience to discern what works best for every space. Eventually she settled on Hinkle Hardscapes as her contractor, who had cedar wood as one of their options. Sturman really liked the material because she could forgo painting or staining her awning. Instead, the cedar would naturally patina over time, revealing a gorgeous gray hue. Not to mention, the feature would require little to no upkeep but all the allure of naturally aging wood with its hints at nature and outdoor glories —woods and gardens.

In fact, guests to the patio will find a plentitude of natural wonders. Although the garden developed over time, it feels like it had been there always. When the couple had first moved to their home, the backyard’s existing arbor had originally worked as a playground. But the prior owners had taken their swing set with them, leaving behind a space void of vegetation. Sturman saw possibility in the empty space and used her green thumbs to transform the playground’s dirt mounds into an oasis of overflowing flowers. 

“We have a little rock path that looks like a river extending back to the small creek marking the boundary of our property, and I added in perennial and annual plants such as zinnias, which I can keep cutting until the first frost — I love freshly cut flowers in the house,” she exclaims. The flowers are the easiest to grow through the seasons, and the garden boasts raised beds that may have a vegetable or two. “But unless it’s herbs, they don’t really grow because they don’t get a lot of sun there. So, I had to switch it up with flowers — which I’m perfectly fine with!” 

For those wanting their own patio, Sturman offers advice. “Think about how you want people to gather there,” she says. For example, she wanted a table long enough and narrow enough for her space. “But I didn’t want it to be gigantic. And so, we ended up building that table ourselves, finding a design online and modifying it.” In other words, make a space that will work for you. “Our family is getting larger all the time, with grandbabies and so forth, and I wanted to gather out there, so I have that big table, plus I have a little child size picnic table that the kids can sit at. We can all gather there together.” 

For Sturman, it really came down to her patio’s flexibility of use. When warm enough, visitors will find Sturman, coffee in hand, enjoying her mornings on the patio. Later, in the evenings, she and her husband will be out there too. “We wanted to use the patio as much as possible,” she says. And so they had insisted on a fire pit. “With it, we get warmth at the end of fall and early spring, and for the last couple of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, we were actually out there too.” For this family, the patio is to be enjoyed all the year round.


  • Contractor: Hinkle Hardscapes
  • Patio Furniture: Sutherlands

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