Ultimate outdoor spaces
Homeowners in Muirfield, Bexley and Upper Arlington extend dramatic living spaces into the backyard landscape.
This expansive deck in Muirfield has become the spot for neighbors to gather for impromptu outdoor events.
When pleasant weather finally arrives, Central Ohioans gratefully retreat to their backyards. Comfy furniture, lush landscapes, sophisticated cooking stations, custom fire pits and flat-screen TVs have elevated these outdoor spaces far beyond the grassy lawn featuring a picnic table and a swing set. Local families in Muirfield, Bexley and Upper Arlington agreed to share their new outdoor spaces to inspire others who are looking to make changes.
S’mores on the deck
Jason Miriello says his family of four had outgrown its 16-by-14-foot wooden deck in Muirfield. “When the neighbors came over, we were crammed on the deck around a small chiminea,” he recalls.
Today, more than 30 neighbors can gather on the Miriello’s new 50-by-18-foot deck with its octagon-shaped fire pit. Since this backyard adjoins several others, the new deck has become the go-to spot for impromptu neighborhood s’mores parties and card games.
Miriello, of Everett Homes, says he tinkered with the deck’s design for two years while he finished renovating their home’s interior. He first ordered a load of pavers and arranged them in a round pattern for the fire pit. “My wife (Lisa) had to look at them for a year,” he says.
Miriello says he considered both wood and composite decking materials, but decided on the wood for the cost savings and the ability to refinish it. He then added finishing details that mimicked the home’s interior trims. Consider the deck’s box newels topped with lantern fixtures, its framed exterior and its impressive staircase to the yard, which many times serves as a welcoming entrance for neighbors.
A built-in fire pit with angled seating for 20 was designed for the space in addition to grilling and eating areas. An existing maple tree, which screens the bedroom window and provides beauty and shade on the deck, also was incorporated. Two exterior doors were added—one from the family room for entertaining and another one from the mudroom for everyday use. He completed the space by adding two coach lights and four lanterns all placed on dimmers, which are typically adjusted to 30 percent. In the future, he plans to add a built-in grill and pizza oven and expand the landscaping. But for now, though, the family enjoys the deck for morning coffee, neighborhood get-togethers and plenty of s’mores.
Parties on the patio
After a fire destroyed the Heilmans’ Bexley home in 2004, the family of six counted their blessings that no one was harmed. Then, for the next three years, they rebuilt their house with a deeper appreciation for the richness of their home and a greater desire to share it with friends and relatives. Their thoughtful plans extended beyond the interior to the outdoors where they created a family space that fit into their historic neighborhood.
“If you have a big house and can’t share it, then it’s just an empty house,” says homeowner Tom Heilman. Indeed, the Heilmans live by their own philosophy in hosting many occasions, including charity events for 150 people, post-soccer game pizza parties, birthday celebrations with school friends and football tailgate rallies.
“Outside, it’s easier to entertain, and you don’t have to worry about clean up,” says homeowner Julie Heilman.
A grand patio takes center stage in the Heilmans’ landscaped backyard. Here, the homeowners created a patio of brick pavers to complement the home’s cobbled brick walls. Julie says they were so pleased with the masons’ brick work that they asked them to add the patio’s fireplace, one that echoed the home’s chimney design and integrated curved half-walls to create an enclosed seating area.
To furnish the area, Julie says she and interior designer Shauna Lehman decided to “treat the outside space like the indoor space.” Black iron furniture repeats the home’s ornamental iron handrails and balcony rails. The furniture’s comfortable green cushions are upholstered in water- and sun-proof fabric. Upscale accessories complement the space. The Heilmans thoughtfully planned seating, as they did the grilling and eating areas. Also, French doors open at the back of the home to extend the indoor living space during good weather. Other outdoor amenities include a cable hook-up for a portable flat-screen TV, quality light fixtures and weatherproof speakers to broadcast the family’s favorite playlists.
Julie says during most parties the kids are busy playing soccer in the backyard or basketball by the garage—both accessible on paths of stones salvaged from the original patio. Around the perimeter of the large yard, Seeley’s Landscape Nursery installed beds of flowering shrubs, annuals, a vegetable garden and accent lighting. Once the landscaping was completed, she says they replaced the children’s small soccer goals with larger ones to protect the flowerbeds. Julie also hired Dill’s Greenhouse to create lush container arrangements that complete the patio space.
A three-season pavilion
Jennifer Sawyer says visitors often are surprised by the openness of their brick ranch home in Upper Arlington. When she and her husband, Doug, started renovating their home, they had interior walls removed to create larger open spaces and naturally wanted to further extend the open feel to the back of the house and views of the backyard. Their first step was to install French doors from the family room to the lawn. “There was no good way to access the backyard,” she says.
Next, she says, they weighed different options for the outdoor space. They initially considered a four-seasons room, then a screened porch and eventually an open room. The expense of windows and heating made them realize that they’d get more value with a covered patio.
In 2008, they contracted with Tarini Cement Contracting to pour a 16-by-22-foot aggregate slab, which became the base for the covered portion. Twinscapes was hired to create a surrounding patio, curved alcove and fire pit using a mix of earth-colored, tumbled stone pavers. The next year, they hired carpenters to add the pavilion.
Inspired by a photo in a magazine, Jennifer says they designed the pavilion with a vaulted cedar ceiling, two contrasting white beams, trimmed columns and arched openings. Skylights also were added to provide natural lighting to the space and the adjoining rooms of the home. To outfit the space, the couple chose teak furniture and mounted a flat-screen TV. A ceiling fan provides circulation and helps keep mosquitoes away. To the side of the patio and along the length of the garage, Doug added a deluxe kitchen area, including a stucco-finished bar with granite countertops, a built-in grill and storage space. At the opposite side, they installed a hot tub.
Backyard landscaping was spruced up by adding hostas, hydrangeas and perennials around the property’s existing trees. The Sawyers’ three sons also planted a full vegetable garden with the help of Jennifer’s dad.
“We open [the outdoor space] in early April, depending on the weather, and won’t close until Thanksgiving,” says Jennifer. During last year’s season, she hosted a bridal shower for 55 and a dinner party with two long banquet tables that were moved under the pavilion to avoid an untimely rainfall, as well as several impromptu get-togethers with friends. During summertime, the boys enjoy breakfast and cartoons on the outdoor sofa, campouts with friends, dips in the hot tub, post-football bonfires and harvests from the garden.
Teresa Woodard is a freelance writer.