Home: A dream backyard in Delaware County
On a Friday evening this summer, Ken and Lois Heater kick off the weekend with cocktails poolside on their newly finished patio, complete with an arched stone fireplace and pergola.
Their home sits on a tranquil 4-acre wooded lot in Delaware, miles away from nearby suburbia and their busy weekdays, his as the scientist-owner of a research and development company and hers as an interior decorator. Dozens of towering shagbark hickory trees shade a lush English landscape filled with white flowering perennials and shrubs. The beauty of the setting is reflected across their rectangular pool's blue water. The Heater's 14-year-old son, John, welcomes the weekend in his own way—a cannonball splash into the pool. He's waiting for a handful of friends to arrive for an impromptu pool party.
“This is exactly why we did this,” says Lois, who relishes the moment and recalls hunting for a year and a half before finding the property.
“We wanted a pool and enough land to look out and not see neighbors,” she says. Originally, she looked at another house in the neighborhood, the day before this house went on the market.
“We walked in the backyard and that was it,” says Lois. “We bought the home for its backyard and, later we learned, so did the previous owners.”
The Heaters are the third owners of the 50-year-old home. The 6,000-square-foot, two-story, brick Georgian was one of builder Bob Webb's first custom homes. Lois says the interior and exterior are beautifully crafted and only a few updates were necessary to match their family's style.
The Heaters started with indoor renovations, replacing flooring and painting walls before they turned to the outdoor pool area. First, the existing 28,000-gallon pool was converted from chlorine to salt water, and the surrounding deck area was resurfaced in natural aggregate stone, which tied in the existing brick border.
Next, they added the new fireplace to extend their time outdoors into the evenings and into the fall season.
“I originally wanted a pool house, but we thought that would be too big of a project,” she says. The fireplace ended up being a much bigger project than they anticipated, and the construction lasted about two years.
She explains, “I saw a picture on Pinterest, and that's how it all began.” The picture featured a curved limestone fireplace with attached seating and a narrow over-
“Be careful what you love on Pinterest, because there's no going back,” she says.
Lois contracted Mike Sileargy, of MLH Design & Build, to recreate the fireplace from the Pinterest photo. He tracked down the designer in Santa Barbara, California, to gain design insights. They chose to repeat the Pinterest design's Indiana limestone for the fireplace and Connecticut bluestone for the patio and cap on the adjoining seating area. The project required meticulous and time-consuming work, hand-cutting each stone. Next, the contractor added the narrow pergola with four round columns and curved rafters painted in a color called White Swan by Benjamin Moore.
To finish the stone chimney, Lois ordered a large, hand-crafted gas lantern from Bevolo, a family-owned business in New Orleans that's known for its copper, open-flame lanterns throughout the city's French Quarter.
With the hardscapes completed, Lois moved on to the landscape. She reached out to neighborhood friend and landscape designer Nikki Fetingas, of At Home Landscape, to create an updated look with plenty of English styling and white blooms.
“I like all things English,” says Lois. “English curtains, English Labrador dogs and English gardens.”
Fetingas welcomed the challenge. To begin, she surveyed the landscape's existing strengths, like its mature Japanese maples at one side of the pool and a trio of showy bottlebrush buckeyes on the opposite side. She also assessed overgrown plants and noted several lost shrubs from the bitter winter of 2013–14.
Next, she recommended planting an understory of trees, including hemlocks and dogwoods, to connect the property's 40-foot overhead canopy with the poolside landscape. They chose oakleaf hydrangeas, White Feather and Curly Fries hostas, ferns, white alliums, foxgloves, coral bells, Lenten roses, Jack Frost brunnera and Japanese forest grass.
To capture the English styling, they added low hedges of Green Velvet boxwood accented with pyramidal boxwoods at the ends. For the pergola, they planted a backdrop of Forest Pansy redbuds and ordered climbing white Iceberg roses from the famous English rose hybridizer David Austen. To the side, they planted Susan Williams-Ellis white shrub roses—another Austen variety.
“These roses do take a while to get started, but after a couple years acclimating they will be so stunning and fragrant,” says Fetingas.
On the far stretch of the pool, she wanted to create a grand statement that could be viewed from indoors and across the water. They rounded up the barrenwort that was sporadically growing throughout the landscape and created a border using the shade perennial. Next, they planted four hydrangea topiary trees and rounded them with burgundy-colored coral bells. In between, they added White Feather hostas. The bluestone patio's colors were picked up in another layer of blue spruce.
“The layered plantings help frame the pool and provide a pretty backdrop against the woodland,” says Fetingas.
Now in its second growing season, the updated poolside landscape is perfect for outdoor living, whether it's intimate family dinners, a garden gathering or John's famous glow-in-the-dark pool parties.
“Some days, we go from pajamas to swimsuits to pajamas,” says Lois, as she places the pair of newly filled, inflatable swans in the pool.