Comfort and Fun
is Par in a Backyard Retreat

by Melissa Lefelar

The days of a small, backyard deck with a few chairs and a barbecue are long gone. Homeowners now see the outdoors as an extension of their indoor living space. The only limits are the imagination and the wallet.

A Russell couple explored all of the possibilities and turned their backyard into a luxurious haven for their family and friends. A lot of planning went into the project.

“We did it over a period of about five or six years,” said the wife. “Ohio Valley Group developed a master plan, and we just implemented it piece by piece. It was really nice because you can do one component and then, the next year, do another, and it gives you the time to think if you want any changes.”

Andy Dangelo, owner of Ohio Valley Group, said that a long-term project also helps with the homeowners’ budget. “Spending the time on developing a solid plan is always worth the effort because you don’t waste your time and money later changing or altering your previous efforts,” he said.

The couple started about seven years ago, with the addition of a stone path from the driveway to the backyard. A multi-level waterfall came next, which empties into a pond filled with Koi fish. The water feature is not only attractive, but provides soothing sounds. “Our bedroom is right above it,” the wife said. “There’s a balcony outside, so you can hear the water everywhere, which is really nice.” The pond and waterfall area overflows with flowers and other plantings. These include Weeping Spruce, Weeping Hemlock, Cotoneaster, Wine and Rose Weigela, Blood Good Japanese Maple, Little Princess Spiraea and perennials like Coneflower, Sedum and Hosta. Different types of annuals are also planted each year. An extensive, two-level patio and deck was the next step in the plan. Blue stone was used for the patio, which surrounds the pond and includes several comfortable seating areas. All-weather, brown wicker furniture with striped cushions gives the owners a nice place to curl up with a good book. A wrought iron table with six chairs is the perfect place for a family meal or an intimate dinner party. Just a year ago, the owners added a white pergola, which provides definition to the area. It also gave them a place to hang two outdoor chandeliers.

A two-level, T-shaped bar made of natural river stone and topped with green granite gives party guests lots of room to sit, eat and mingle. The lower level is used for the bar set up, while the upper level provides seating on two sides. A semicircle-shaped river stone seat wall is just to the right of the bar.

Two steps lead to the deck, made of Ipe wood. Ipe is one of the densest woods on the planet and does not rot or splinter. White, vinyl railings that match the pergola border the area. All of the materials are low or no maintenance. A huge grill on wheels sits in a corner. Of course the grill gets lots of use. “We put in a 20-pound turkey last weekend and we hosted a clambake the week before,” said the wife. Three Adirondack chairs surround a granite fire pit that converts into a table. Another eating table with an umbrella is a short distance away. A six-person hot tub sits at the end of the deck.

The owners say they enjoy their outdoor space everyday when the weather is nice, and even sometimes when the snow is flying. “We have three kids who are now teenagers, we have people over and they have people over here all the time,” the wife said.

Dangelo said he and his landscape architect approach a project in a different way than some other companies. “We go inside the house to see the best views and how the landscape will look both inside the house and outside the house,” he said. At this home, a large picture window by the kitchen table frames the waterfall. Family members can stand in the kitchen and see a wisteria-covered arbor.

The most unique feature of the yard is just a short walk down some steps from the deck and across a dry stream bed. Three golf tee boxes, elevated and at various distances from a putting green in the front yard, puts a smile on the face of every golf fan who visits. Everyone in the family plays the game, and it is the theme of an annual party. “We had thirty people here for a golf party. We matched up couples, not spouses, and we did a three-hole course. It was really fun,” said the wife.

The couple even hosted a wedding near the waterfall. “My uncle got married here,” said the wife. “It was a small wedding, as it was both of their second marriages. They had all the people sitting over there (on a small hill) on chairs, and the bride walked down this little path and up the stairs. It was very nice.” The family is thrilled with their backyard and glad they did it in stages. The layout of the deck is very much like a floor plan with separate areas. There’s a tranquil sunken hot tub around the corner towards the front that is fairly removed from the rest of the deck. There’s also an outdoor living room with a sofa, armchairs, coffee table and lamps. The dining area is convenient to the indoor kitchen and the outdoor bar and grill with the added touch of a soothing waterfall off to the side. Clearly, this staged design provides many options for individual relaxation and large events.

“We love it because it adds an entire dimension to our house,” the wife said. “It also makes entertaining essentially effortless because everything is in place.”

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