One Family's Shady Retreat

When mother nature turns up the heat, this Texas backyard oasis is a cool spot.
Sarah Jernigan

Any given evening, friends and neighbors know where to find Becky Wiggins and her husband, Pat. And if they're lucky, the couple will invite visitors to stay awhile to enjoy their backyard.

"This is our special place. We make time to come out here every afternoon and unwind," explains Becky, an interior designer in Dallas. Considering the lush, tree-lined landscape, pool and spa, dining area, and outdoor fireplace, who could blame them? "Once we moved here, we realized we were spending all of our time in the backyard," she says. "So we decided to bring our living room outside."

Inspired by Becky's love of gardening, the project also began with a practical need. "It was tough getting our Suburban into the alley and garage," Becky says, explaining why they built a new garage and converted the old one into guest quarters. "The pool came next, and then later we added the outdoor fireplace." These additions, combined with the main house, create the framework for the backyard.

Just as if designing for a client, Becky and her friend local designer Robert Bellamy organized the area into several living spaces. Each is complete with focal points and comfortable seating arrangements. An arbor casts welcome shade.

Native elements such as the flagstone floor provide texture and a link to the main house. Low-maintenance plants dot the landscape, while vines soften the stucco and stone. Although not necessary this time of year, the fireplace makes a delightful focal point and allows for year-round living.

During the hottest months, the Wigginses are out enjoying the coolness of the pool, shade, and thick grass. "Having a living room outdoors," Becky says, "definitely makes the heat bearable."