Outdoor Room You’ll Love

This spunky Texas design team turned a dumpy garage into a spectacular patio.
Sara Anderson

Picture this: A vibrant orange sunset spills across the sky like a cracked egg. There’s a gentle breeze rustling fragrant vines overhead. Plush chairs are nestled between banana plants and a bubbling fountain that trickles water over a pile of stones. No, this is not your dream vacation destination. Not all getaways require plane tickets and passports. It’s what you get when you create a backyard oasis that bumps comfort up to first class. Be a stickler for great design, and your escape won’t be miles away, but a few steps from your door.

From Beast to Beauty
When Greg and Linda Austin moved to Georgetown, Texas, they bought a 1916 bungalow in major need of repair. The property also included a run-down garage that had almost nothing going for it. The Austins restored the house with help from architect Bryant Boyd, interior designer Linda McCalla, and contractor John Kyser, while landscape architect David Bost, landscape designer Beebe Gray, and landscape contractor John Gibson designed the lawn and created a plan to turn the garage into a deluxe patio. It was a lofty goal. The structure was full of metal scraps and rusted-out cars, and the tin roof was caving in above the dirt floor. Once the debris was cleared, however, three near-perfect stacked-stone walls were discovered.

 
What happened next was more deconstruction than reconstruction. An exposed truss system of cedar beams took the place of the roof. The columns and the structural cement crossbeam were clad in cedar veneer to keep the look cohesive. A doorway, which leads to a fire pit and water fountain, was knocked out on one of the end walls.

Kick Back and Relax
To feel more intimate, large, open spaces such as this one need to be divided into rooms. Large containers of lush plants are grouped at varying heights to give this outdoor retreat scale. Large furniture, such as the double chaise lounge, will appear diminutive if not surrounded by bold plants.

A Cool Design
Even in triple-digit temperatures, it stays comfortable here. Shade trees, ceiling fans, and wisteria vines, trained on monofilament connected to the trusses, help cool the space. "People think that because we’re in Texas, we must die out here in the summer," says Greg. "But with the concrete floor, the rock walls, and the wisteria, it actually stays very pleasant, even in the heat of the day."

"Outdoor Room You’ll Love" is from the May 2007 issue of Southern Living.