Backyard Escape: English Garden Folly
Backyard Living Room
Gail and John Laughlin invited architects Ken Pursley and Craig Dixon (pursleyarchitecture.com) over to talk about renovations inside their Charlotte house, but their best creation ended up being an outdoor pavilion (often called a “folly”) in the backyard. “Ken had the idea to view our outdoor space as a potential room,” says Gail. “Because we have a quirky, old house composed of small rooms, we were excited to get the space. This has become our favorite place to relax. It’s probably now the biggest ‘room’ of our house.”
The Laughlins’ existing yard first needed some updating to make it inviting. Once the back was leveled and a brick retaining wall put in place, Ken and Craig were able to incorporate the wall as an element in the folly. The Tudor roots of the main house inspired the look of the folly: a timbered structure with a steep roof and nestled-in windows. A mix of brick, stone, and wood adds visual interest.
A brick retaining wall in the backyard became the rear wall for the folly, which is tucked into a perennial garden. Gracefully arched rough-sawn cedar columns, a slate roof, and copper finials add to the distinctive look. The steep roofline provides the proper scale for the yard, while the vaulted ceiling within lets hot air rise for comfort.
At 20 feet wide, the folly’s interior allows for seating as well as dining areas. “We blended both wicker and wood furnishings to add softness to the brick structure,” says Gail. A large outdoor rug warms up the stone floor, making the room feel cozier.
The combination fireplace/grill is made of limestone, which contrasts with the brick walls and bluestone floor. Because the large fireplace and hearth in their retreat can serve as an outdoor oven, the Laughlins have discovered a new hobby. “We’ve learned to cook all sorts of things over an open fire,” Gail says. The Laughlins’ folly cuisine includes Cornish hens roasted at Thanksgiving and grilled pizza for an 8th-grade party.