Keep it simple, and choose things that will work for you--not the other way around. Those are the keys to this low-maintenance gathering space.
Planned to Perfection
Call it practiced restraint or willpower, if you wish. This family’s backyard has just what they want: A roomy place to entertain, a pool for swimming laps, and a maintenance list that is short enough to fit on a sticky note.
What's In the Cards
“The success of this garden is more about what we didn’t do than what we did,” says landscape architect Jeffrey Carbo. What you won’t find are sweeping beds of azaleas or rows of fussy flowers (though there’s nothing wrong with those). But here, it just wasn’t in the cards.
Instead, Jeff and his team opted to play up the Alexandria, Louisiana, property’s number one asset: wide-open space with views that seem to go on forever. To do so, they drew from the land’s agrarian past, bringing it to the present.
A Beautiful Blend
Surrounded by fields of cotton and corn, Richard and Pauline Arsenault’s land has only one natural boundary--the bayou that runs along its back border. The expected Southern garden would have taken years to install and mature, so that was out. “We flipped the scenario to our advantage and embraced the land,” says Jeff. This led to a minimized palette. “What we did, we chose to do nicely,” he adds.
May I Have Your Attention, Please?
From the parking area, you enter the backyard through a grove of ‘Shademaster’ honey locusts (Gleditsia triacanthos inermis ‘Shademaster’). Planted in orchard fashion, they frame the pastoral setting and tree-lined bayou beyond.
Elevated 2 feet above grade, the pool offers a commanding view of the landscape. “We made the steps long and linear, like farm rows,” says Jeff. Even the copper fountain spouts are reminiscent of those that might have once irrigated crops.
New Look for Old Materials
“The test of good design is timelessness,” says Jeff. “Use authentic materials, and your design will never appear dated.” Here, bricks salvaged from local buildings, reclaimed timbers, and a hand-hewed beam take on new life as a pool deck, pavilion rafters, and the fireplace mantel.
Bringing Friends and Family Together
Jeff’s plan for the pool pavilion echoes the style of the home, which was designed by Al Jones. Measuring 20 feet square, the pavilion provides shade during the summer and a warming fireplace when the air turns cool. Kitchen conveniences run along a sidewall. Set back beneath a lean-to roof are a bath and areas for prep and storage.
“We love what’s here,” says Pauline. “It gets prettier each year.” When friends and family come over, they honestly enjoy themselves, because this space brings people together.
From Their Home to Yours
Invite friends over for an impromptu gathering, as the Arsenaults often do. Here are 10 ideas to get your outdoor living space ready.
- Replace tired annuals with coleus, marigolds, or perennials such as fountain grass or sedum.
- No time to mow the entire lawn? Try cutting a double-width swath of grass only along the walk and around the patio’s edge.
- Fill large vases with cut branches of seasonal fruit such as apples, persimmons, or pears.
- Keep things even simpler by filling clear vases with varying heights of water and adding several drops of food coloring. Deepen hues in several of the vases to add interest.
- Start early. Not all parties have to take place at night. Morning light can be moody and wonderful. Keep the menu easy with coffee and pastries picked up from the bakery.
- If the thought of rising early is more than you can bear, keep it late--just add lots of candles. Buy multiple shapes and sizes on sale.
- Encourage guests to kick off their shoes and dangle their toes in the pool while you bring them cocktails.
- Ask guests to download their favorite songs. Play a mix during the party to keep everyone happy.
- Cover a less-than-lovely table with a great tablecloth. Don’t shy away from using your best linens.
- Strategically space appetizers at various locations to keep folks moving. Unless they’re dining, the last thing you want to happen is to have everyone sit down.