Peek Inside An Alabama Backyard Retreat Built For Embracing Nature

“A porch should be an extension of the garden,” says builder Frank Craige. “It should flow into the landscape when you look out.” Homeowners Brian Lyman and Leigh Ledbetter called on both Frank and his wife Rachel (the duo behind Oxford & Company) when it came time to give their 1930s cottage in Homewood, Alabama, a face-lift. “We wanted the renovation to capture the original character and simplicity of our home,” says Brian. A narrow lot can be tricky to work with (think privacy from next-door neighbors), but the Craiges got creative and collaborated with Our Town Plans to design a breezy screened porch that blends all the best of indoors and out. (It’s also part of a Southern Living House Plan: Edgewood Court, SL-2008.) Then Bethany and Jeremy Miller of Endless Summer Landscapes turned the overgrown backyard into an inviting oasis ideal for entertaining. Read on to see how this tucked-away space took shape.

Natural Backyard Design Screened Porch with Double Doors

Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Lydia Pursell

Raise The Roof

“On a narrow lot, bringing in natural light throughout the house can be hard,” says Frank. The solution? Vault the ceiling of the screened porch to let in as much sun as possible. Keeping the 14-foot roofline consistent with the rest of the home maintained the cottagey proportions. “A porch should be a nook. It won’t feel like a getaway space if it gets too big,” he says. Floor-to-ceiling screens and a louvered gable let more sun pour in. “You feel engaged with the backyard but still have some privacy,” says Frank. The splayed brick steps tie the house to the outdoors. American boxwoods and autumn ferns accent the entryway.

Blend Inside And Out

“To connect with the garden, bring in natural-colored elements so the porch flows seamlessly outdoors,” says Frank. They used mahogany for the French doors and reclaimed pine boards from the original house for the ceiling and tongue-and-groove floors. “Keep the porch grounded with whimsical elements,” he says. White trim (Sail Cloth by Benjamin Moore, OC-142) and black accents (screens, shadow lines, and light fixtures) pop against natural wood. A local fireman built the daybed swing. Comfortable accessories help the space feel like a natural extension of the living room.

Pick Complementary Plantings

The landscapers worked around the existing ‘Natchez’ crepe myrtle and cedar tree in the center bed, adding a Japanese maple for screening and shade as well as low-lying spreading yews, lavender phlox, and lamb’s ears. Tea olives thrive along the fence.

Natural Design Backyard in Birmingham, AL
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Lydia Pursell

Build the Backyard Like A House

“Use shrubs as walls, the lawn as flooring, and trees as a roofline,” says Jeremy. Crowding the middle makes a yard feel smaller, so larger plantings were pushed to the perimeter (bonus points for adding privacy). To make room for the porch, the garage was hoisted onto logs and pushed about 15 feet backward. Now it’s >Leigh’s art studio. Shade-loving autumn ferns help the garage seem like an integral part of the garden.

Green Adirondack Chairs on Backyard Patio
Hector Manuel Sanchez; Styling: Lydia Pursell

Design Outdoor Living Rooms

“We created several entertaining areas the homeowners could utilize year-round,” says Jeremy. A flagstone patio is tucked beside the porch. One side of the garage doubles as a potting shed and hangout spot. The grandkids play in an open sod semicircle in the back.

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