Bliss Out at the Pool House

Three outdoor designers share the secrets to their success

By Carol Badaracco Padgett

SUNNY DAYS laced in gardens of striking green. Sparkling evenings gifted with a light breeze. Scents and sounds that wander hazily around the bends of an urban scene. These are the visions we crave for our ideal outdoor experiences – moments where the boundaries between inside and out dissolve.

Whether your outdoor canvas is a lush backyard oasis or a quaint balcony, creative collaboration and intentional design are the keys to unlocking its full potential.

According to three leading designers we spoke with, transforming your home into a sanctuary that marries the comforts of the interior with the allure of the exterior is an art form. Here’s a peek at how they’re bringing the outdoors in – and the indoors out – for living spaces that defy boundaries.

Kirk Road’s historic abode

Historic schoolhouse. Rural home. Aging abode. Take a deep dive into the historic home that sits near Agnes Scott College and you’ll find stories from each era of its incarnations. But the latest may be the most fabulous yet – home to a thriving film director.

After years of work and travel, the latest owner wanted a space to refresh and call home. Enter Garden Lights Landscaping owner and founder Jovani Calo and his team. As regular collaborators with Arlene Dean Home and general contractor Lesley Dean Petosa, Garden Lights was brought onboard to craft an outdoor space and landscape that coaxes contemporary peace of mind.

Take the pool house. A bit more modern, and not as historical or traditional like the house, it provided the owner with an entirely new space. “The main house is super-cool, but it’s a small schoolhouse with just a couple of rooms,” Petosa says. “So the pool house has given the owner an entirely new space. The owner is also a writer, and now he can move his studio out there [by the pool]. He has space to get out of his main house.”

Artistically complemented by its landscaping, the outdoor space features an open-air kitchen made of cedar wood, which was designed by Mosley Architecture and Gardens. Marc Mosley and his team also worked alongside Garden Lights Landscaping to transform the run-down deck area on the back of the schoolhouse, marrying it to the new pool, pool house and outdoor kitchen.

Together, the various components are modern in structure, but with a rural garden character. “We custom-built the outdoor kitchen and hand-cut a beautiful, bluestone thermal countertop,” Calo says. “There’s a very beautiful pergola over the top with confederate jasmine that will climb up and over it.”

Another outstanding feature is the pool deck itself. Crafted from an intricate blend of brick and Zoysia grass, it exudes a warmth and character that elevates the entire space. And the pattern is anything but ordinary. “If you take a [Norman] brick, 11 inches long and 4 inches wide, and then flip it on its side, it makes a thinner, more distinctive and stronger patio that will be here for centuries,” Calo says.

As for the unique brick patio and grass design, when Mosley and his team removed some of the bricks to add grass strips, it enabled the brick work to bleed into the landscaping, and the landscaping to bleed into the brick work.

“The brick, the sod, the outdoor kitchen, the bluestone thermal countertop – it’s just magnificent,” Calo says. “We brought in 12-foot tea olives, flushing – meaning they’re full, in bloom and having new growth – and very fragrant, as well as beautiful evergreen trees [to add privacy to the home which sits in a high-traffic area].”

The entire space is complemented by fence lights, which light the whole space and give a nighttime atmosphere.

Outdoors all around

In a community where nature’s embrace is never far away, Decatur has long fostered a love affair with the outdoors. No matter the neighborhood or architectural style, a multitude of enduring trends continue to take root in the city’s outdoor spaces.

In a community where nature’s embrace is never far away, Decatur has long fostered a love affair with the outdoors. No matter the neighborhood or architectural style, a multitude of enduring trends continue to take root in Decatur’s outdoor areas, reflecting the city’s deep connection to nature and its commitment to fostering a vibrant outdoor culture.

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