The Outhouse Backyard Design


In the 20 years that I have been in business, the Outhouse Holiday backyard was truly one of my favorite outdoor living spaces, and clients Glen and Teresa were two of the most wonderful people that I have had the pleasure to work for.

The Outhouse is the only outdoor living space I ever named while I was actually working on it. The concept for the name derives from our mission statement, which in part, is to create OUTdoor living space…to create the most ideal and desirable spaces of your home on the exterior…to add or construct the necessary elements of OUTdoor living to draw you out of your home. The shape of a star and moon were cut into the gates of the custom fence built around this project, an idea conceived from the original outhouse doors of the old west…the star representing man and the moon representing woman.

The Outhouse is an outdoor living space that almost didn’t happen. I had met Teresa and Glen over a year before the start of construction when Teresa called to inquire about having me design her front yard. The description of the project from our phone conversation seemed to be a basic landscape design, which we do, but usually in accordance with some form of hardscape project, whether it be a custom deck, pond, patio, pergola, etc. Their home was also approximately an hour out from our home base in South Tampa, but not out of our range. I do have a policy of trying not to turn down work, but mainly it was Teresa’s personality that sold me on traveling to Holiday and ultimately designing their front yard landscape. She is one of those outgoing, shoot-from-the-hip type of people where you can develop a bond over a phone conversation before ever actually meeting, and once we did meet, I knew I would really enjoy working with her.

In the end, the front yard did evolve into various hardscape projects incorporated with the landscaping, including a winding interlocking paver walkway with an arched wood bridge over a dry pond and riverbed, a Belgard retaining wall, an ornamental fence with a built-in arbor and an outdoor lighting system.

Approximately a year later, Glen contacted me to discuss redesigning their backyard. Although, as in many households, Teresa was the final word, the backyard was more of Glen’s project and a collaboration between the three of us, and I had more of an opportunity to get the know Glen. Their main goal was to have a backyard that was hands down beyond anything I had ever dreamed of. I had no artistic restrictions at all for this outdoor living space.

In our first meeting, a list was made of all the elements we would incorporate into the outdoor living space: a swimming pool with a spa and waterfall, an outdoor kitchen, a fire pit, ample deck and/or patio space, dining and seating space, privacy fencing, outdoor lighting and landscaping.

We had decided on a style for the pool and had a good idea on size and location in proportion to the backyard. We had chosen a very natural and organic theme to the pool as well as the entire project. In fact, there are only two straight edges in the entire project, one being where the deck abuts the back of the home.

The pool was peanut shaped with a wet deck and bubblers, and a spa on the far side with a bluestone waterfall/spillway flowing from it. In addition, there is a natural stone waterfall that wraps completely around the spa flowing into the pool as well as the spa. A large Pennsylvania antique boulder was placed in the pool where the steps and wet deck edge intersect, doubling as a railing as well as continuing the theme of blending stone throughout the project. The pool has a marsite coating in a deep blue color to emulate a pond of lagoon more so than a pool.

The decking around the pool is a blend of Pennsylvania bluestone and wood decking. The entire custom deck was designed and built with a series of convex and concave curves. The custom wood deck is three tiers with circular grand staircases connecting them to one another, as they terrace down the hillside toward the canal at the rear of the property.

The upper deck is the largest of the custom decks. It is approximately a 1,000 square foot custom deck that completely encompasses a large live oak. Two separate bands of curved composite deck board were inlaid to the decking to emulate the curvature of the rest of the project. A 360-degree octagonal structure was built around the live oak that consists of four wood planters joined by a bench on one side and a bluestone bar on the other. An outdoor pool table was purchased and placed on this custom deck. A full outdoor kitchen intersects this custom deck and the second level deck. The cabinetry is L-shaped with a built-in grill, refrigerator, wine rack and bluestone countertops to match the bar. Large Pennsylvania antique boulders were built into the woodwork of both the kitchen and bar area to blend the two mediums. On the back side of the kitchen is a storage closet and a changing room, which was built with the option of converting to an outdoor shower. Access to this area is covered by a rectangular, pavilion-style roof that is sheathed with till and shingled to match the existing home.

The custom second level wood deck is completely organic in shape, wrapping partially around a second live oak tree on one side and taking the full contour of the pool and spa on the other. This deck also has built-in planters and benches, and has curved composite deck boards inlaid into the decking. The third and lowest deck is the sun deck, circular in design. This deck has a seven-tiered grand circular staircase leading to the ground and also has inlaid composite deck boards built into the decking.

Between the first and second tiered custom decks, a bluestone patio was constructed that partially contours the left and near sides of the pool. This patio is encased by three Pennsylvania antique fieldstone retaining walls and a stone fire pit.

A full lighting system was installed throughout the project. Low voltage lights were built into the risers between the deck levels and the stairs. Lights were also inset into each wood planter as well as mounted underneath the benches and stone bar top. Finally, lights were incorporated into the landscaping and waterfall, mounted to the fence, and set to uplight the live oaks. The entire project was completely landscaped as well with native Florida plants. Finally, a custom 8-foot privacy fence was constructed, consisting of six feet of 1’ x 6’ privacy with 2 inches of horizontal, homemade 1” x 2” ornamental lattice on top. A 12 foot wide double gate with a custom arbor on top was built wide enough and tall enough to get work vehicles through if ever needed.

This entire outdoor living space was constructed in-house by the Exterior Concepts team with the exception of the pool shell and filtration system, which were completed by one of our trusted subcontractors. My thanks to the numerous employees who put their time and effort into the project. Mostly, I am grateful to Glen and Teresa for their friendship and hospitality and the opportunity to test and expand on my craft and abilities.

“Their main goal was to have a backyard that was hands down beyond anything I had ever dreamed of. I had no artistic restrictions at all for this outdoor living space.”