Monday, February 6, 2012

Outdoor Garden Rooms

I used to have an in ground pool, now I have a courtyard!
Day 19
The Daily DuBrule

I moved into my home eight years ago. There was an in ground swimming pool in the back yard, complete with a bright aqua blue slide and a bar. I never wanted a pool and neither did my husband but I thought I would give it a try. I learned all about the filter, vacuuming, and the chemicals needed to keep the water "in balance". The pump had to run for 12 hours a day and it was noisy. Every time I wanted to swim, I had to skim and vacuum and check that the water was right. It was too much work and I hated the noise and the chemicals. I decided to get rid of it. 

I hired some men to implode the pool and haul everything away. I left most of the cedar fence up that enclosed the pool, removing two panels to allow me a clear view of the yard beyond. I then designed an outdoor room which we now call our courtyard.

I knew I wanted this space to be a place for contemplation and tranquility, an escape from my busy life as a business owner. I installed a beautiful, naturalistic water garden and made the focal point of the paved patio area a seven circuit walking labyrinth. I also wanted to have a wood fired pizza oven as well as an outdoor fireplace to be able to sit out in the evenings and play guitars and sing songs. I wanted seating walls to increase the places I could perch. The plants I chose were easy care, and the design was serene, unlike the chaotic cottage gardens elsewhere on my property. 

What I ended up with was the ultimate outdoor living space. Just like any other room, I had walls, they were made of cedar boards. I had a floor, it was made of bluestone and a mixture of cut cobblestones for the labyrinth. The ceiling was the sky, but adjacent to the courtyard is my deck, covered with wooden lath, dripping with pink wisteria. If I need to get out of the sun, I sit there. Windows? I opened up the view to the vegetable garden and the back yard by removing two fence panels. My next project is to add a circular moon window in one of the cedar fence panels to allow me to peak into the courtyard from my design studio. Lighting? I use candle lanterns to light my outdoor world at night.

Today I am speaking to the Essex garden club about creating outdoor living spaces. I have been reading Julie Moir Meservy's book Home Outside which is a wonderful resource on this subject. I attended a lecture last week by two New York city designers who create and install outdoor rooms. Everywhere I look, this seems to be what people are looking for, the ability to move outdoors and cook, relax, entertain, read a book, gaze at the moon, meditate, and basically expand their living space. I sure works for me!


  1. Pretty! (And I covet your pizza oven. :)

  2. Pizza Oven! Great idea. I took down my wood deck (aging pressure treated wood ugh!), and planning to do an outdoor room this spring. That Pizza Oven idea is a winner... what a great way to keep the family and friends entertained and fed. Thanks for sharing. -- Dennis, Ffld CT

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    Removing Swimming Pool