Designer Interview: Outdoor Living

1024 662 Sweenor Builders - Custom Home Building & Remodeling - Rhode Island

Sweenor Builders’ Interior Designer Kristen Martone sits down for a second installment of her interview with leading online furniture and décor retailer Hayneedle to discuss the design approach for the This Old House 2018 Idea House…. this time sharing tips for styling a mixed-use backyard.


Hayneedle:  Tell us about this backyard space.

KM:  We brought in the talented team at Landscape Creations to help us make the most of what was essentially a narrow lot.  Our overarching aim was to create a “staycation” backyard – meaning that homeowners could enjoy the outdoor lifestyle of the beach area without ever leaving, and that they wouldn’t have to chase after a regimen of yard work.  The landscape team recommended the sustainable clover lawn for that reason.  It’s soft, lush and green with very little upkeep.  We also installed a fire bowl instead of constructing a traditional fire pit.  This low maintenance alternative can be turned on and off with the flick of a switch.

Hayneedle:  How did you choose each of the elements and decide what to put where?

KM: For the design, we thought about all the different activities that take place in an ideal backyard. That helped us identify the key spaces we wanted… from a grill and eating area to conversation areas, a fire pit, lawn, pool, and outdoor shower.  The narrow lot forced us to think about how to fit everything efficiently and in a way that was tailored to how areas different would be used.  The lawn made sense at the back, both as a visual focal point and as a logical place to send kids to run and play.  The outdoor shower wanted to be tucked into a private alcove, and the pergola swing along the side of the yard helped create privacy from the adjacent lot.  We landed on a small heated plunge pool given the size of our lot, and the remaining spaces started to fit in naturally from there.

Hayneedle: How did you differentiate each area of the backyard? And, how could someone with a smaller outdoor space create a similar mixed use look?

KM: The combination of the stone patio, stone pavers, lawn and mulch helped us to establish the foundation for each area. Then, similar to our approach for the open floorplan on the inside of the house, we used clusters of different furniture to create a dedicated area for each use:  a high-top table with barstools across from the grill for dining,  Adirondack chairs around the fire bowl, etc.

Some of these elements could be combined.  We have three seating areas, where one seating area with low cocktail tables could function for conversations, outdoor eating, and fire-gazing.  Also, while I love the fire bowl, a moveable version with old-fashioned logs may make more sense within limited space so it can be placed or taken away depending on what’s on the agenda.

Hayneedle: What’s your favorite part of the backyard?

KM:Again, I go back to the craftsmanship details.  My eyes go right to the pergola swing, especially when it’s lit up at night.  I’ll admit this embellishment is not as high on the list of needs as an outdoor grill, but it’s  an element that makes this backyard feel different and special.

To see the full article, and shop the look, click here.

About the 2018 Idea House:

This Old House teamed up with Sweenor Builders for a second time to build the one-of-a-kind home on Robinson Street in Narragansett’s historic pier.  The is the fourth annual Idea House from the trusted home renovation brand to showcase the from-the-ground-up building process with  innovative products and how-to instruction that home enthusiasts can incorporate into their own remodels and new-builds. Designed by the award-winning, Providence-based Union Studio Community Architecture & Design, the 2,700-square-foot cottage has classic Craftsman-style curb appeal and modern looks inside. Located less than a mile from the town beach, it epitomizes what buyers are looking for today: a smaller home that lives large in a tight-knit neighborhood, plenty of bespoke built-ins, luxury amenities including a home gym, dedicated media room and butler’s pantry, and an easy-care backyard designed for “staycation” living. Kristen Martone, Sweenor’s in-house designer and owner of Graceke Design, led Interior Design for the project. To learn more about the project, visit our portfolio or This Old House.