A Round on the House
As an entrepreneur in the government real estate appraisal field, Bob Fry works long hours. As a result, he and his wife, Monica, don’t take as many vacations as they’d like. But they found the perfect solution by creating a private getaway in their own back yard that rivals most Caribbean resorts.
The Frys moved into their Washington Township home 19 years ago, with kids in tow. “We were just happy to have a house with a pool,” laughs Monica.
Now, the Frys’ grandchildren can wander through hidden pathways and a secret garden, enjoy a virgin cocktail at Bob’s Tiki Bar, sit poolside on a meandering seating wall—even throw a Mexican sand pebble that represents a wishing stone into a cascading waterfall.
“It started out as a normal plat home,” says Jim Teske, owner of Centerville Landscaping, the contractor who transformed the back yard space into a vacation paradise.
The idea began when the Frys added a two-level addition to the rear of the house. Monica initially wanted to turn an enclosed porch with a “tacky” screen door into a four-season room. When it turned out smaller than she anticipated, she thought, why not take the addition across the back of the house?
So that’s what the Frys did. Once complete, they then found themselves looking out from their newly enlarged home at wooden fencing, essentially two separate back yards, and a fair amount of boring grass.
It simply wouldn’t do, especially for two outdoor enthusiasts. Now, the only thing that remained was the original pool, which also underwent a renovation of its own.
The first order of business was designing a way the upper and lower levels of the yard presented one cohesive theme. The Frys credit Teske and designer Tim Ludwig for understanding both the art and science of outdoor reconstruction.
Hand-picked stone steps now lead from the pool and upper level deck to a pondless waterfall and courtyard. When a large boulder resembling a seat was located, Teske placed it near the waterfall. “My grandson calls it his wishing rock,” says Monica.
Entertaining in style
Teske says many homeowners “plop” a pool in their back yard without considering the surroundings. By adding curved walls and pavers, the pool no longer seems like an afterthought. Instead it is now a central part of the back yard’s entertainment concept.
Even the gated entryway to the couple’s outdoor paradise fits in. A circular moon gate introduces dwellers to the relaxed, serpentine passages that replaced areas of the yard Monica once called wasted space.
But Centerville Landscaping took that idea even further, installing a curved seating wall. It not only showcases various plants and flowers, it allows for more seating during large gatherings.
While many newer houses feature a variety of intimate rooms and table settings, Teske’s group applied the same idea to the Frys’ back yard. By installing several patio spaces, combined with enticing walkways and alcoves, the Caribbean-inspired space can hold a huge group without guests bumping elbows.
In fact, after the project was completed, Bob and Monica hosted an open house for family, friends, neighbors and the contracting team—a total of about 85 people. “There were about 85 people and it didn’t even feel crowded,” says Teske, adding that one patio doubled as a dance floor for the party.
Enjoying happy hours
Teske and Ludwig also made sure to take Bob and Monica’s individual interests into consideration when they designed the space. When she was about ten years old, Monica—also a registered nurse—learned to plant potato eyes, a Native American tradition. That sparked a life-long love of gardening. After completing coursework through the Ohio State University Extension, she earned a Master Gardener designation. To fulfill her passion, Centerville Landscaping extended what Monica refers to as her secret garden and created a discreet pathway through the grass to discover it.
As for Bob, you’ll often find him tending bar at Bob’s Tiki Bar. The custom bar fronts a storage shed and took on a life of its own during the construction process. In addition to including a granite countertop, hidden sink and refrigerator, the bar boasts miniature tiki faces, novelty pepper lights, a paddle fan and a host of other unique Caribbean-themed accessories. “It’s playful, but it’s still a space where you feel you can relax,” Teske says, who commends Custom Outdoor Structures for constructing the bar. “They also presented Bob with his custom bar sign.”
Monica says Bob is in seventh heaven. Not only can he invite friends and family to join him on a Caribbean vacation, he enjoys it all from behind a custom bar named in his honor.
If it sounds like a complicated project, it was. The outdoor renovations required a zoning order and the complete rerouting of a gas line, now hidden under an imitation rock in a garden area. A few plants and trees were also moved to new homes.
Monica said the finished area didn’t need much decor. A collection of pots filled with hydrangeas and tropical hibiscus plants in a variety of colors did the trick. She also utilized palms, grasses, hostas and other plant material.
Monica says friends tell them their back yard is a place where they forget all their problems. “That’s the best compliment to receive.”
Landscape developer and plant installation: Centerville Landscaping; Woodwork and tiki bar: Custom Outdoor Structures; Electrician: Wells Electric; Plumbing: Swoosh Plumbing; Pool: Knickerbocker Pools; Light fixtures: Premiere Lighting of Beavercreek; Paver suppliers: Reading Rock; Hanson Hardscape Products; Natural stone: Landscape & Patio Supply; Sculptures: Jeff Rutledge Studio