Some of us are comfortable making knee-jerk decisions, throwing caution to the wind and seeing how things play out. Then there are others who like to let their ideas stew for a good long time, carefully weighing all the pros and cons before making their move. In one home on the west side of Cincinnati lives a couple who clearly belong in the latter group.
“This project was something that we entertained 13 years ago,” says Jenny who lives with her husband Larry in a hillside home with a sweeping Ohio River view. The two purchased the place a couple of years earlier and soon started getting the itch to expand their outdoor living area.
Originally, the deck was quite a bit smaller. There wasn’t a lot of room to entertain,” Jenny says. “In the back yard, there was nothing but a concrete slab patio and grass. We didn’t use that area at all. Only the dogs went back there.”
Their blended family includes six children who are now all grown and out of the house—some of them with children of their own. Jenny says they wanted a friendly, outside entertaining space which would help encourage the kids and grand kids to stop by.
A trusted resource
When their ideas finally firmed up and they were ready to act, they contacted the team at Neal’s Design-Remodel. They had worked with Neal’s on a couple of earlier projects—a master bath and basement remodel—and were fans. “Working with Neal’s was an awesome experience,” Jenny says.
After meeting with the couple, Steve Hendy from Neal’s knew what would be his team’s primary challenge on the project. “The house sat up high on the hill with a beautiful river view,” Hendy says. We needed to be careful not to block that view from any level.”
Neal’s designer on the project, Bob Voigt worked with Hendy and the homeowners to create multiple levels of entertainment/living spaces that would not obstruct each other’s view.
For example, when Larry takes up his duties at the grill, he is in the center of the activity at the upper deck, can talk easily with the folks a few steps down in the dining area, plus he can see all of the activity in the pool and look past that to the amazing river view.
“That grill is placed in the quintessential spot,” Hendy says. “Larry is right there in the center of all the action.” Hendy explains that often the grill is tucked off to the side somewhere, causing the chef to be excluded from dinner time conversation. Not so in this case.
Here comes the sun
Another creative solution came in the form of a retractable screen on the upper deck. This area faces due west, and often harsh sunlight prevented the couple from taking advantage of the view from this perch.
“I remember during our first conversation, Jenny was excited when I mentioned adding in an operable screen,” Hendy says. The screen, which retracts into the ceiling 14 feet above the deck floor, keep bugs out in the warmer months, allowing French doors to remain open for an easy traffic flow.
Fabric with a degree of sun blockage allows the screen to be used as a visor of sorts. The couple can electronically lower the screen a few feet—enough to shade their eyes without obstructing the view. Also in cooler months, to a certain extent, the screen helps keep in a bit of warmth created by the three heaters placed high up on the exterior walls of the deck space.
“We eat dinner on this deck year round,” Jenny says. “With the heaters and the fireplace, we can be out there even in January.” In fact during the recent quarantine, when the couple was off work for a couple of months, they spent many of their afternoons on this deck watching Governors DeWine and Beshear give their daily updates.
Another challenge on this level was to incorporate multiple power switches for the various outdoor spaces. Due to safety codes, outdoor outlets and controls can be rather large and unattractive, Hendy says. Jenny preferred not to have all of those pieces detract from the aesthetics of the space.
“That was a particular challenge for our stone mason,” Hendy adds. To meet that challenge, his team created a clever hidden door in the fireplace with a shape determined by the wall’s natural stone.
Made in the shade
Moving to the lower level, where a covered pool patio sits below the upper deck, a second television and grill, a refrigerator and plenty of comfy furniture offer another center for entertaining, or perhaps just a shady break from the pool. Neal’s made this area functional during inclement weather, by installing a weather protection system which keeps this area safe from rain. This allowed them to install a wood ceiling and recess lights, making this space as warm and cozy as possible.
The free-form shape of the pool was one of handful of designs submitted by Klimat Master Pools. The couple picked a curvy version that they felt was more reminiscent of a pond. A feature wall, complete with a trio of waterfalls, is one more reason to draw the eye west toward the river. Accent lighting provides additional ambience in the evenings. To give the entire space a natural, finished look, Werbrich Landscaping created an organic flow with pavers, walkways and plantings that make the addition look perfectly at home in its hillside location.
It’s been just about a year since construction was completed on this new outdoor oasis. When asked if they couple would ever consider moving, Jenny answers, “No. Absolutely not. We are staying put.”
It appears that those 13 years of careful planning and consideration, paid off nicely.
Design and construction: Neal’s Design-Remodel, Landscaping and hardscape: Werbrich’s Landscaping, Pool and water feature wall: Klimat Master Pools, Upper deck heaters: Infratech, Weather protection: DekDrain, Retractable Screen: Tristate Retractable Screens, Cultured stone, hearth stone, concrete mantel: Western Hills Builder’s Supply, Fireplace: Montigo, Grill: American Outdoor, Western Hills Builder’s Supply, Countertops: New Venetian Gold granite, KBR, Decking: Sapele Legacy Collection from TimberTech, Railing: Aluminum American Series in bronze, Key-Link, Stainless steel cabinetry: Summerset in grilling area, Challenger Designs in pool patio, Original homebuilder: Hensley Custom Building Group
Published: July 2020 Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus