Backyard Resort

Backyard Resort

This article appears in the May/June 2008 issue of Housetrends – Cincinnati

Veranda provides spacious but cozy addition for al fresco entertaining

By Jenny S. Reising

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Visions of a relaxing family gathering don’t include a grandchild discovering a copperhead in the backyard. That is exactly what Tom and Kathleen Huff were unfortunately facing when they discovered a serious snake problem outside their Mason home. “We had a very nice, landscaped waterfall and pnd, but being so close to a creek, copperheads would come up the drainage pipe,” Tom explains. “We were going to have to get rid of the pond, and we decided to make something that we could really enjoy.” The couple decided to amp up their outdoor living space at the same time Neal’s Design Remodel was three-quarters into renovating their lower level, and Tom was happy with their work. He asked Neal’s to build an outdoor living space that they could use to entertain family and friends.

The Huff’s approach to the design was very hands-on. As the owner of his own retail design firm, Tom knew a thing or two about design. Neal’s conducted a site study of the land, Tom came up with the layout and design direction, and Kathleen selected all of the appliances. “The yard lent itself to a veranda that veers in two different directions, one of which goes off on a 45-degree angle,” Tom says. Tom had big ideas for the spacious outdoor area. It had  to have a nice bar, cooking area, fireplace, TV and a large enough open air patio to host 100 people comfortably.

Connecting to the House

“There was really three issues that came into play: the outdoor space had to blend with the Huff’s existing house, it had to have a warm, earthy feel, and it had to be festive,” says Steve Hendy of Neal’s. Of course, it also had to accommodate established guidelines from the Heritage Club Homeowner’s Association, which prohibits standalone structures. So Hendy’s solution was to create a decorative trellis that connects the veranda to the house, creating an extension rather than an addition. Hendy adds that the trellis acts as a “graceful entryway” to the veranda.

The 750-square-foot outdoor area not only physically connects the house, but its architectural details and scale are a visual complement. The roofing material and color, white paint, gabled ceilings, arched brackets and custom decorative columns all take cues from the house’s Victorian vernacular. There was also some existing landscaping that had to be taken into consideration when building the structure. In fact, Hendy says the landscaping mound gave his firm the idea for the structure’s shape.

An Inspired Interior

Inside the outdoor living space, decorative cross-beam heights where the stained-cedar ceiling is vaulted are set at 10 feet–rather than the standard 8 feet–to give the structure a scale that is proportionate to the house. Upside-down, 11-inch, pineapple finials add a festive touch at the bottoms of the beams. Ceiling fans offer extra ventilation on hot, humid days, while uplights draw attention to the beams and create a luminous, dramatic effect at night.

The kitchen is designed with catering in mind. Amenities include a warming drawer, refrigerator drawers, two large grills (one with a rotisserie), a large hood and ample counter space for guests to mingle and nosh. Granite and tile countertops, stainless steel appliances–including a wavy Mystic sink selected by Kathleen to cool wine bottles–and cultured stone balance sleek elegance with rustic warmth. The substantial, wood-burning fireplace features the same cultured-stone façade as the kitchen and offers a place for Tom to showcase his artwork up high (far from the flames). It also features a built-in nook for storing firewood.

One challenge for Hendy was winterizing the space. All the plumbing can be easily shut off during cold-weather months, and some of the appliances can be removed and brought inside over the winter. Another challenge was a vent that needed to be installed right by the sink. Hendy solved the problem by inserting a column in the island that looks structural but is actually designed to conceal the pipe, which extends to the roof.

A Winning Design

The Huff’s veranda is so impressive that new clients keep asking Neal’s to create similar designs for their own back yards. But for the Huff’s, the greatest reward was when the veranda–which was completed in August of 2007 and took less than six months to build–was ready in time for the couple to enjoy several months of warm-weather entertaining. “We have a lot of friends who live in Florida, and we’ve had homes out west and in Florida, be we’re created our resort home here in Cincinnati, where our grandchildren are,” Tom says. “And they can use it even when we’re not here.”


Designer:Tom Huff, homeowner with Steve Hendy, Neal’s Design Remodel; Contractor: Neal’s Design Remodel; Flooring: Ceramic Tile, Emil Porforities Verde Grandino; Cabinetry: Cal Spa; Lower countertop: Granite, Victoria Regia; Countertop: Glass Tile, OE Casa California/Tahoe non-iridescent; Faucet: Moen Vestige; Sink: Elky, Mystic Stainless Steel; Refrigerator/grill: Cal Spa; Backsplash: Casa California Tile, Tahoe; Fireplace: Heat ’N Go, Montana; Fireplace facade: Cultured stone, Tennessee Mountain Ledge; Hood: Vent-a-Hood