Date: February 28, 2023 | Story: Tiffany Adams | Photography: Rett Peek |
A North Little Rock homeowner maximizes her backyard for all the things (and people!) she loves most
As with most home projects, Barbara Denniston’s backyard wasn’t perfect from the start; rather, it came together little by little as modifications were made along the way. “I wanted it to be a peaceful, laid-back spot that was low maintenance,” she says of her end goal.
In 2019, Barbara worked with designer Cheryl Hannink on the interiors of her custom-built home, creating a relaxed yet refined style (featured in the November 2021 issue of At Home in Arkansas) that she wanted to convey to the outdoor area as well. “Cheryl is my go-to adviser on everything and also my best friend,” she says with a laugh. “She is so talented.” Knowing her friend’s style and the way she entertains, Cheryl provided valuable insight as the backyard fell into place.
The starting point was the pool. Barbara had one at her previous residence and wanted to duplicate the same amenities here but on a smaller scale. “I decided on its size, and everything else evolved from there,” she says. She prioritized symmetry, aligning the 4-foot-deep pool with the entrance to the home’s sunroom and, later, situating a grill pavilion with a lounge area following the same proportional design.
Initially, the pavilion entrance and pool were surrounded by a pathway of pavers separated by river rock, while a grass patch at one side served as a play area for Barbara’s dogs. However, after settling in, she realized the setup wasn’t ideal. “When it rained, water came down from the retaining wall and the yard became a soggy mess,” she recalls. During the same time period, her young granddaughter became enchanted with the river rocks, prompting Barbara to have safety concerns and begin researching replacements. The saltwater pool prevented her from using real grass in between the pavers so she went with an option outside the box—turf. “I loved it, and a year later I had them come back and do the entire yard in the same material,” she says. “It’s great because the dogs don’t bring in dirt, and it stays pretty all the time.”
During Barbara’s second winter in the house, an ice and snow storm killed the majority of the landscaping in the backyard. “I don’t know anything about plants, so I called Scott Lyons, and he helped me pick all of this,” she says, pointing to low-maintenance evergreen selections that surround the perimeter of the retaining wall. “Scott was instrumental in getting the right plants in place and helping the space take shape,” Cheryl says.
Today, the verdant backyard is home to frequent pool parties, cookouts, and bocce ball tournaments. “This is not an overly formal space,” Cheryl says. “It’s very family friendly—and that is reflective of Barbara. She is so close to her children and grandchildren, and it was important to her that the spaces all be safe, fun, and usable for everyone.”
On a lunch outing to Charlotte’s in Keo, homeowner Barbara Denniston found this concrete bunny at nearby Old Gin Antiques.
Grill & Chill
Barbara envisioned a covered area for her grill so she would be able to use it even on rainy days. She opted for a structure that is the same size as the pool to embrace the symmetrical design of the backyard. Having always been drawn to wicker furniture, she outfitted the seating area with a white Serena & Lily set. Nearby, a standalone unit holding a YETI ice chest creates an instant bar area.
Swim & Sun
The pool by R & R Pools and Service anchored the backyard as it evolved. A tanning ledge with bubblers is a prime play spot for Barbara’s younger grandchildren, while two mobile loungers can be moved into the scene during adult swims. A patterned tile lines the pool’s interior. “I wanted something different since you see it all the time,” she says. The blue diamonds seen in its pattern are repeated on the tanning ledge to signal a drop-off.
Putt & Play
After deciding to carry the turf throughout the backyard, Barbara had the idea to make the space more than just a lawn. Inspired by games at a friend’s home in Florida, she worked with Arkansas Luxury Lawns to create a court for bocce ball along with two golf holes for putting practice. As her grandchildren grow, she looks forward to badminton tournaments in the open space.
Interior design Cheryl Hannink, Porch View Homes Landscape design Scott Lyons Landscaping Appliances Metro Appliances & More Pool and Spa R&R Pools and Service Turf Arkansas Luxury Lawns