Creative family spaces: Lowcountry families treasure their special outdoor areas
When warm weather comes, life in the Lowcountry gravitates to the great outdoors. Here’s how three families have created their own spaces for fun, relaxing times for kids and adults alike.
After moving to Johns Island for some much-needed outdoor space, Heather Templeton and her husband decided what was missing from their large yard was a little whimsy.
Their boys, John, 7, and Sully, 3, loved The Swiss Family Robinson treehouse on trips to Disney World, which inspired the couple to design one of their own for the yard.
J.R. Kramer, principal and owner at Remark Landscape Architecture, helped the family design the pirate ship treehouse set above their live oaks with remarkable marsh views. To make the two-story structure safe for all ages, the treehouse is made up of two towers: one for older children with a fire pole, rock wall and zip line, and one for younger children with rope bridges, a swing set and slide.
Templeton said designing a customized treehouse as a family, instead of buying a pre-built play structure, let the kids pick and choose the features they wanted, which was almost as much fun as playing on the finished product.
“It’s been a big help to me to have it here,” she said. “I can take them out here and sit in the chair under the tree and they’ll play for hours.”
Safety is something you should always think about when designing a treehouse, Templeton said.
With Kramer’s help, they chose to use wood instead of metal for the surfaces and customized trap doors and gates to lock off areas of the treehouse unsafe for smaller children. The zip line, which holds up to 300 pounds, requires adult assistance, that is, when the adults aren’t busy playing on it themselves.
“When you think, ‘Oh, we have a zip line,’ that’s a pretty big idea,” Templeton said. “But with the right help and the right research, it’s possible. Dream big.”
Springtime, when all of Charleston is in bloom, is the perfect time to refresh and enjoy outdoor areas. Whether you live South of Broad or in a Mount Pleasant subdivision, a few simple outdoor designs can go a long way in creating your own secret garden.
Downtown residents Amanda and Kevin Flynn have become known for their garden oasis, which is frequently included in historic home tours.
When the couple moved into their Lamboll Street home in 2005, the garden and yard were basically just dirt, Kevin said. With a little bit of research, they discovered a 1926 Post and Courier article praising the home’s magnificent gardens.
“By the time we bought the home, the yard had just been run down and we decided to bring it back,” Kevin said.
With the help of landscape architect Sheila Wertimer, the couple designed the gardens around their home to be separated into several distinct spaces, including a space for the garage, a pool and a back patio the family is fond of.
“We had Sheila design a series of outdoor rooms basically,” Kevin said. “She likes to do rooms so you can see the distinction between the different areas. One room is more of a utility room, while the formal room is up front and then the little entry foyer. Each one we use a little bit differently.”
The family often hosts outdoor parties in the formal garden and uses the large yard for sports and games with their children, Amelia, 3; Mac, 7; and Luke, 9.
The back patio and pool garden are used more casually for outdoor living space in warm weather. The kids enjoy helping out outside, too, Amanda said. They’ve been known to pick weeds out of flowerbeds and collect ripe lemons off the lemon trees.
“It’s nice just to have the ability to go outside anytime we want,” Amanda said. “It’s crowded downtown and now we don’t always have to go to the park to get outside. I love fragrant flowers — azaleas, magnolias, cherry trees — so in the springtime, it’s fabulous.”
From porch to room
There’s something about a welcoming porch that is quintessential Charleston.
From porch to room
If you’re lucky enough to have one, screened or otherwise, treat it like part of your home by extending your design plans past the front door.
Local designer Cortney Bishop recommends making an outdoor porch homier by considering it like another room in the house, not an afterthought.
Try using similar color accents and styles to tie the porch design in with the interior decor.
Potted plants and flowers add life to space while retaining an outdoors feel.
Choosing cushioned furnishings and using outdoor throw pillows make porches a comfortable place to relax. Bishop suggests families with small children use low-profile furniture, so kids can climb and play without getting hurt.
To eliminate bright glare, Bishop uses bamboo shades for a more relaxed, island vibe and outdoor floor-length drapes for an elegant style.
Bishop said a well-designed porch can be the ideal place for families to spend time together, especially in the warmer months. Her own porch is her family’s favorite room, including children Ryder and Lucy Kohl.
“About 6 p.m. every summer night we’re out here listening to music, we’re singing and dancing, drinking wine. That’s kind of the life,” she said. “We’re in the backyard every single day of the summer.”
Katie Hurst is a freelance writer and editor living in West Ashley. Find her at KatieHurstPortfolio.Wordpress.com.