Backyard Retreats Are Interesting Reflections Of Their Owners, Especially When They Are Designed From The Ground Up By The Inhabitants. In 2008, Traci Walton And Her Family Decided They Wanted To Add A Cabana, Pool And Casual Retreat For Lounging And Entertaining To Their Home.
As with many of the homes in their Edmond neighborhood, Kent Carter is the builder and Brent Gibson the designer. This area was intentionally built as an homage to Old World durability and elegance. Natural stone is used liberally throughout the neighborhood, which is itself reflective of the forests, walking trails, lakes and slower-paced feel of the Old World. The neighborhood attracts those with young children and teenagers, and as is often the case in family-oriented neighborhoods, social occasions in back yards, on patios and around pools are common.
Traci wanted a backyard retreat that would be a pleasant space with room for gatherings of friends and kids playing in the pool. She worked with Gibson to “establish the footprint” of the cabana, and the freeform pool was installed by Aquascape. The family opted for a saltwater system to lessen required maintenance, and as the water is already pre-softened, people tend to be less sensitive to it than a traditionally chlorinated pool.
(above) Traci Walton and Antonio Aparicio, owner of Aquascape Pools, used cans of spray paint to lay out the freeform pool. Walton wanted it to sit just right in the space so that it would blend with the natural topography. In terms of the design, it made landscaping easier, as she did not have to add dirt or flatten higher ground. The pool seems to flow with the space, which is exactly what she wanted.
Traci, who owns Plenty Mercantile in Automobile Alley, is a fantastic designer in her own right. A brief walk through the store will make that obvious. She is also committed to sustainability and has raised ecologically aware kids.
“We desire to make eco-conscious choices to the extent we can,” she said. “We have rattan chairs, salvaged boat-wood tables and couches, and many found objects. We like to extend the life of products by finding new or multi-uses for them.”
Indeed, the overall design theme in the backyard retreat and cabana relies heavily on found and repurposed items. Beyond that, though, Traci was designing with two other elements in mind: to integrate the cabana into the design theme of the house and neighborhood and to create a space that is deeply personal even as it is incredibly comfortable.
(top) A sliding, barn-style door and large windows allow in tons of natural light and fresh air. A chandelier — handmade in Texas — is a twin to the one above the patio, and they add warm, amber light after the sun sets. Rattan chairs and boat-wood couches are part of the overall eco-conscious scheme, and natural stone ties the cabana to the main house.
(bottom) Objects collected over the course of the Walton family’s explorations grace the outdoor kitchen and dining area, creating a deeply personal and authentic space.
Working with Gibson helped further the goal of creating a cabana that flowed easily from house to hangout. All the design elements, though, were a joint effort of Traci and her family.
“All of the design, finishes, details and styling elements were done by our family,” she said. “In fact, our four kids helped further distress every piece of wood used in the cabana. We wanted a casual space to entertain and just hang out in. We designed it to flow easily and allow for easy gatherings.”
The family also added elements to personalize the area, not just for them, but as an homage to family members who have passed away. Roses were planted to remember Greg Walton’s father, who loved roses, and Greg’s mother loved Chinese Pistache trees, so the family planted one to “remind us of our beloved Gigi.”
When deciding what elements to add to the retreat, the family focused on decorative items that are also useful. For example, sheep troughs have been repurposed as containers for soft drinks and beer. Even in the cabana, the commitment to repurposing dominates the design choices, including an old stainless steel table that now functions as a vanity of sorts for a remnant stone sink.
The cabana contains a full bathroom, an intentional decision on Traci’s part. She wanted a place to clean up after working in the garden if they don’t just jump in the pool. There is also an outside shower, but Traci said it’s mainly used to wash Spec, the family’s Great Dane.
(right) A cleverly designed bathroom includes floor-to-ceiling tile, and a worn wooden hutch acts as a functional divider between the facilities and the sink area.
The garden contains seasonal vegetables and herbs that the family grows year round, as well as the rose bushes mentioned earlier. Plants are chosen that are indigenous to this zone of the country, thereby lessening the need for additional watering, maintenance and pesticides.
Speaking of pests, because of their eco-conscious orientation, Traci also used non-chemical solutions as often as possible. One of those is what she describes as one of her best choices: a SWAT anti-mosquito system that runs around the perimeter of the yard and courtyard.
“The SWAT system releases chrysanthemum oil throughout the cabana and yard to keep the mosquitoes at bay, and it really works!” Traci said. “It certainly allows us to remain outside and enjoy what we have built, including eating most of our meals al fresco.”
The comfort of the outdoor atmosphere is enhanced by piñon wood burning in Colonial-era cressets. The effect is practical in that it deters bugs, but it also releases the wood’s wonderful aroma throughout the retreat.
Most of the color in the backyard retreat comes from nature, but Walton has thrown in bright orange fabric on the chaise chairs, a mottled, red fabric on the seat cushions at the al fresco table, decorative pillows and subdued tones on the umbrella above the garden table. Nature dominates the retreat, even as the cabana is equipped with topnotch appliances and modern conveniences.
(clock wise from left) The wrought iron gate and fencing is forged locally. The rooster watches over a garden of seasonal herbs, vegetables, potatoes and flowers. Many of the plants are grown in repurposed crucibles (ca. 1900). // The casual seating area adjacent to the garden is ideally located to grab a bite and enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of the family’s labors. // Shallow harvest tubs are repurposed as serving trays to ferry food from the cabana’s kitchen to the al fresco dining area.
(bottom) Hard work and good planning is evident in all the small details, from a breakfast buffet to fresh herbs ready to harvest
The reality of using found and repurposed items is that the color has usually faded over time and through wear, but the family seems content that the personal connection to the items they have based on their stories is more important than a comprehensive color plan.
Every element of the Waltons’ retreat has been thought out, and every member of the family has contributed to the overall design, making a truly personal, family-owned retreat. The spontaneous gatherings of which the family is fond take place in an environment that is a collection of plants, furniture, objects and choices that combine to tell Walton-family stories.