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Perspective on a Pergola
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
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The home that Lisa and Steve Zbylicki share with their family is on one of the busiest thoroughfares in West Des Moines. But in their newly configured and private backyard, the rest of the world seems light years away.

In its previous look, the home had a small enclosed porch and a plain deck. In its reincarnation, “plain” isn’t a word that would or could be used.

“We wanted a space where our family could spread out and live, along with an enjoyable place to entertain,” Steve explains.

The couple opted to work with Harold Cross of Archadeck of Central Iowa to complete the transformation. Cross, who normally comes up with the plans for such projects, had a surprise when he met the Zbylickis. “Most often our clients have a general view of what they want but aren’t down to specifics. Steve and Lisa, however, were extremely detailed in what they envisioned and already had created plans for the project.”

Two designers
That’s not surprising, Steve says. “When you are working with two designers, you can imagine how much thought and planning we put into the detail.” Steve is an architect and partner for FRK Architects, whose firm specializes in K–12 school designs, and Lisa, a horticulture graduate, has worked as a floral designer. Their plans for their backyard meshed into an overall design scheme, which created their version of an “outdoor room.” They have lived in their home since 2001.
Cross says he tweaked a few details but primarily worked with the couple’s plans. “The two-level outdoor living space with the pergola and stonework really breaks up the space and gives it energy.” He started working with Steve and Lisa in February 2008, when there was still snow on the ground, and started construction in July. The detailed project came to completion in October 2008.

The small enclosed porch expanded to a 12x24-foot multiseason room. With new baseboard heating and cedar walls, it now has the feel of a cabin and is usable all year. “I love it when our kids, Nathan and Brianne, have friends over to work on projects out there,” Lisa explains. “It is just a wonderful space.”

Centerpiece of the angled pergola is a colorful glass and metal sculpture by local artist John Hrabe that measures 5x5 feet. “I loved it when I bought it, even though I had no idea where it would go,” Lisa says. Now it acts almost as a window in the pergola, catching the sun’s rays and giving a colorful scheme to the area.

The 45-degree angled deck, just off the porch room, is a low-maintenance composite by Cross Timbers. There’s room for the grill and a dining table, adding more entertaining space to the extra-long teak table and chairs on the porch. There’s also a bench on the deck for extra seating; it’s set on stacked stone for texture. Colorful pillows make it a comfortable spot to sit or lie down to read or take a catnap.

The lower patio level features benches, Adirondack chairs, and built-in seating in the main wall of the pergola. “The built-in benches give almost a window seat feel to that area,” Lisa says. “It’s very cozy to sit there.”

New focus
“With this project, the whole focus of our home moved to the back,” Steve points out. The cedar pergola will be allowed to age naturally to a silvery patina, he says. Just for fun, there’s rope lighting under the seating, providing soft, indirect light on the deck surface, which glows for evening gatherings.

Another low-maintenance aspect is the stamped and colored concrete on the lower-level patio, an aspect that Archadeck is incorporating into more of its designs and projects.

“We really wanted to avoid having a big open deck space,” Steve says. “With this angled configuration outside, we feel we have added visual appeal and usable space.” Inside, the family has added touches of the Arts and Crafts influence, which they appreciate. Steve laid subtle textured and plain carpet tiles in a checkerboard pattern to give interest, but also practicality, underfoot.

“Plus,” he adds, “you will notice that in this Northwoods space, there is no TV and no clock. The electrician couldn’t believe we didn’t want an outlet for a flat-screen TV. That would defeat the purpose of our ‘getaway’ space.”

Another detail is a light cove with rope lighting that uplights the ceiling with a warm, soft glow. It encircles the room above the windows, which overlook the backyard on three sides of the room. Soft green stripes in the seating in the room add to the woodsy feel.

The room overlooks Lisa’s potting shed, along with big pots and urns of colorful coleus, elephant’s ear, sweet potato vines, and lots of ornamental grasses. A large walnut tree creates a canopy effect over the deck and pergola area. “And, yes, the squirrels consider the pergola to be their jungle gym,” Steve says with a chuckle.

“This was a detailed and complicated project that turned out beautifully,” Cross says.


Archadeck of Central Iowa





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