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A New Living Room
By Carol McGarvey
Photography By Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured gardens

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With Lakeview Pond in the distance, a busy bike trail and walking path nearby, and Mother Nature’s lovely trees and foliage to dapple the sun, Steve and Mary Beth Lytle have a beautiful view on the east side of their Urbandale home. And we’re not talking the view out of a window.

Their remodeled outdoor living space is just that. “We literally live out here,” says Mary Beth. “It gives us another 1,000 square feet of space.”

The Lytles built their home in 1984. “We had a three-level standard deck, and it needed to be upgraded,” Steve explains. “The push came when our daughter Allison was getting married last June 21 and the reception was going to be at our house. We decided it was time to upgrade the deck. The old one had started to deteriorate, and we felt exposed to the public area behind our home.”

Harold Cross of Archadeck of Central Iowa was brought in to handle the new look. “There was a really nice boulder wall and landscaping already in place, so I was sensitive to working a design around that, as well as the different lines and levels of their home.”

The concept clicked

Initially, Cross considered replacing the old deck with a new one, but it seemed more practical in the end to have fewer levels in the space. “Since the deck area was close to the bike trail and walking path, it seemed as if we could create a more secluded feel by placing the lower level of the area so that it felt more ‘down’ in the whole scene, not above it.”

Having a deck and a patio made sense to the Lytles, too. Cross says, “That’s when the whole design concept clicked for everyone.”

The upper deck area, which flows out from the home’s dining room sliders, is made of low-maintenance PVC decking material; the Lytles chose Gossen’s Passport decking for its natural look with their home’s siding color. Five steps down is the patio, surfaced with Belgard Mega Arbel free-flowing pavers in neutral tones. Around the perimeter is a retaining wall finished with cultured stone and flagstone caps. The wall offers extra seating when there’s a crowd.

The Lytles love to entertain, so they find that the space is working well. “The way the patio sits in the boulder wall with the low wall, the family’s activities are not on display to the public walking and riding by,” Cross says.

Steve and Mary Beth decided to upgrade their previous outdoor living experience with some new amenities. “We chose to add an outdoor kitchen and a fire pit,” Steve explains, “so we had natural gas lines added for the grill and for the pit. I have a good time experimenting with the grill.” The kitchen center, capped with beautiful granite countertops, is finished with the same cultured stone as the retaining wall.

Perfect for relaxing

A hot tub for soaking and a table for dining add to the relaxing atmosphere. And for pure enjoyment, there’s a mounted outdoor TV. “We were outdoors every evening watching the Summer Olympics,” Steve says. An inviting all-weather wicker sectional sofa surrounds the fire pit, and a showy side-mount umbrella shades the sectional from late-afternoon sun and makes the area look like a cozy room.

For Mary Beth, mother of the bride, last summer’s focus became the home reception, of course. “We had about 250 people coming, and there were big tents. The new patio became the dance floor, and it worked out beautifully.”

The boulder wall that was already in place—by Rob Jackson of Earth Designs—separates the property from the public area just beyond. Plantings that add color and interest to the hill behind the boulder wall include ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum, Knockout roses, hydrangeas, boxwood, and coreopsis. Trees that add height and interest to the setting include a serviceberry, a redbud, and a red maple.

For daughter Allison Barlow and her husband, Adam, it was a perfect party spot. “It was so fun to have our wedding reception here. I grew up in this house, so it was very special. Also, we didn’t have to worry about any details involving another venue. It was great.” Their dog, Maycee, a Cavapoo, also loves to visit the new digs.

“The whole area is now more private and comfortable,” says Mary Beth.

In their initial design consultation discussions, Cross noted that Steve wanted this space to be his paradise. “I think he got it,” Cross says.


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