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It’s All in the Details
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Tim Abramowitz
home :: home & garden :: featured gardens

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The addition of an outdoor great room enhances a beautiful Norwalk property.

After living on their 4-acre, in-town property for several years, Scott and Jessica Bush of Norwalk decided it was time to take advantage of their beautiful yard and make it work better for their family and their lifestyle.

“We had a partial idea of what we wanted,” Scott says. “It was a situation where we knew someone who knew someone, and we chose Speck USA for its decorative concrete. Concrete is cool and versatile, and we liked the look.”

Scott, by the way, is founder of the revitalized Templeton Rye Whiskey, made in Templeton, Iowa.


“They knew that they wanted a fire pit, seating for entertaining, and to be able to watch football games outdoors,” Jeremy Speck explains. “They wanted to be able to cook and eat outdoors, too. It really was a collaborative effort. In fact, after our initial discussion, the grill island got bigger.” Scott is the grillmeister, and lamb chops are his specialty.

Jessica wanted access to the new project outside, of course, and that meant turning two windows in the house into a French door for a classic exit.

With the house a red brick, Speck felt that a neutral, subtle landscape project would look best. Everyone agreed with a tumbled bluestone block, which actually has a rich beige and blue-gray cast.

The project has a decidedly welcoming circular feel in the details, especially the outdoor kitchen topped by a cedar pergola to dapple the sun. When it’s not in use, an enclosed TV looks like a regular piece of cabinetry. A concrete bar provides space for seating and for serving buffet-style. A large bench seating area features colorful toss pillows for a punch of color. Another circular seating area has room for six comfortable chairs, along with extra seating on a low retaining wall. In the midst of that area is a fire pit table, which adds a glow to the premises in the evening.

Plenty of room

The outdoor space has heaters and four speakers for music. And the property’s four acres provide plenty of space for a play set and room for games and playing. The Bushes have three children, ages 11, 9, and 6. Four colorful Adirondack chairs in the yard provide more casual seating for watching the world go by.

The family loves to entertain family and friends. On one summer weekend, for example, they hosted their son’s baseball team and families for an end-of-season party. “With a slightly sloping property, we joined three Slip ’n’ Slides so the kids could really have fun,” Scott says.

The next night the family welcomed 40 for a New England lobster bake. It gave Jessica, originally from Boston, a touch of home.

Significant details

And for some fun amenities, the project has some specialized details. Light fixtures over the eating bar were made from cut-off whiskey bottles by the Electric Company in Indianola. Seating in that area includes 10 stools made from used whiskey barrels made by Schoeppner Designs in Templeton (, and a whole barrel with the Templeton imprint stands at the end of the bar.

Jessica sets the bar with navy and lime “B”-monogrammed dishes, along with place mats and napkins. For larger groups, tables out in the yard work nicely.

In an open area Jessica added a comfy rattan covered swing. It’s a great place to relax and to watch the kids in the yard. Nearby is a small water feature, which adds soothing sounds to the scene.

Although neighbors are nearby, mature trees give the sense of a private property. The couple has planted a number of other trees, too, including weeping willows, ‘Prairiefire’ crabapple trees, cherry, pear, and river birch, along with nine forsythia bushes for showy spring color.

With the help of Kate Byus, a commercial realtor who also has Bloom Design, a residential landscape business, large flower beds with roses, boxwood, daylilies, and ornamental grasses add color and texture. A vegetable garden provides a variety of flavors throughout the season.

Scott and Jessica bought their home, which was built in 1993, in 2006. Scott has two business partners in the rye whiskey operation, and Jessica works for Principal Global Investments.

“A friend told me that he could not remember our home without this outdoor space in the back of it,” Scott says. “I take that compliment as a good sign that it turned out beautifully.”


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