Amy Cham­bers A CHAT WITH

Country Sampler's Upstyled Home - - LIVING IN OUTDOOR SPACES -

Matthew Mead: What made you want to cre­ate a court­yard in your back­yard?

Amy Chalmers: The first rea­son was that we had an un­used space be­hind the house, and we had very lit­tle us­able yard space for out­door liv­ing, which I en­joy. So I thought about the best ways to cre­ate a space that we could all use, and I re­al­ized I needed to add a door onto the back of the house to ac­cess it, so in went the French doors! It could have been an­other green grassy space, but since I love Euro­pean-style court­yards, and this was a nar­row space, a pea gravel court­yard seemed a per­fect fit.

MM: You’ve re­ally con­structed out­door spa­ces, rooms and walls. Is dec­o­rat­ing out­side sim­i­lar to dec­o­rat­ing in­side?

AC: You have to cre­ate your “walls” in an out­door space, so it’s more of a chal­lenge that way than dec­o­rat­ing in­side where the walls are al­ready in place. My hus­band has heavy equip­ment so it came in handy for build­ing the block gran­ite walls that out­lined the court­yard and gave the space its bones. Since our back­yard was on a hill, we had cre­ated a ter­raced ef­fect with more gran­ite walls and gran­ite steps. Once these spa­ces were cre­ated, it was like dec­o­rat­ing the in­side of a home, as we de­cided where to put our out­door fur­ni­ture and other el­e­ments. Um­brel­las make out­door spa­ces feel cozy, and the big­ger the bet­ter.

MM: How do plants and flow­ers play into out­door space and de­sign?

AC: Adding plant­ings should be a thought­ful process. I come up with a color theme for any­thing that flow­ers, and in our case it was us­ing pinks, pur­ples and whites. We soften the edge of the court­yard next to the house with a rose bor­der and plant­ings of laven­der for a Euro­pean feel. The arbor has a climb­ing rose that is newly planted and that should look won­der­ful when it starts grow­ing and flow­er­ing in front of the ev­er­green hedge. Green plant­ings are very im­por­tant to creat­ing the struc­ture in a gar­den, and the flow­er­ing plants make it look pretty. You need them both. Court­yard de­sign of­ten needs con­tain­ers for plant­ings, and I have sev­eral urns that are filled with flow­ers to soften the hard­scape.

MM: This trans­for­ma­tion has been a full-on, hands-on DIY for you. What was your fa­vorite part of the work?

AC: Well it re­ally was my big­gest DIY project that I can think of—my hus­band and I lit­er­ally in­stalled the French doors all by our­selves, which was a first for us both. Then the res­ur­rec­tion of a di­lap­i­dated shed into a wor­thy gar­den tool shed was re­ally fun! It was slated for the scrap heap, as it was just a shell of old ply­wood pan­els, but I thought it was worth shoring up and then shin­gling. I found a skinny French door on Craigslist and my hus­band fit­ted it to the shed, us­ing our newly learned skills of in­stalling doors! It is the cutest lit­tle shed now, and it cost only a few hun­dred dol­lars to re­store.

MM: What’s your fa­vorite court­yard el­e­ment?

AC: The pea gravel sets the tone, so with­out that it wouldn’t feel like a court­yard. Not sure I can pick one fa­vorite thing, though, as I love the over­sized white mar­ket um­brel­las and the an­tique French daybed.

MM: Would you de­scribe how you use your court­yard through­out a sum­mer day?

AC: Luck­ily the sun shines on the court­yard in the morn­ing and by af­ter­noon it is in the shade. So in the day­time I am gar­den­ing, but by 5 o’clock the fam­ily starts rolling in from work and we all con­gre­gate in the court­yard for a glass of wine or a beer be­fore din­ner. It’s added a big punch of plea­sure to our daily rou­tines, all of us end­ing up in the court­yard. No one wants to leave!

The court­yard is styled for liv­ing and also a bit of lux­ury. Coun­try sur­faces mix with el­e­ments from in­side Amy’s home. “I’m not ashamed of real con­trast and love the look of a vin­tage trash can as a vase right next to a fancy French daybed mixed with toile fab­ric and a can­de­labra,” Amy says.

Black-and-white ca­bana stripes an­chor cafe seat­ing near the gar­den shed. Raised beds hold ed­i­ble veg­eta­bles and herbs. A col­lec­tion of old wa­ter­ing cans adds a util­i­tar­ian note that sym­bol­izes an ac­tive gar­dener is in res­i­dence.

Amy doesn’t skimp on de­sign de­tails that make her gar­den a real liv­ing space. A stylish court­yard means a fancy stool for bor­der edg­ing work. Colby loves the daybed. Mag­a­zines are ar­ranged in a tote to go in and out eas­ily. The daybed has el­e­gant lines. Pretty glasses trump plas­tic any day. A vin­tage trash can shows off a bun­dle of hy­drangeas. Wa­ter­ing cans add a dash of util­ity gray. Plates serve food, drinks and style.

The shed mor­phed from a chicken coop on an ad­ja­cent prop­erty into a fully func­tional gar­den shed. Amy’s hus­band moved it into place with a crane and then she and her son shin­gled the sides and roof. Gar­den tools and sup­plies store nicely in­side for easy ac­cess.

Amy sets items out for en­ter­tain­ing at a mo­ment’s no­tice. Friends and fam­ily stop by for cool sum­mer drinks and af­ter­noon con­ver­sa­tion.

Make your stan­dard big-box pa­tio ta­ble into a French farm ta­ble. Place planks on top of the ta­ble and af­fix with cross boards at­tached hor­i­zon­tally un­der­neath. If the table­top is too high for din­ing, sim­ply sink the legs into the ground to ad­just the height.

A fenced-in area cre­ates a cot­tage ap­peal and a place for Amy’s dog Colby to hang out. White picket fences in­tro­duce clean and tra­di­tional out­door ar­chi­tec­ture.

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