Clever, Customized Details Make This Outdoor Space Perfect for The Entire Family
Meghan McDermott, owner of Blue and Blanc Design, took on the tall task of creating the perfect outdoor space for a very discerning client — herself.
Late last summer, Meghan McDermott stepped onto her covered patio and peered at the backyard with a feeling that landed somewhere between dread and excitement. The renovation of her family’s six-bedroom, red-brick Colonial in Upper St. Clair was stretching into its 15th month — with all the noise, dust and disruption that entails — and they hadn’t even considered the outdoor space yet.
In order to complete the three-story addition on the back of the home, construction workers had to dig out a new foundation and then fill and grade the property. That process left a backyard that was wider, flatter and brimming with possibilities. McDermott didn’t want to see that potential squandered in the face of renovation fatigue.
“We need to pay just as much attention to the outside as we did to the inside,” McDermott warned her family. “The outside should be just as designed.”
Of course, that would be a tall order given the scope of the indoor renovation overseen by McDermott, the owner of Blue and Blanc Design. The expanded square footage allowed for an entertainment room in the basement; a dining area, sitting room and laundry room on the first floor; and an expanded master bedroom and office on the second level.
True to McDermott’s tailored, transitional aesthetic, the new space is packed with clever, customized details: rich navy cabinetry in the butler’s pantry, a water-bottle filling station in the hallway, a barrel ceiling in the sitting room and — wait for it — floral wallpaper in the elevator. (Yes, they added an elevator to save square footage in the basement and make laundry days easier.)
McDermott was set on having that same attention to detail in the backyard while creating a space that served the entire family’s needs.
Her four children, who range in age from 8 to 14, immediately proposed one very specific idea — a pool. Fulfilling that request took some thought and compromise.
While the yard was now wide, it was still fairly shallow and hemmed in by a brick wall and a stand of evergreens. McDermott suggested an in-ground hot tub the family could use year-round, but the kids balked at that. Instead, they ended up somewhere in the middle, with a 4½-foot-deep plunge pool that can be heated to 105 degrees on chilly nights or provide a refreshing dip on summer days.
To maximize space, the pool is situated in the corner of the yard and curves with the arc of the brick wall. The placement is visually pleasing, plus it preserves a wide swath of uninterrupted green where the kids can toss a football or run with the family dog, Fletcher.
While McDermott was willing to concede on the pool, she was prepared to fight for her ideal dining area. She had long envisioned a long white table set on a diamond pattern and a blue stone-and-grass patio.
It was doable, her landscaper agreed, but to ensure its longevity, he advised using turf between the stones instead of grass. The suggestion raised the price tag, but McDermott took the leap. In fact, she decided to turf the entire backyard, providing 365 days of green (and no yellow spots left behind by Fletcher).
“I figured, we need to do it once, do it right and not cut any corners,” McDermott says.
Just beyond the dining area are the covered patio, stone fireplace and a 60-inch television, which pre-date the renovation, and a new, state-of-the-art Twin Eagles grill framed in navy fireproof board.
Because the addition is wrapped in bright white molding, it’s all set on a clean backdrop and accentuated with pops of blue (including throw pillows in a leafy motif from Schumacher’s outdoor line).
McDermott considered adding unexpected colors but kept returning to her signature palette of blue and “blanc.”
“It just keeps everything so crisp and clean,” she says.
In all, the renovation took 18 months and, because it finished last fall, this will be the family’s first full summer in the upgraded outdoor space. They’re already taking advantage of all it has to offer. On an unseasonably warm day in April, a forgotten game of cornhole lay on the turf while McDermott readied the plunge pool for visitors.
“I’m my own worst client,” McDermott jokes. “I see a new thing and I want it.”
But, in this backyard, it seems she got everything she desired.