How to make the most out of your outdoor space

Architects, interior designers and landscape specialists help homeowners create colorful, peaceful and unique outdoor areas.

After New Hampshire’s harsh and long winter, the sunny and breezy comforts of summer beckon us to enjoy the many possibilities of outdoor living. Several homeowners and designers we met prove that outdoor spaces—from picturesque gardens, to colorful patios, to one-of-a-kind outbuildings with lake and mountain views, can have their own special identity and offer enjoyment beyond the confines of their home’s interior.

A tranquil koi pond

The picturesque grounds and gardens of Rosalie and Bill Wyman’s home in Hanover have greatly evolved over the past decade, especially their lush koi pond.

During the property’s initial development, the idea of creating distinct exterior spaces to surround the house was always an intention. Today, the property abounds with delightful outdoor areas, including an English garden, woodlands garden, summer garden, and patio area for dining and entertaining. “Each outdoor space provides its own isolated serenity,” Rosalie says, “and each space offers a completely different experience.”

With its calming waters, colorful koi fish, and neighboring fragrant and leafy plants, the Wymans’ summer garden provides a peaceful and soothing area. The koi pond, in particular, acts as beautiful focal point and gathering space as well as an all-natural and low-maintenance ecosystem.

Photography by John W. Hession

The summer garden and its hourglass-shaped koi pond can be enjoyed inside and outside the Wymans’ home. A shapely crabapple tree grows to the side of the pond’s six-foot stone bridge.

The ecosystem pond, which runs year round, was designed and built by Sean and April Frost, certified aquascape contractors (CAC) and owners of the nature-based landscaping and home construction company Nature Scapes in Grafton. “The natural world is my inspiration,” Sean says. “I like to consider ways in which to bring the beauty of nature to interior and exterior spaces.”

Sean says he replaced an existing, man-made square pond on the Wymans’ property with a more practical and natural-looking water feature. The old pond was excavated, and a strong, rubber pond liner and dry-laid stack stones were installed. A skimmer and filter system were also added to handle surface debris and provide an efficient circulation system.

The hourglass-shaped pond features a four-foot waterfall, where a Japanese maple flourishes; the pond narrows at its center, where a whimsical crab-apple tree grows to the side of a six-foot stone bridge. Surrounding the pond is a varied assortment of verdant and colorful plantings, both terrestrial and aquatic, including white lilacs, hostas, irises, clematis and Japanese forest grasses. The summer garden is planted and maintained by April, who is a “wonderful gardener with a great knowledge of plants,” Rosalie says.

The koi fish are another visual showstopper and one of Rosalie’s favorite elements. “I’ve become very fond of my fish,” she says. The Frosts installed LED underwater lighting, so her fish can be admired at night.

Looking toward the future, the Frosts say there is a possibility of integrating a rainwater harvesting system. Sean says, “This type of system is the up-and-coming thing in home construction, and is a practical and beautiful way to preserve natural resources.” 

A colorful, European-inspired patio

In southern New Hampshire, Kim and John Manning's charming and comfortable patio is functional but also stylishly transports the couple to the colors and comforts of Europe.

Photography by John W. Hession

The patio of Kim and John Manning, designed by C. Randolph Trainor Interiors in Franconia and Portsmouth and Gaipo Landscape Design and Development in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, offers a colorful and comfortable outdoor retreat for dining, entertaining and relaxing.

Randy Trainor, interior designer and president of C. Randolph Trainor Interiors of Franconia and Portsmouth, worked with the Mannings and landscape specialist William Gaipo of Gaipo Landscape Design and Development of Tyngsborough, Massachusetts, to create a patio that reflects the couple’s tastes and needs. Since the Mannings enjoy entertaining, dining al fresco and gardening, the space had to provide a verdant and comfortable setting to accommodate guests in multiple settings.

The patio is divided into three areas: an outdoor kitchen and bar, where food is prepared and cocktails are enjoyed; a dining area that can accommodate upward of twelve guests; and a sitting area, where the outdoors can be fully enjoyed. A bubbling, three-tiered fountain serves as the patio’s central focal point. Its soothing waters add a feeling of tranquility throughout the Mannings’ outdoor space.

In addition, the couple wanted the space to leave a European impression. “I wanted a feeling of Tuscany and Provence,” Kim says, “and a warm, foreign-garden type of space that was very casual and relaxing, yet with a designed feel.”

This vision helped Trainor bring the space alive. “I love when a client provides adjectives and feelings for a project,” she says, adding that collaboration between client and designer is absolutely vital for a space to effectively reflect its owners’ interests and lifestyle. 

Photography by Nancy Belluscio
A functional, interactive and durable outbuilding, designed by architect Katie Cassidy Sutherland, harmonizes with its natural surroundings and maximizes its spectacular views of Dublin Lake and Mount Monadnock.

Trainor worked closely with the Mannings to bring forth a warm and vibrant European feel. She furnished the patio with colorful and durable accessories and furnishings. Bright outdoor pillows, tablecloths and cushions with textured, pattered fabrics are paired with vintage teak furniture, wooden candlestick holders and mismatched wicker chairs of varying colors for a striking effect. Decorative lanterns and white umbrellas make a simple but stylish statement. Overall, elegant sophistication blends with rustic furnishings. “I like spaces that look lived in,” Kim says, adding that she loves the patio’s feeling of old and new.

A green fence, which the Mannings affectionately call the “Green Monster,” encloses the patio with its many colorful furnishings and plantings. Flowers and foliage—such as boxwoods, an assortment of perennials and the occasional annual—are arranged throughout the space to brighten it and create a warm, natural environment.

A cube with a view

Creating something architecturally distinctive, yet simple and functional, was always the plan for architect Katie Cassidy Sutherland, who practices in Keene and designed a unique outbuilding for her clients in Dublin.

Situated on the shores of Dublin Lake, the building—referred to as “The Cube”—functions as a storage and changing area as well as a relaxed sitting and dining space. “The Cube offers a fun, summer place to hang out and regroup from outdoor
activities,” Sutherland says.

The homeowners called upon Sutherland to design a structure that maximizes the striking views of the lake and Mount Monadnock, as well as replaces an old outbuilding that was in poor condition and possessed little architectural integrity. Because of the close proximity of the waterfront, the new structure was built on the old building’s footprint.

The new building is as pure, simple and natural to the site as possible. Because The Cube is built entirely of hemlock, it harmonizes with its natural environment. A granite rock entrance step also allows the outbuilding to relate to its setting. “It is as if The Cube grew out of that spot,” Sutherland says.

Another distinctive feature of The Cube is its lack of a concrete foundation. The lightweight and open-air structure sits on a small bed of crushed stone; four rocks support the structure at each corner. Sutherland says this type of approach created fewer disturbances to the site and waterfront.

While natural materials were used for The Cube’s construction, its furnishings are a different story. A teak dining table and Chippendale dining side chairs integrate nicely with Sutherland’s design. “It is fun to have a mix of high design with the rough, natural material of The Cube,” one of the owners says.

Beyond its materials and furnishings, The Cube’s design and orientation frame its lakeside and mountainous views through square and rectangular cutouts. An upper-level deck accessed by a wooden ladder at the rear also enables marvelous vistas and encourages a playful interaction with The Cube itself. “In order to take in the stunning views, one must move around and interact with The Cube directly,” one of the owners says.

Photo by John W. Hession.
Beyond the summer garden, a patio and dining area offer another relaxing outdoor space.


Categories: Gardening & Landscape, Outdoor Spaces