Easy Living: A South Carolina Indoor-Outdoor Home and Garden

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Extending the presence of home into the outdoors allows porch dwellers to witness the elements without actual contact. On still summer evenings, any air movement, enjoyed from the back-and-forth rhythm of a rocking chair or porch swing, is refreshing.
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When the source for this charming bronze statue is turned off, the central water feature becomes a reflecting pool, complete with water lilies floating on the surface.
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The brick fountain was placed to be visible from the dining room windows.
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This long, linear trellis brings privacy to the side-yard garden. Panels of wooden trellising create dappled light and air circulation, and shafts of light from the end of the structure lead visitors forward.
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Cally and Ken erected handsome piers and in-filled them with a high solid wall flanked by lower openwork screens, all made of the same brick used for the fountain.
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With its integration of landscape and building, and abundant plantings that create a sense of cloistered sanctuary, Cally and Ken’s property proves you don’t need acres to attain a sense of seclusion.
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Furthering the traditional feeling of this neighborhood is the rear laneway, which means cars are kept in back. Here, the couple screens the driveway area with a charming trellised gateway and picket fencing.
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Cally and Ken extended the presence of their home by building a framework of trellising and screens.
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Homestead Purple (Verbena canadensis) sows itself freely in front of the picket fence along the lane. Behind the fence, Confederate jasmine vine blooms white to form a dense hedge.
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In this neotraditional community, architectural and planning review boards determined that the lots should be small and the façades close to the street to create a close-knit community.
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The couple chose their lot for the two majestic live-oak trees that shade the entire backyard.
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One of the homeowners’ wishes was a place for storing tools and equipment that didn’t scream “garden shed.”

Down South, people just know how to live outdoors. To take advantage of the warm, humid climate, they create indoor-outdoor places where they can enjoy their family, their neighbors and their environment. Porches, screened rooms, arbors and formal gardens are among these spaces–attached to the house yet part of the landscape. These transitional places combine home with garden and can provide privacy or encourage sociability, depending on one’s mood.

Husband-and-wife designers Ken Troupe and Cally Heppner got the mood just right on their property in Beaufort, South Carolina. Sitting on their covered front porch on a sultry summer evening, the couple can stir up a breeze in their side-by-side rockers or on their hanging porch swing. From their perch four feet above the street, they can nestle back against the house or call out to a neighbor passing by; it’s a perfect vantage point that offers both prospect and refuge at the same time. The porch also acts as an outdoor entry vestibule where visitors might dust themselves off before knocking. Secluded and secure, it’s a special transitional space that makes occupants–whether inhabitants or visitors–feel comfortable.

Serene on the side

Another porch, this one screened, wraps the side and back of the house and opens on the formal side garden. Designed to extend an insect-free, indoor/outdoor living space into the landscape, this screened room adds a natural dimension to everyday life. The high-gabled roof and ganged window screens veil and soften the eastern morning light. Jutting out into the landscape like a dock over water, the screened porch–along with a pair of towering live oaks–breaks the side garden into two parts.

A formal garden, complete with circular brick fountain and semicircular matching path, occupies the side yard. A fountain of splashing water occupies the center of the brick pool. Traditional southern plantings such as boxwood trees, azaleas and dogwood trees soften the edges of this landscaped outdoor “room.”

Screening out the public

Because the house is located within yards of two public streets, privacy is a concern for Ken and Cally. A four-foot-high picket fence separates the sidewalk from the private yard. Dense plantings on each side of it add another layer of separation.

The owners carefully echoed details, colors and forms throughout their property to wonderful effect. The pickets in the fence are repeated in the railings that encircle both porches. A tall, carefully pruned pine tree creates privacy on the second-floor porch, playing up the contrast between the stark white building and the soft, green plantings that surround it. A decorative trellised gateway and another picket fence provide privacy for the back yard, and a brick wall and another fence along the side property line define and enclose a low-maintenance courtyard.

Open enclosures

Most people want some privacy without feeling that they’ve isolated themselves from their neighbors. Cally and Ken used “open enclosures” to screen but not separate themselves from view. Along the street edge, they erected a wooden post-and-beam structure on which vines grow, and they fastened trellis panels between columns to screen out the street. The couple left out some panels, creating windows into the garden.

Moving toward light

Cally and Ken used a long, linear trellis to create a hall-like enclosure and provide privacy to the side-yard garden. The structure’s roof makes a crosshatched shadow on the brick floor. A panel of wooden trellising also creates dappled light and air circulation in this “hallway.” At its terminus, the structure is open to the sky and to the street, allowing shafts of light to lead you forward to enjoy the plantings that mark the destination.

• Place to sit outside in the evenings and look out over the street–possibly with the ability to talk with passersby. (Function served by the front porch.)
• Place that’s private, shaded and free of bugs, where we can go to eat or have a drink. It needs to be close to the kitchen and should have a secluded view to the garden. (Function served by the screened porch.)
• Shaded pathway for strolling in the garden. (Function served by the entry arbor and brick walkways.)
• Place for storing garden equipment and tools that doesn’t shriek “garden shed.” (Function served by the shed.)
• Welcoming, covered entries so those entering have protection from rain. (Function served by the front- and rear-entry porches.)

Excerpted with permission from Outside the Not So Big House by Julie Moir Messervy and Sarah Susanka (Taunton Press, 2006).

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