When Jeanne and Mike Clarke bought their Mountain Brook home, the backyard was little more than grass and a concrete retaining wall. Jeanne’s wish was for a place that felt like a vacation in the backyard. She also wanted plenty of room for outside entertaining. She hired landscape designer Brent Donaldson to bring the expanse of grass to life with a a series of garden rooms, a pool, and covered pavilion.
The dreamy pool and fountain sets the standard for the rest of the space. Flagstone pavers connect a collection of seating areas under open sky and continue through the covered room to the fireplace surround. Beneath this cathedral ceiling, swinging chairs flank the hearth, inviting guests to linger on cooler evenings. A rustic chandelier offers sophisticated yet casual appeal.
“The biggest obstacle we encountered during the overall project was figuring out how to cover the gigantic concrete wall, ” says Brent. They discovered the answer in the form of a large trellis framed by majestic stone columns. “Mrs. Clarke and I collaborated on the design of the trellis and then hired a carpenter to build it, ” Brent explains. “She has a great sense of design and style.” Climbing vines, trained in a diamond pattern, and fig ivy, add even more interest.
The end result is a backyard suited for entertaining large crowds in the multi-space surroundings or for hosting more intimate gatherings on the covered patio or under the vine-entwined pergola. “The entire space was built with the intent of being the main place for guests to congregate—even more so than inside the house, ” says Brent.
On this particular summer evening, Jeanne and Mike invited friends to an outdoor supper catered by Hot and Hot Fish Club. Guests were treated to a sit-down dinner underneath the twinkling lights of the wooden pergola. Conversation flowed as the sound of the pool’s fountain created a relaxed vibe in the tranquil surroundings. “It truly felt like we were on vacation, ” says Jeanne. “And the best part was that all of our friends were with us, right here in our own backyard.”
ABOVE LEFT A wooden gate, designed by Brent, adds character to the winding paths that connect numerous outdoor gardens and gathering spots.
ABOVE RIGHT The dreamy pool and fountain set the standard for the rest of the outdoor space.
Hot and Hot Fish Club
Spicy Gazpacho with Crab, Tomato, Squash, Poblano and Cucumber
Hot and Hot Tomato Salad with Sweet Corn, Field Peas, Fried Okra and Smoked Bacon
Grilled Strip Loin, Harvest Farms Cauliflower Puree, Fresh Dug Potatoes, Rora Valley Farm Egg, Rapini, Parmesan Crisp and Truffle Oil
Trifle Bar (created by Jeanne)
Make your outdoor soirée even more festive with these tips:
• Pair white linens and fine china with burlap tablecloths to keep the dinner from being too formal.
• Have guests first gather inside for appetizers and cocktails. This makes the move to dinner outside more of an event.
• Hang candle-filled lanterns and strings of twinkling lights to create a serene atmosphere.
text by julie gillis • garden photos by jean allsopp • party photos by Josh Weichman