An Outdoor Retreat For Two

When this Clayton couple moved into their home in 1978, the back yard fit what their family needed at the time; after 40 years, the trees have grown up and so have the couple’s children, changing the look of the landscape and the pair’s needs and desires for their outdoor space.

“We’d done about four renovations on our home’s interior so it better fit our lifestyle,” they said, “which then led to renovating our exterior. We’re empty nesters and wanted to simplify our outdoor space.”

They brought designers Emily Castle and Meghan Heeter of Castle Design to the project as well as Mark Gordon and Marilyn Vollet of MDG Renovations. “The homeowners of this storied, historic Clayton home are the perfect pair when it comes to all things art and design,” says Heeter, who had worked with the couple on their interior renovation. “Together, they both love pattern and color, which made for a fun project full of bright patterns and textures.”

“The furniture and heirlooms in the home and garden tell a story,” notes Marilyn Vollet. The story of this backyard renovation reads more like a fairytale, with the homeowners’ long thought-out designs coming to life and antique items finding a second home. They’d known for years that they wanted an outdoor fireplace and other small, sectioned-off areas they could utilize depending on their mood or the time of year.

Before the renovation began, they had several antiques they knew they wanted to incorporate including wrought iron gates and an old fountain sourced from Savannah that hadn’t worked in years. Working with MDG Renovations and Castle Design, the team devised a perfect footprint and plan for the outdoor space to include these much-loved pieces as well as details such as the brick wall, fireplace and gazebo placement. “It was our good fortune that the homeowner is an architect!” laughs Vollet. “He laid out a wonderful and unique plan, which incorporated an existing gazebo that we  moved and oriented differently to work better with the design.” After painstakingly sourcing brick and pavers to coordinate with their outdoor color scheme, they could move along to selecting textiles and furniture.

All finishes, textiles and stonework reflect the couple’s combined taste of traditional and contemporary design styles, making the space perfectly curated for their personal enjoyment. “We don’t follow fads or try to stay trendy,” they note. “Instead, we see things that we like and choose them. It makes our style more eclectic.”

The landscaping, they say, really brings the whole place together, creating a soft, enjoyable space with plenty of interesting things to look at and enjoy. Metropolitan Forestry has been their go-to landscaping company for years, and they were overjoyed to work with the team there again. They also worked hand and hand with Landscape St. Louis to create beautiful potted plant arrangements.

“It feels like you’re on vacation when you’re sitting in that back yard living space,” comment Vollet and Gordon. Whether you’re gathered around the fireplace in the fall, or sitting in the shade of the gazebo, you feel like you’re somewhere other than in the bustle of Clayton.”

The homeowners wholeheartedly agree. “The final result has definitely exceeded our expectations,” they say happily. “Each intimate space was made specially for us; working with both MDG Renovations and Castle Design was a pleasure, and they made everything run smoothly. We can even enjoy the outdoors from inside our house! Now, we can look out and see how all the colors, stonework and textiles have really changed the look and feel of our home.” 



Contractor: MDG Renovations 

Design: Castle Design 

Hardscape: Unilock

Landscaping: Landscape St. Louis, Metropolitan Forestry 

By Moe Godat

Photography by Alise O’Brien Photography

Builder: MDG Renovations

Designer: Castle Design