Woodbury Magazine | April 2009

Paradise Found!

Who hasn’t gone on vacation and wished they could bring just a little bit of paradise back home with them? Well, Steve Henseler actually did it.  While visiting a colleague in his Arkansas home, the man suggested they sit down and enjoy some drinks and hors d’oeuvres in his outdoor room.  “I remember we sat by the fieldstone fireplace in his back yard and I thought, “This is something I’d really like to have at home, too.”

After sharing his inspiration with his wife, Julie, the two of them started searching through home and garden magazines for more ideas. They liked the idea of a pergola but wanted something curved rather than flat and with a sturdy roof so they could use their outdoor room even when it was raining. After talking to several companies without finding exactly what they wanted, Steve, an orthodontist, decided to ask his patient, Cory Hedstrom of Manley Brothers Construction, Inc., to design the roof structure they were after. “He took the ball and ran with it,” Steve recalls. “It was exactly what we wanted.”

Hedstrom also introduced the couple to Tim Johnson, a landscape designer with Southview Design in Inver Grove Heights. As they talked with Johnson, what started as an outdoor room grew into an expansive outdoor living area. Fortunately, when they bought their Woodbury home in 2007, Steve and Julie had the foresight to choose a bigger-than-average lot with a back yard they considered to be a “clean slate” because it was nothing but a slope of grass.

Though they know pool season can be short in Minnesota, Steve and Julie decided they wanted to include one in their backyard oasis. This was thrilling news to their two sons, Ethan, 8, and Nicholas, 4. “The kids are more isolated here than they were in our former Woodbury neighborhood where they had a lot of friends,” Steve explained. “We thought that if we’re pulling the kids away from their friends, maybe this will help make our house a destination for kids who want to come and play.”

In addition to the pool, Johnson’s design included a new cedar deck off the kitchen that includes a stairway down to the outdoor room and pool. To gauge the size of the outdoor room, Johnson thought about the magnitude of the fireplace in relation to how the room’s furniture would be set up. “We wanted to make it cozy for six to eight, maybe even 10, people,” he explains. “Circulation is really important. You want comfortable walking spaces so you don’t have to scoot chairs in for people to get by.”

With its custom steel-barreled roof, the outdoor room feels almost like an actual living room, complete with a huge wood-burning fireplace. The bluestone hearth and mantel complement the earth tones of the fireplace which was built using cultured stone, a man-made product that looks like natural stone.

While Johnson was careful to set the deck off to one side of the house to avoid blocking Steve’s home office window, then situate the stairs so they’re nearly hidden from view, positioning the pool was by far the most challenging part of the Henseler’s project.

In Johnson’s experience, most clients like the idea of having the pool run parallel to the house.  In reality, the trick to pool placement is understanding the movement of the sun. “You have to be attentive to where the shadows are and where the shade is going to be, especially in August and September, when the sun is lower in the sky,” Johnson says.

His dedication to this task did not go unnoticed. “Tim was out there in our back yard a lot watching the sun, “Julie recalls. “And he planned our outdoor room facing west so we could see the sun setting. He really thought about everything.”

In the end, Johnson opted to place the pool perpendicular to the house. This not only took advantage of the angle of the sun, it allowed him to make the outdoor room the central part of the overall backyard design. “You don’t want your outdoor room to be too far from the house or you won’t use it as much,” he says. “It’s important to think about how indoor and outdoor spaces will work together.”

“It will be great to go out there and wind down at the end of the day,” says Julie, a physician. “And we look forward to sharing our outdoor living space with our friends.”