Exterior Designer Daniel Keeley reinvents the grounds of an enchanting property and inspires the homeowners to relish all the home that lives outside the house
Perched on a bluff overlooking the Arkansas River Valley, sits the home of Jamie and Steve Clark. For nine years now, the Clarks and their three children have lived in the stone house, which was built in 1927. After adding a new outdoor pavilion and renovating the pool area in 2011, they called on Daniel Keeley of DK Design to transform the landscape and outbuildings into usable, comfortable, and inviting living spaces—a true extension of their home.
Though much forethought and care was clearly involved in the building of the house itself, the grounds remained largely uncultivated and unused. Even after the first phase of the 2011 renovation, Jamie says, “the pool was just totally exposed—everything around the pavilion just looked really bare.” With a mostly blank canvas, Daniel says he set out to “make the outdoor spaces work as well as indoor spaces in every way.” Because he “planned the exact placement of the furniture and plantings at the same time,” Daniel explains, he was able to maximize the symmetrical floorplan and give the space exactly the structure and movement he had envisioned. His approach to establishing clear definition from one “outdoor room” to the next had a huge impact, Jamie notes. “Each area is its own space now, and I love that—you feel secluded,” she adds.
“The style of their interiors is eclectic, so I knew I wanted the exterior to have plenty of personality, but in a big space—like the pool area—I didn’t want it to look messy and busy,” Daniel says. To soften the look of the “dark and massive” pavilion and create what he calls a “casual, rustic” atmosphere, he incorporated chairs slipcovered in a buttery yellow fabric that picks up the color of the flaxen Knock Out roses in the surrounding beds. A floral accent fabric adds a touch of femininity and draws the organic color and shapes of the plantings into the furnishings. In the twin, covered dining areas on either side of the hearth room, reclaimed teak tables contrast with the dark brown wicker side chairs, and host chairs, which are also slipcovered in the yellow fabric.
The Clarks use their new pavilion, adjacent decks, pool, and gardens frequently, whether they are enjoying a typical evening at home or hosting friends for a special occasion. “There’s really no good place to entertain inside our home, and now we can have groups of up to 150 out here. And the fireplace allows us to enjoy it on fall evenings,” Jamie says. From her perspective, what makes this “the best addition we’ve made to the home,” is how livable it is; “the furniture Daniel chose is perfect—everyone always makes comments about how comfortable it is.”
In Good Taste
Another of Jamie’s main requests of Daniel was a vegetable garden. Inspired by the French idea of a potager—a kitchen garden that intermingles ornamental plants with vegetables and herbs—she says she wanted “a real garden, but one that’s also beautiful and fragrant at the same time.” Daniel’s solution was to employ a part of the yard that Jamie says was formerly “just an odd piece of totally bare ground” and transform it into what is now Jamie’s “favorite place.” “I’ve always had a garden,” she says, “but I love the convenience of having it right outside my back door. I’ve just had a ball experimenting with all sorts of crops, from Habanero peppers to pumpkins and okra.”
Rows of trellised grapevines on one end of the garden were a creative addition of Daniel’s, intended to draw the eye down the center pathway and out to the valley beyond. To create an actual living area within the space, he placed a café-style table and chairs on the other side of the vines. A short hedge encloses the opposite side of the area. “There’s nothing he did that I love more than that,” Jamie says. “It makes the dining area a little room of its own.”
Daniel says that his transformation of the Clarks’ grounds was driven by his quest to make “full use” of the home’s natural spaces—to make each one an experience in itself. As the seasons come and go, Jamie says, she continues to be “blown away” by the changes Daniel made. As the plantings mature, she reflects, “I can see his vision even more than when things were first planted.” And, Jamie’s relationship to the spaces becomes richer through her ongoing work with the plantings and in her enjoyment of them in her leisure time. “I love to see the growth and the change,” she says, “It’s therapy to me.”
Landscape design Daniel Keeley, DK Design, Fayetteville, (888) 670-4899, dkdesignoutdoor.com
Pavilion Cary Smallwood, Carrington Creek Homes, Fort Smith, (479) 459-6200, carringtoncreek.com
Exterior paint color selection, landscape lighting, and outdoor furnishings DK Design, Fayetteville, (888) 670-4899, dkdesignoutdoor.com