Design & Remodeling

Tropics in the ‘Burbs

Here’s how you turn a typical suburban backyard into a relaxing waterfront escape.

Story by Brooke McGrath  |   Photos by Randy Braley

Functional, thematic outdoor living areas continue to be all the rage—and for good reason. To feel as if they were visiting a remote island, these Leawood homeowners transformed their little piece of suburbia into a sought-after tropical retreat.

Three years ago, they found Stephanie Abramson, ASID, a local interior designer, who helped them turn the backyard into their own secluded hideaway. “They wanted to create an oasis, a place where they could relax and escape, so it’s not like they’re in Leawood anymore. It had to be as functional and enjoyable as it could possibly be,” Abramson says.

Working both inside and out, Abramson opened up the kitchen, hearth and living area, which now walks out to a rustic yet modern covered lanai through a series of sliding glass doors. Previously a simple patio, the lanai allows the homeowners to grill and chill in a private space dedicated to lounging (bug-free with custom motorized screens), dining, drinking and cooking. But it’s what lies outside of these stone columns that makes you forget just where you are.

Custom-stamped concrete leads to an organic-shaped pool, one that resembles a blue lagoon, as Abramson says, with its durable Pebble Tec interior pool finishing in a custom blue color with, of course, extra sparkle. A reef ledge provides a shallow space for swimmers to get their feet wet, while sunbathers might prefer to tan poolside or sneak off to find some shade in the elevated private lounge area provided by the extensive hardscaping scene. Soothing waterfalls trickle down flagstone steps into the pool, while stone pillars topped with fire bowls bring warmth (and ambience) to the space.

Softening the look of the stacked stone is lush landscaping in the form of pine, spruce and fir trees, which help minimize the sights and sounds of traffic from the street just beyond the tree line. Colorful notes of seasonal flowers, outdoor lighting and surround sound provide the finishing touches in a space that evokes an immediate on-vacation state of mind.

This extremely sexy, charming, classy space, as Abramson describes it, covers all the bases, providing these homeowners with their very own private piece of paradise.

Make a Splash

Looking to personalize your pool space? Take some advice from interior designer Stephanie Abramson on how to step up your game on poolside entertaining.

  • A small side table and colorful freestanding umbrella (with lights!) are perfect for poolside snacks and shade.
  • An ice/drink bucket stand keeps beverages cold—and within arm’s reach.
  • Customized floats provide personalization at your pool party.
  • Monogrammed throw pillows on chaise lounges also provide custom style.
  • Big buckets or vases of fresh flowers around the pool simply add to the surrounding natural beauty.
  • Create ambience by stringing white lights on surrounding trees.
  • Decorate with big lanterns (and/or candles) in different sizes to create scale, arranging in groups of three. Illuminate walkways and pathways with them, too.