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entertaining at its finest
Story by Audrey Hanes, Photo by Amy Long

These days, many homeowners are able to enjoy spending more time outside thanks to sprawling outdoor entertaining and living spaces in their backyards, and the Stank family is no exception. Dr. Tom, Stephanie and their son, 7-year-old Thomas, love spending time outdoors, which is why they recently transformed their backyard into an outdoor living area in Ridgepointe that can only be described as the ultimate backyard oasis.

When the couple first contacted Marty Hesch of Hesch Construction LLC about making a couple of changes to their existing backyard, which consisted of a koi pond, a swing set and a wood deck at the time, they simply wanted to modify the deck and create a space for Tom’s tractor. The couple then took nearly two years to think about and expand upon their original plan, and by the time they contacted Hesch about designing their backyard dreamscape, the plans had evolved into an outdoor space that was meant to be enjoyed year-round.

The Stanks worked with Hesch to design a rustic outdoor entertaining and living area that far exceeded their original idea. To make space for the new plan, Tom first bought several lots behind his property, and just five months after Hesch Construction began work on the project, the Stanks held an office Christmas party for Southern Eye Associates, where Tom serves as a partner, in their new backyard.

“When they originally contacted me, they knew they wanted to do something different with their deck, and they thought they wanted to put a pool in, so that’s where we originally started,” said Hesch. “We went from a minor construction project to go along with a pool to basically doing everything. It grew and kept growing to include the outdoor shower, the fire pit and more. With the help of Tom and Stephanie, we designed the entire space.”

The personal and unique touches are what truly set the Stanks’ backyard apart.

All of the concrete used in the two-level design is stamped and stained, and the Stanks hand-picked the diving/jumping rocks that surround the saltwater pool and hot tub, which was put in by Mid South Pools of Memphis, from rock quarries. Much of the stone used around the pool and other areas is from Arkansas, and the outdoor shower, which is made of a Brazilian walnut called ipe, is another convenient feature. For a personal touch, Tom even hand-cut and finished several tables from a fallen walnut tree from the family’s cabin on the Norfolk River; those tables are displayed throughout the outdoor area.

“I wanted big timber and rock, but we still had to tie it in with the rest of the house, which has none of that,” said Tom.

To do that, they matched the home’s painted brick when constructing the pool house, then added rustic touches such as a stone fireplace, a concrete bar and many large cedar beams. Hesch worked with Barton’s Design Center to choose the best appliances for the pool house and the grilling area, which together include a large grill, a warming drawer, a stove top, a refrigerator, a sink, an ice maker, a dishwasher and a beer tap. He then worked with Sound Concepts to wire the entire area with speakers and a mounted television. The pool house also includes laundry facilities, a full bathroom, a cedar changing room, storage, a butler’s pantry and an oversized three-car garage.

“We added outdoor furniture that was comfortable for lounging, durable for weather and beautiful for entertaining,” said Stephanie of the space’s final touches. “Thanks to Keri at IDP for making all those things happen. We also added large outdoor planters with good hearty trees and plants.”

Because of several well-thought-out features, the family is able to enjoy the space year-round. In the winter months, the gas fire pit, fireplace and several space heaters provide warmth, and when the mosquitoes are bad, the remote-controlled retractable screens in the pool house allow the family to relax outside, nuisance-free.

“I recently went to a fundraiser there, and the space is really ideal for that,” said Hesch of the Stanks’ finished outdoor oasis. “It makes it so easy and looks so awesome. They have it all. When it went from a new deck to what it is now, the outdoor entertainment aspect was very important. When they’re entertaining, they shouldn’t have to go back in the house for anything.”

What were your goals for your outdoor oasis?
Stephanie: We had three main objectives: to create a place for Thomas to play, to have a place for Tom to relax and unwind after work and to create a place where we could spend good quality time together.

How does your family use your outdoor living space to entertain?
Stephanie: We’ve enjoyed many cookouts with family and friends. We’ve hosted anything and everything from birthday parties to an annual office Christmas party. We’ve hosted political fundraisers, charity dinners and the Crown Chef Cook-Off. It’s been amazing. Posey Peddler has helped transform this area to make each and every event a very memorable, beautiful occasion, and for larger events, we have Godsey’s cater the food.

What is your favorite part of your outdoor living area?
Stephanie: My favorite part is the time my family gets to spend together.
Tom: My favorite part of our outdoor living area is spending an evening in the pool chasing torpedoes with Thomas, especially after a long, hard day at the office.

Do you have any outdoor entertaining tips for our readers?
Stephanie: Don’t think outdoor living can only be enjoyed in the summer. We have parties, events, dinners and great family fun all year long.
Tom: Always have a back-up plan, because weather doesn’t always cooperate.