PARADISE AT HOME
Tomlinson Woods residence has all the comforts of a Caribbean resort.
By Chris Christen
Inspired Home Omaha Editor
Who needs the Caribbean? Resort living is possible right here in the Midwest.
“I just wanted a pool,” Kathy Strawhecker says with a laugh about the backyard project that evolved into so much more.
She and her husband, Kurt, love tropical resorts and were looking at vacation properties in the Caribbean, when they stopped short and considered something more intriguing closer to home.
As Kurt explains, “We thought, why invest in the Caribbean when we can have a private resort right here that we can use 12 months out of the year?”
Two years later, they're making daily trips to an outdoor kitchen, pool and spa area without leaving their Tomlinson Woods home.
The amenities are perfect for their laid-back lifestyle. “The yard naturally lent itself to the pool,” Kurt says. All the trees werespared, although some required extensive trimming.
The pool glistens with the sun's rays until late afternoon, when dapple shade starts filtering across the patio.
The landscaping was designed to minimize yard work. “I only have 10 square feet of grass to mow," Kurt says with a grin.
T. Hurt Construction put in the patio and the pool in two phases. The job included shoring up major preexisting structural issues off the back of the house. Workers dug down 20 feet, jacked up a corner of the screened porch and installed a new foundation. In the process, a cedar deck and a railroad tie retaining wall were removed, and various drainage issues were addressed throughout the yard.
This is the couple's first full summer without backyard construction. (See our slide show; you won't believe the "before" photos.)
Kurt, managing partner for The Strawhecker Group, has an office at home and often slips to the patio to work on his laptop, eat lunch or smoke a cigar.
“We cook outside every day and we always have brats and burgers on-hand because we never know who will stop by,” Kathy says. “We've entertained a lot since last July.”
Neighbors Nina and Jerry Byrnes, who watched the backyard's evolution mostly from afar, were thrilled to finally see the completed project at a recent barbecue.
“They really do use the space,” Jerry says. “This isn't just for show. They're outside all the time.”
“Yes, but the landscaping is maturing,” Nina teasingly laments. “I can't even find a place to peek in anymore. But I can still smell the cigars.”
Tips for Super-Easy Entertaining
Kathy Strawhecker keeps her menus and décor easy and elegant. Her advice is to stay in your comfort zone and to “make it a party that you'd like to attend.” Other secrets from this low-stress hostess:
1. Don't try to prepare all of the food yourself. Make one specialty and order in or buy the rest.
2. Put together a good guest list. Invite people who will mix well and engage in conversation.
3. Don't go crazy stocking the bar. You don't need as many selections as you think. Find out what your guests like to drink and have that on-hand.
4. Once guests start arriving, enjoy your own party. Ask a friend or hire someone to serve drinks and tend to the food.
5. Don't get caught up in details that aren't necessary. Buy party supplies in bulk and use them year-round. Dress up serving tables with flowers or potted plants from your garden.
Kathy's menu for a casual alfresco dinner for 11 (thrown especially for our photo session) .
Whole grilled Branzino
Meat and cheese board*
*Ordered from Dante Ristorante, where the Strawheckers' son, Nick, is the chef and owner. Kathy picked up her other menu items from Whole Foods in Regency.
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