This home designer transforms little used outdoor spaces into functional entertainment areas.
For years, Chattanooga entrepreneurs Jenny and Jason Hillenburg spent weekends boating on Chickamauga Lake, cruising waterside properties on the Soddy Lake embayment and dreaming of their future. The Hillenburg’s dream turned to reality when in 2011 they purchased a lakeside lot in Bridgewater Pointe and started designing a dream home for their family of five – one that would not only bring the outdoors in, but the indoors out.
Design trends for waterside properties have long focused on bringing the aesthetic appeal of the outdoors inside through meticulously planned color schemes that highlight natural beauty just beyond the windows. In recent years though, homeowners in temperate locales like Chattanooga have increasingly embraced the growing trend of extending their indoor space to the outside, allowing them to fully appreciate their surroundings.
Chattanooga-based designer Julie Bledsoe of Dwell Design and Construction introduced us to two properties – the Hillenburg’s home in Soddy Daisy and a second home property on Elder Mountain – where she has worked with clients to make their patio space as inviting at their indoor space. “We treat the areas our clients have for outdoor living the same way we do the inside,” says Bledsoe. “Each space has a separate purpose – lounging, cooking, entertaining, swimming – and is designed with functionality in mind.”
The Hillenburgs worked with Bledsoe on their previous home, so when they decided to build their lake house they started tapping her talents from the earliest stage of development. Together they poured over blueprints to ensure the design made the best use of space and fully reflected the couple’s lifestyle, which included operating home-based businesses and family life with three active teenagers.
“We made some layout changes that allow us to fully enjoy the reason we decided to move here to begin with,” says Jenny Hillenburg. “Whether we’re working from home or entertaining by the pool or on the lake, we can see water and hear boats. I love that.”
The meticulously designed interior spaces of Hillenburg’s two-story, 6,800 square-foot home are furnished in blue, green and brown finishes seamlessly uniting the home’s living areas with its natural surroundings. The same colors play out in the exterior spaces from the poolside lounge and seating areas on the basement level to the upper and lower patio spaces where they entertain guests and enjoy the colorful sunset. Stylish pillows, throws, and rugs underfoot create a livable space that brings the indoors out.
During the summer months, the Hillenburg’s pool serves as home base for a steady stream of friends coming to enjoy the lake with the family. A landscaped walkway was recently added from the pool to the dock featuring a lakeside fire pit that serves as a gathering place in the cool evenings of late summer and fall.
Bledsoe’s outdoor design for an Elder Mountain retreat owned by globetrotting retirees features a seven-foot tall globe-shaped fire pit fashioned from an antique propane tank. Bledsoe was initially commissioned to redesign the couple’s basement. The scope of the project grew when she proposed removing a wall enclosing a full-size indoor pool and adding 40 feet of retractable glass doors to open the home to an outdoor living space, a design element that changed everything. This year, Dwell Design and Construction plans to complete a three-year interior and exterior renovation of the 18,000-square-foot home, which features automation and wireless controls managed by a smart phone or tablet. While every detail of the renovated home is carefully planned and exquisitely appointed Bledsoe says her design details are not the showcase of the property.
“It’s the view from the bluff overlooking Suck Creek,” says Bledsoe. “There are no other homes in sight and it feels like the view is all yours. It’s the perfect place to relax and entertain.”
Bledsoe transformed an old, unused basketball court into a 5,000-square-foot entertainment area with nearly a half-dozen distinct spaces for eating, lounging and playing year-round. The fire pit provides light and warmth for the covered entertainment space featuring a 12-foot black walnut dining table, one of the couple’s three outdoor televisions, and a large custom built wood-fired barbecue grill with vintage oscillating fans overhead to clear smoke and keep guests comfortable. Nearby, a poolside lounge area, bocce court, koi pond and skeet thrower keep guests entertained. From the ceiling of one of the couple’s more out-of-the-way bluff side porches hang egg-shaped basket swings that provide an utter sense of weightlessness and an exhilarating view of the mountains and valley below.
The trend toward outdoor living spaces has achieved must-have status in today’s home builds and renovations. Bledsoe finds that her clients are increasingly interested in investing in their backyards and patio spaces to create comfortable, entertaining extensions of their homes. The investment, she says, will pay dividends not only in the resale value of the home, but in the homeowner’s long-term enjoyment of their unique property.