An Outdoor Space Made for Social Distancing, Down to the Dining Table
Six feet by six feet.
Published Jul 7, 2020 12:10 AM
It didn’t take designer Consuelo Pierrepont Spitler long to realize her Austin backyard was going to have to work extra hard for her family of five this summer. Since the pandemic began, their dining room has effectively become a playroom, leaving everyone with a little less space to spread out—especially come dinnertime. The Sway Studio cofounder began devising solutions, starting with a 6-by-6-foot Douglas fir dining table, which she had a local craftsman build for around $1,000. The custom piece is partially inspired by her long love of Donald Judd, but more important, you can sit while social distancing. “It’s the perfect COVID table,” says Spitler.
This desire for functional pieces with beautiful lines fueled the rest of her quarantine-inspired refresh. A sleek wood daybed now completes the firepit area, while beneath the swinging branches of the fig trees awaits a stock tank pool where her three young kids (ages 6, 4, and 9 months) can keep cool. “We need to use every inch of this space to keep things interesting,” says the designer. Now there are plenty of different hangout areas where the couple can host what Spitler likes to call “speed dating” gatherings with friends. “You have to get creative,” she says. “We’ll put one couple on the sofa, another at the table, and people can visit with each other.”
Story time now takes place in one corner of the yard, where there are two vintage Willy Guhl Loop chairs. The cement seats, paired with a blue metal side table from CB2, might not look all that comfortable, but their swooping curves provide the perfect cradle for little ones. Spitler tasked her carpenter with making two teakwood bases for the chairs in order to prop them up. Now they feel more suited for reading and morning journaling sessions than lounging poolside.
The galvanized steel feeding tank is the product of neighborly affection. The tub was a secondhand gift from one of Spitler’s best friends and neighbors, who rolled the thing across the street to give it to her. “Austin has that true community vibe—like that Hallmark card kind,” says Spitler.
There’s nothing fancy to the pool: Every few days Spitler and her husband will fill it up with fresh water from the hose and the kids can climb the stool to hop in. The adults can supervise their swim sessions from a nearby sofa, tucked into the corner by the terrace.
Spitler sourced two giant rocks ($150 each) from a local garden center to finish off the firepit seating arrangement. The organic stones offer a nice contrast to the dark, modern farmhouse facade and the streamlined chaise—another Bauhaus-inspired design. “Judd was all about balance without symmetry, which is something I really love,” she says.
When her little ones aren’t crafting, swimming, or building forts, they’re out exploring the garden, which is stocked with tomatoes, green beans, cucumber, lemon trees, and lots of melon. “There’s something really magical for kids about digging in the dirt,” says the designer, noting that the thrill only heightens when they discover a giant beetle. “Seeing something grow is really special for them. And it makes them want to eat their vegetables, which is a win-win for me.”
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