Pool house, summer house, pavilion, veranda? No matter what you call them, or how you use them, backyard structures are popping up as homeowners seek to steal a little California living even if it’s only for a six-month stretch.

Radio man Jim Scott and Donna Hartman knew they wanted to sit outdoors and take advantage of the sweeping view of Perfect North Slopes across from their hillside farmhouse and property that includes barns and ramshackle structures.

Mark Ulliman wanted a fire pit. His wife wanted a patio. And they both wanted something that suited their love of the outdoors in their Sycamore Township backyard.

Custom builder David Ott of Beechgrove Construction knew exactly what he wanted – a pool and backyard inspired by a visit to the high-walled English garden at Stan Hywet in Akron, a Tudor Revival country estate built by F.A. Seiberling founder of Goodyear Tire and Rubber.

Architect Rick Koehler’s clients in Hyde Park wanted poolside shade for their grandchildren, and designer David A.Millett’s clients needed a centerpiece for their meandering hillside and creek

Each got a getaway space tailor-made to their lot and lifestyle from architects and designers who tapped into the outdoor living craze that ignited the West Coast and spread east, despite our uncooperative winters.

“Outbuildings give more dimension to backyards, especially large lots,” says Millett. They add interest to the landscape and you can make them visually attractive from all directions.”

“Everybody is interested in the idea of the outdoor kitchen and entertainment area that’s driving a lot of this activity,” says architect Richard T. Ernst Jr. “Unlike our parents, we are not interested in dragging all the food, the dishes, the drinks from inside the house to enjoy dining and entertaining outdoors.”

“Now with the crackdown on drinking and driving it’s safer to stay at home and party anyway. And today’s kids are ending up in the backyard shelters and pool houses. Having the best play set on the block has expanded into having the best backyard where kids can safely hang out,” he says.

That was a lesson the Ullimans learned after Neal’s Design Remodel built an open C-shaped cedar summer house in their backyard that could complement the possible addition of a pool.

“We thought we’d be having friends over to entertain,” says Ulliman. “What we didn’t expect was the kids having people over as well. We didn’t expect the kids to be hanging out as much as they have, but it’s been great.

Most backyard pavilions come from the idea of “creating a destination area rather than having a pool house as an extension of the house,” says architect Mary Cassinelli, who designed the Ott’s Tudor getaway.

“It’s an area to casually hang out with friends and grandkids and really much more than a pool house,” she says of the roughly 50 by 83 foot walled garden made of stucco, stone and wrought iron that features an enclosed structure with a full bar, minor kitchen and seating with access to grill,storage and a full bath. An outdoor stone fireplace is flanked by more seating and an al fresco dining spot. With eight grandchildren of their own, plus his sister-in-law’s grandchildren, Ott says the pool stays busy from early May to the end of September.

“Sometimes there are 15 to 16 kids in the pool. All the younger ones learned to swim here. I didn’t put all the emphasis on the pool itself, but on the surrounding area. It’s all surrounded by wrought iron fencing and perennials beds. In the fall we listen to Bengals games and sit out there even when it’s chilly. We’ve even been out there in December. Guests say they feel like they are on a retreat.”

Architecturally there are two different approaches to designing outdoor escape buildings and pool houses, says Cassinelli: Continue the architectural design of the house or go in another direction and use different materials to design elements to let it stand on its own.

“As long as the structure is far enough away from the principal building we don’t discourage a different style,” says Koehler of ArchitectsPlus, “because an outdoor living environment becomes its own space.”

Koehler created a pool house for clients in Hyde Park whose grown children were bringing grandchildren back to the house. “She said ‘I need shade for these guys at the pool.’ We hear a lot of that these days. That’s a big difference. Nobody used to be concerned about shade. Now sun protection is part of the equation. We designed it so they could be outside with the grandbabies and have shade by the pool, creating a kitchen and wet bar on one side and a bath and changing room on the other. They wanted something that was fun and reminded them of vacation so there’s an architectural folly – a fun structure – that many are asking for.”

Pinpointing a style for the Hartman-Scotts in Lawrenceburg, presented a challenge says Hartman. “We live in a farmhouse with barns and sheds and had a worn patio. I said ‘I don’t know what I want but I know I don’t want a tool shed.’ ”

Jim Schwertman of Schwertman Building Group and architect Sally Noble paid a visit, asked a lot of lifestyle questions and came up with a barn-themed building “that is much better looking than the house,” laughs Donna. The crumbling patio has been replaced with a pathway incorporating an original rock pathway and old stone wall with new walls leading to the shelter.

“We didn’t know what we could use the space for until they came out and showed us. Before, we lugged coolers and a mishmash of patio chairs outside. Now Jim and I are out there almost every night, spring to fall. We never had an escape from the sun or rain before. Now we sit out there in rain and stay dry.”

The structure, with cupola and a pig weathervane, is partially open on three sides with a cathedral ceiling, window boxes, Hardie plank siding, an undercounter fridge, dry sink, serving area and storage for tools and birdseed. They finished the interior with oversize all-weather photographs at either end of Scott and his grandkids racing on hay bales and building a treehouse.

“We don’t know how we lived without it, says Hartman. “We hate it when we can no longer deny that it’s too cold to eat outside.”



Including a flexible kitchenette, at right, in the Neal’s Cape Cod pool house keeps summer guests from running back and forth to the main house.