PR Design Awards 2012 Project of the Year: Upgrading the Great Outdoors

The Wills Company snares the top honor for this Nashville outdoor living space

October 16, 2012
A new porch overlooking the grass courtyard serves as the homeowner’s primary en

A new porch overlooking the grass courtyard serves as the homeowner’s primary entertainment area.

The owners of this Georgian Revival-style, Nashville home wanted a slice of paradise in their own backyard.

When it came time to upgrade the outdoor living space of their 80-plus year-old house, they turned to the Wills Company, a design/build remodeling and handyman firm that has been doing this type of work for more than 21 years.

 “The back yard simply did not live up to the expectations of the homeowners. Furthermore, they had an open-air porch off their kitchen, which wasn’t large or nice enough for entertaining as they desired,” said Ridley Wills, co-owner of the Wills Company.

They wanted a new vision for their entire rear yard with an updated pool, a renovated cabana, a screened-in porch, and an outdoor/garden room. As the chairman of a large corporation, the homeowner frequently has to entertain for business and charity purposes. So, this outdoor living space not only had to serve those purposes; but also, it had to be a true outdoor retreat for the family to enjoy. To the latter purpose for example, the frog pond/fountain was designed as a private amusement for the father and son to share.

Outdoor Living Space Over $100,000

Nashville, Tenn.


Remodeler: The Wills Company, Nashville, Tenn.

Designer/Architect: Wade Weissman Architecture, Brown Deer, Wis.

Interior Designer: W.M. Baldwin Associates, Palm Beach, Fla.

This house had been subjected to multiple renovations and additions throughout its history resulting in a patchwork of styles. So, making this outdoor living space cohesive and unified was a particular challenge.

A complete renovation

The main goal of the project, according to Wills, was to update the entire rear yard and pool area including the cabana. Essentially, the Wills Company was charged with renovating a series of separate spaces for entertaining and family enjoyment.

The new porch that overlooks the grass courtyard is the primary area for entertaining. An electronically operated, screening system rolls into the porch racks above providing the insect protection when needed and opening up for unobstructed views when not. “Screening is often a necessity in the mosquito-thick environment of Nashville,” says Wills.

Located in a corner of the grass courtyard and adjacent to the pool, a new detached outbuilding was constructed, made of brick with heavy, limestone detailing. “It was meant to be different from the architecture of the main house but still complementary to it in style,” says Wills. “It creates a solid and beautiful corner for the new lawn court.”

Beyond this grass courtyard is another epicenter of outdoor living—the swimming pool. The homeowners wanted an updated look and feel without having to reconstruct or remove the pool. The Wills Company accomplished this by refinishing the pool interior with a darker color and replacing the tiled, water edging.

Elements of the old cabana were incorporated into the new design, but it was basically transformed by building a new, more solid portico in front. “The unpainted brick wall connecting the main house to the pool cabana was painted white, raised one foot, and given a limestone cap to join the cabana to the main house in a more successful manner. This not only unified the overall design but also created a lovely backdrop for the lawn court,” says Wills.

Judge’s feedback


“Once in awhile there is a project that simply stands out from the crowd, and this is one. Considering the quality of all the entries, this project is very special and might even stand up to comparison of many years of projects. Exquisite design and high, high quality construction execution.” Tom Kelly, owner, the Neill Kelly Co.

“The breadth and depth of this submission, including the outdoor living space and the absolutely phenomenal outbuilding was exemplary. The entire ensemble was carefully considered, exquisitely designed down to the smallest detail, and expertly and skillfully crafted. Truly a stunning showpiece of stellar design and workmanship.” Michael Klement, principal, Architectural Resource Inc.

“The level of detail and quality in both the design and construction consistent throughout the large scale project made it an easy choice for the award.” Craig Durosko, founder and chairman, Sun Design.

In addition, the plantings and walkways were completely reworked to both open up and help clearly define the spaces.

“The homeowners absolutely love their newly renovated, outdoor rooms. Here, they can now both entertain beautifully and feel like they are on vacation in their own backyard,” says Wills.

Environmental challenges

Weather proved to be a serious factor in the reconstruction of the outdoor living space. Specifically, there were a series of consistent rainstorms that dampened the project from the outset.

Key products


Faucets: Grohe

Fireplace: Isokem

Fixtures: American Standard

House Wrap: Typar (Reemay)

HVAC: Broan-NuTone

Kitchen Appliances: Bosch, Whirlpool

Locksets: Baldwin

Paints & Stains: Sherwin-Williams

Security System: Honeywell

Vanities: Restoration

“Although we are in the South, starting an exterior project in January can be formidable, mostly because of the rain,” says Wills.

Of all the projects in the remodeling project, the detached outbuilding was impacted the most. According to Wills, extensive, underground drainage and geothermal work was done that required considerable earth moving during inclement weather.

Despite the large scope and length of the project, the Wills Company reported zero complaints from neighbors.

“All work was completed in the rear yard, unable to be seen from the neighborhood,” says Wills.

As far as the overall design and remodeling project are concerned, the homeowners knew what they wanted in their outdoor living space once the design ideas were presented.

“After the decision was made to proceed with the remodeling project, the homeowners were easy to please and relatively hands off.” PR

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