For the Love of Cooking

The Clarkson’s house in Hall County, GA sits on a high bluff overlooking Lake Lanier. The lake side of the lot is steep, the front approach to the house is level. It is a two-story, contemporary style house, probably built in the 1980s. Additions have been made to it over time. The husband’s passion for outdoor cooking led them to seek change.

When we first met them, he had six different types of grills and smokers. All of them were in the front yard of their lovely lake home, making the entrance look like a barbecue joint and not very inviting.

The Situation

  1. The client was hesitant about adding an outdoor kitchen to the front of the house; however, the only other location was on the lower patio by the pool. Since their kitchen is upstairs, putting the outdoor kitchen down a flight of stairs made no sense.
  2. The client did not want to obstruct the view of the lake from the front of the house. Who would?
  3. The wife loves herb and vegetable gardening, so creating a space for that would be a plus.
  4. She also wanted a transition from the front of the house to the steps which led to the patio and the pool on the lake side of the house.
  5. The main roof-line slanted towards the front of the house, which caused everything in the front to stay wet.  So, we had to make sure everything drained properly going forward.
  6. As designers, we needed to consider plantings, drainage, and the integrity of the house. Given its wood siding, plants should not be right up against the foundation. Also, minimizing planting helped highlight the contemporary lines of the house. Removing overgrown shrubs was essential to improving airflow as well.

The photo essay presents the “before” situation and the “after” solution.


Here is the Clarkson house, situated on a steep lot with an imposing view of Lake Lanier. Even in the spring, heavy shadow covers the center and right-hand side of the house and carport. Note also, the lovely maple in the yard alongside the driveway.
The kitchen is to the right of the front door, so placing the outdoor kitchen nearby was functionally important. In order to tie everything together and make sure it flowed, we used our architect, Scott McClendon, to develop and present solutions.
This close-up shows the existing plantings along the house, next to the carport. The house also had many additions over the years, so lots of level transitions by the front door created tripping hazards.
This is the first plan we showed our clients. A patio is to the left of the front door and a triangular planting bed on the right. A walkway of pavers transition to the lower level. The cooking space is up against the house in the narrow transition/carport area. It would require venting the heat, probably a new stone wall behind the grilling station and another short seat wall in front of the grilling station. The cost was prohibitive to the clients.
The client decided to have us incorporate a new addition on the left, more open side of the house. We suggested an outdoor pergola/patio/kitchen with a roof line similar to those already on the property.


The roofline and rockwork of the outdoor kitchen compliment the visual lines and texture of the house. Also, by not placing the outdoor kitchen next to the house the vertical lines of the wood siding are maintained, echoing the parallel lines of the metal roofing. Note that the maple is a lovely asset to the new outdoor space.
We could not match the existing stone of the entranceway, so we used the same stone as on their pool’s hot tub. We also used the same pavers for transition purposes.
A view of the cooking space, the large patio and knee wall. The patio will easily accommodate tables, chairs and other furniture. The original stone walkway to the front door is in the lower right of the image.
Close up of the pergola roof. All the rain shoots off the back, not towards the patio and away from the house.
The garden bed is within steps of both the indoor and the outdoor kitchen. As a raised bed, she can sit or stand comfortably to plant, weed and harvest. Note that the shrubbery has been removed from beside the house, which will allow for better air flow and less moisture collection next to the wood siding. The walkway to the pool can be seen at right center as it goes around the house.
The walkway of pavers runs in front of the house, providing access to the lower patio and pool. Stone drainage channels, on the right, are used in other locations as well (by the raised planter and the patio knee wall). The stone slabs are surrounded with groundcover.


The Clarkson project integrated garden planning, stone design and masonry, drainage solutions, architectural considerations, air flow, cooking and foot traffic. The resulting outdoor cooking space, patio and pathway not only serve the residents but compliment the design of the house.

Thanks for following along on this journey from before to after. It is our pleasure to work on multifaceted projects such as this. We enjoy learning about our clients, and we enjoy the challenge of working through and creating visions that fit their lives. Call us if we can take you from “before” to “after”.

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