North Carolina Pool with Northern Sea Oats
Northern sea oats grow in gray planters along one side of the block wall. “My husband is really the green thumb, and he chose them for their texture, modern appeal and striking bright color against our dark house,” Holly says. “In the winter, they turn a lovely light beige, and the ‘oats’ rustle in the wind.”

A long-forgotten pool left in sorry shape was what preceded this stunning midcentury-inspired backyard. As the outdoor living space to Ken and Holly Schoolmeester’s Charlotte, North Carolina, 1960 home, it only made sense that the couple wanted their backyard to reflect the same style as their carefully restored home.

Game Plan

In 2015, the couple went to Modernism Week in Palm Springs hoping to gain inspiration from other outdoor midcentury spaces. “We’ve had a few landscape designers create plans; however, MCM landscapes are typically more minimalistic, and they kept overdesigning and adding in the traditional ‘B’ word (boxwood) into the plans,” she says. Not satisfied with the mismatched designs, Ken and Holly created their own plans.

Needing to remove the neglected pool, Ken and Holly decided to redesign the entire space to better capture their mid mod dreams. They reduced the size of the pool, opted for a clean, modern shape and did away with the deep end. Now, they call it the “party pool” because swimmers can walk in with a cocktail in their hands from one end to the other, all while staying above water.

That wasn’t their only big change. “I love how midcentury [design] seamlessly flows from the inside to the outside,” Holly says. “So in renovating the back, we took the opportunity to raise the ground level so that we when we step out from our sunken living room, [the yard] is at the same level.” With their sliding doors fully open, the matching levels make the back patio feel as much a part of the house as the living room.

Knoll table and Tulip chairs
“We wanted the pool area and porch to have a fun vibe, so I chose a more vibrant MCM color palette to help with the playful ambience. The Sunbrella fabric was the most durable option for outdoor cushions,” Holly says.

Big Details

For the fencing, they turned to block with breezeblock detail—but struggled to find the material in their area. The extra effort was well worth it, as Holly says that people are often surprised to find that the walls are not original. “That makes us happy as we feel we staying true to the integrity of the home and it’s midcentury roots,” she says.

The back wall of the fence features a raised planter, which they chose to visually break up the long expanse of block as well as to raise the landscaping so the back hedge will feel more established sooner. “We estimate that in two to three years we’ll have a complete, dense hedge that will be about 9-feet tall and block the neighboring house,” Holly says.

A mid mod backyard isn’t complete without the proper outdoor furniture, and the Schoolmeester yard is no exception. An original Knoll table
with Tulip Chairs hosts summer soirées, while vintage Bertoia Lounge Chairs take their rightful place poolside.

“Luckily the back porch is very big and thus the table and chairs are completely protected from the elements. It’s literally like an extra room nine months out of the year,” Holly says. “However, like any good piece of furniture, we clean and protect
them frequently.”

Ken and Holly now have a backyard where modern meets playful and functional meets fun—which is exactly what they wanted.


Atomic Ranch Summer Collecting Issue #53This article originally ran in issue #54, the Collecting Issue, of Atomic Ranch, on sale now. For more backyard essentials, midcentury collectibles and restorations in the Southwest, pick up a copy of the latest issue at your local newsstand or order online today!