We Midwesterners have endured an extraordinarily long, cold, bleak – and did I mention long – winter this year. So long, that forecasters have now declared that we are having a “compressed” spring which I believe essentially means we are moving straight from winter into summer. I choose to live here in the heartland and proudly so, so I hate to be one to gripe and complain about the weather. After all, it’s part of the deal. And yet, this year it was hard to avoid complaint. Collectively, I think we are officially over it. I know I am.
So it was on the heels of this particularly harsh winter that I declared 2014 would be “The Year of the Patio.” I promptly set up a Pinterest board, pinning all kinds of ideas I was sure I would never be able to execute. I called upon my brother-in-law to help me with my quest to find new patio furniture. After considerable research on his part (that’s how he rolls), we set out for a day-long adventure that resulted in absolute success – at a 20% discount, no less. (That is also how he rolls.) I contacted the landscaper and told him to give me something with strong visual appeal and exceedingly low maintenance requirements on my part. (He delivered on both counts.) I spent several weeks in search of all of the perfect flower pots and lanterns and doo-dads to give the patio just the right amount of Jen flair. And today, on this very day, I think my patio has achieved near perfection by my standards. If we only get 14 weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day (a depressing thought if I think about it too much), I am going to enjoy every possible minute I can out there. Until a mosquito bites me. Then all bets are off.
I am a firm believer that every project in your home needs an inspiration piece. Maybe it’s a vase or a framed print or a pillow. But something must center you and be the guide for your design. In the case of my patio, it is my grill that takes center stage. A grill, you ask? Why yes, a grill. For I have the most lovely, whimsical, fun, and yet utilitarian grill I have ever seen. I am not a material girl, and I don’t get too excited about “stuff.” But I am telling you, I love this grill like it is a person. I mean, really. It is a charcoal grill with a propane start. It has a built-in thermometer gauge. It has a special side container to hold the charcoal. It has all the bells and whistles!
In 2005, I moved into this lovely little house of mine and almost immediately started prepping for the party to end all parties – a co-ed wedding shower for my sister and her husband-to-be. Plans were well underway when my sister emailed me an advertisement for a lime green Weber grill, exclusively available at Crate and Barrel. Now mind you, I have an affinity for all things lime green and this grill was clearly something special. But as a new homeowner, I took one look at the price tag and could not justify it. I sent my sister a polite “thanks for the heads up” and assured her it just wasn’t in the stars for me at the time.
|I love you, grill.|
About a week later, my sister’s now-husband David and I were out on the town for an evening of fun while my sister was working. It was a crisp June Friday night, and I remember it quite distinctly because we were at the Lakefront Festival of the Arts. As we were parting ways, David was kind of fidgety and asked that I call him when I got home safely. Now, he is a thoughtful guy, but even so this was a little out of character. I shrugged it off and made my way home. When I got home, it was pitch black and I had to gingerly climb the back stairs and then fumble around for the light switch in the kitchen so I could properly see to set my stuff down. There – set up right in the middle of my kitchen – was this grill. I remember first feeling shock and disbelief. It was singularly the kindest, most thoughtful, most generous thing anyone had ever done for me, before or since. I actually fell to my knees and cried from sheer gratitude.
That’s why I love the spirit of my sister and brother-in-law more than words can really say. They took one look at this grill and decided I needed it. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t Christmas or my birthday. It didn’t matter that it had a $400 price tag. What mattered was that it is okay to be ridiculously, over-the-top, crazy generous with the people you love every once in a while. What mattered was that it felt right to do something really, really nice for the sister who had experienced a rough couple of years and was just finding her way out of it. What mattered was that life is about celebrating, and this grill would be the center of celebrations – large and small – for years to come.
So here it is…my beautiful patio in all its glory, inspired by a grill. Cocktails and grilled meats, anyone?
For your landscaper to deliver on having a patio that has a “strong visual appeal and exceedingly low maintainance” is a win in itself. It's actually quite easy to have either one of those, but hard to get both. Who knows, perhaps on your next project, you can expand this patio of yours into something bigger and better. And I hope that grill is seeing a lot of action! Take care!
Darrell Gardner @ Living Colour Gardens