Get inspired to create your own outdoor retreat with this homeowner’s elaborate space.
Szafranski Pugh & Associates designed and built this Oklahoma prairie oasis complete with several entertaining areas, a large guest house, outdoor kitchen and man cave. The construction brought in elements of the Osage County surroundings along with unique touches to represent the owner's personality.
It isn’t every day that Tulsa landscape architect Carl Szafranski is given a project with an unlimited budget.
But one recent Osage County client did just that when he commissioned Szafranski Pugh & Associates to design and build the outdoor living space of his dreams.
The result is a stunning Oklahoma prairie oasis.
“He wanted to do something that we had never done and something that he had never seen, or a combination of those,” Szafranski says. “He really wanted to push the envelope of what the possibilities were.”
The client, who entertains weekly, wanted a space comfortable and intimate enough for a small dinner party of six but large enough to accommodate a company shindig for 400.
The outdoor retreat features several entertaining areas, including a 6,000-square-foot guest house, a man cave and an outdoor kitchen complete with a full bar.
The focal point is the grand 60-foot infinity-edge pool with 14 water features rivaling even the most elaborate of Las Vegas’ infamous hotel party pools. Programmable OASE rainbow-jumping jets and LED lighting create a spectacular and colorful water display during parties.
Large granite boulders placed along the pool’s edge look as if they are floating. A swim-up bar provides a perfect perch for in-pool refreshments, and a uniquely positioned fire pit offers a warm and intimate spot to gather, whatever the season.
“We did a sunken fire pit in the middle of the pool,” Szafranski says. “You walk across granite boulders to access the fire pit so that you can use it year-round even though you are surrounded by water.”
Overhead, a 10-inch-diameter stainless steel pipeline — a nod to the homeowner’s business — was repurposed as a distinctive water feature. Workers drilled holes into the pipe, which is suspended over the pool, to create a dramatic water curtain.
An all-flagstone patio surrounds the pool. Rough cedar and galvanized metal roofing comprise the covered structures to match the architectural ranch style of the main house.
“Wood is by far the No. 1 (choice) for arbors and overhead structures,” Szafranski says. “Usually cedar or fir (are preferred by clients), but cedar is probably the frontrunner for its insect resistance, ability to absorb stain or paint, the look and the cost. It’s a little bit less than fir and structurally sound.”
The kitchen is outfitted with appliances from Alfresco Grills and is topped off with what Szafranski calls “off the charts” audiovisual equipment that includes an 80-inch flat-screen television and two additional 42-inch TVs, all of which are controlled via the homeowner’s smartphone.
And, if all of that isn’t enough to make a party fun and memorable, perhaps the giant, custom-fabricated water gun made just for the owner’s amusement will.
“The owner of this house is a cut-up,” Szafranski says. “He’s a character. He’s fun. He plays. So, we actually (designed and managed the construction of) a huge brass water gun that he can attach into a separate line and shoot water about 60 feet across the yard.”
Keeping a yard’s green space “green” — environmentally friendly — is a popular request of homeowners today. Many want to turn it from drab to fab using sustainable materials and design features.
“My job as landscape architect is to make sure I’m a steward of the land,” says Cherlyn Reeves of Tom’s Outdoor Living. “It’s my job to not tear up more than we have to so that future generations have something when they are there. It’s trying to not tear up or take away too much. If you can reclaim something on the site and repurpose it into the design, that’s your sustainability.”
Reeves suggests looking around to see what is already in the space that can be reused or repurposed, such as reclaimed wood on site that can be used for fencing or incorporated into an overhead structure.
Or, consider enhancing an existing feature such as a fire pit and incorporating it into a new design rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch.
Sometimes landscaping alone is all a space needs to become a relaxing retreat.
“Tropicals in pots immediately give you a relaxing oasis feeling,” says Sue Welch, co-owner of The Garden Trug. “You can accomplish that similar look and feel with many perennial plants, as well, such as fig, canna, banana, hardy palm and fern.”
Welch also suggests using pottery, yard art and waterproof canvas art as low maintenance options to jazz up your landscape year-round.
Arid landscapes that can survive Oklahoma’s hot, dry summers have become popular in the past few years. Yuccas, many flowering perennials and some evergreens tolerate hot weather and drought, according to Welch. Incorporating various rock elements and fountain pots adds interest.
“Good landscaping can highlight the best features of a home and make it welcoming from all angles,” Welch says. “Poor landscaping can make a home look imposing, boring or uncared for.
“(Before you get started), know what sun exposure is available around your home. Do some research to know a little bit about the kinds of plants you like. Decide how much maintenance you want to do, if any, and have a budget in mind.”
Turning a barren back yard into a personal retreat is a common upgrade for many Oklahoma homeowners.
“It seems to me that more and more people are trying to spend more money revamping their yards and back yard living spaces instead of taking vacations,” says Cherlyn Reeves, landscape architect with Tom’s Outdoor Living.
Kitchens top the list of Metro Outdoor Living customers’ most requested outdoor additions, says Chad McMains, the company’s general manager. Other requests include feature pools, fire elements and overhead structures such as pergolas.
When the sun sets, the outdoor fun doesn’t have to end. Many homeowners are spending top dollar on elements such as lighting to create dramatic spaces that can be used night and day many months of the year.
“Low-voltage lighting has the market right now,” McMains says. “It’s highly cost effective once installed. There is some really neat technology put into the controls with multiple settings for different areas of an outdoor kitchen.”
Adding all of these features — a kitchen, fireplace, pool and the like — will cost an average of $5,000-$15,000 on the low end of the spectrum and $15,000-$75,000 on the high end depending on the materials used, according to McMains. Stone, for example, is twice the cost of brick.
“It’s hard to put a number on (the average cost of an outdoor space),” he says. “We have a wide array of customers. We have some clients who come in who are looking for a cart grill to put on their back porch, and we have clients who are looking to spend $10,000-$100,000-plus to get a kitchen, sink, fridge, beer tap, exotic wood, exotic stone and patio furniture.”
No matter the budget, the most important factor to consider when creating an outdoor oasis is how the materials will withstand the sometimes-harsh Oklahoma elements such as wind, rain, extreme heat and cold.
“A lot of our clients are allowing us to get into what we call bulletproof materials (no maintenance or low maintenance), where we’re doing granite countertops, concrete countertops, all masonry and low framing of any kind,” Szafranski says. “We’re using a lot of steel in our overhead structures.”
Compared to wood, he says steel is stronger, is longer lasting and provides a different look.