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Signal Mountain yard offers outdoor oasis

You would be hard-pressed to find a yard on Signal Mountain that doesn't capitalize on some form of beauty. From overlooks to woodlands, the houses dotting the mountainside possess enviable property.

For the Church family, the natural beauty of Signal Mountain proved to be the inspiration needed to turn their backyard into an oasis that draws them constantly to the outdoors.

The Churches — Chris, Lynette and their two children, Angie and Eric — have been living on Signal Mountain for 10 years, but it wasn't until about six years in that they began to plan their backyard redesign. It was their midlife crisis, says Lynette, but one that was well planned.

Their former house boasted a large porch, and they had grown to love the time they spent on it. This new house only featured a small screened-in porch, but the Churches fell in love with their large yard and wanted to maximize it. So they hired a designer and spent one February sitting in their kitchen, staring out the small window and planning their dream yard.

The design itself took three to four months to finish, with another nine months added before the yard was finished. The result was a backyard perfect for outdoor living.

An elaborate kitchen sits to one side, complete with a smoker, a grill and a big burner for lobster or crawfish bowls. The kitchen is covered and a bar wraps around one side, ending in a half-circle that allows large groups to gather close. "I like this," Lynette says in reference to the bar. "It seems to pull the conversation in."

On the other side of the yard sits a pool and hot tub. It's a saltwater pool, and spacious enough that Chris can swim laps. Perhaps the highlight of the pool section is the fire bowls that sit on either side of the hot tub. The blue rocks are eye-catching as is, but at the press of a button, blue flames begin to dance above them.

In the center of the yard sits a stone fireplace. Halfway up the chimney are wooden doors concealing a TV. With the couches in front, it's a great spot for movie night or watching football, Lynette says. Additionally, the TV pulls out and swivels. "My only requirement was I had to be able to sit in the hot tub with the fire bowl and watch my football," Lynette says with a laugh.

Both she and Chris have nautical backgrounds — he worked in submarines, she is still in the Navy Reserve — and they've added small touches in tribute to their past. On either side of the pool are lights designed like old sea lanterns. When on, they glow red and green, marking port and starboard and turning the pool into a ship. A bronze mermaid sits atop the pavilion. Her body is curved, tail posed mid-flip as she swims through the air. She's the gem of their yard, Lynette says. "I think we had more fun putting that mermaid up there than anything else we did."

Along with nautical touches, the Churches added a rustic theme to the design. Their house is Southern, with white paneling and light floors, but they love the feel of mountain cabins. Designing the yard to be rustic proved easier than redoing the whole house. The darker wood and extensive stonework give a touch of mountain feel, while the open-air design allows visitors to still feel out of doors.

One of the most impressive features is not in the design, but rather in the network controlling every aspect of the house. Accessed through an app or a remote, the Churches are able to customize lights, music and TV with the tap of a button. Even the pool is controlled through an app.

The vast network allows for Wi-Fi and TV access out in the yard. Lynette enjoys her morning coffee and news at the bar and the kids often spend evenings doing homework on the deck. On weekends, the yard often turns into tailgate central. Eric plays soccer and Angie is in the marching band, and home games provide a chance to have people over and grill. This year is also prom, and the Churches will be putting the yard to use for an after-prom party.

While the yard is mostly complete, there are still a few additions the Churches hope to add. Lynette wants another raised bed along the side of the house. She has one where she grows herbs, but would like to try her hand at zucchini. In the back sits a trampoline, but Eric is in negotiations to have it replaced with a putting green. "Hopefully that's a future goal," says Lynette.

For now, they're enjoying the transition from cold weather to warm. The sun hits the yard just right in the afternoon, warming the deck chairs and sending light streaming through the woods behind the house. It was these woods that caused the Churches to first fall in love with their yard. At sunset, they're gorgeous, Lynette says.

"We just really enjoy being outside here."