May 29,2022

Better Late Than Never: This Backyard Reno Took an Austin Couple 12 Years to Start

by David Stewart

When COVID-19 hit right as the construction permit for Camille Styles ’s home was approved, she took it as a sign. “We really took a step back and looked at the big picture,” the author , wellness influencer, and founder of a must-read lifestyle site reflects on a time when she and her husband had plans to undertake a full home renovation. Instead, the couple decided to enjoy the luxury of locking down in their Austin family home and taking the time to tackle a project that they’d been avoiding for more than a decade.

After purchasing a property in Austin, including a worn-down home and an outdoor area that appeared to be “basically a forest,” the couple was greeted by deteriorating terracing left over from the original infrastructure Camille assumes was built sometime in the 1940s or 1950s. “It reminded us of stone terracing that we’d seen when we were in Italy,” she says. Little did they know that this happy surprise would influence an entire renovation nearly 12 years later.

BEFORE: The remnants of the cascading terracing left behind by the home’s previous owners.

AFTER: “Over time, [my husband] and his dad would go in the backyard and slowly chip away at clearing it out so that we could have a clearer picture of the area we had to work with,” Camille says of the beginning days of the project.

Once the decision was made to renovate the entire bottom half of the outdoor space (the backyard is built on several levels), it was full speed ahead. Although Camille’s husband did take on most of the “grunt work” such as clearing out the grounds himself, the couple decided to hire a friend, landscape architect Cameron Campbell . “Dealing with such a big and unstructured space, it was tough for us to wrap our minds around what we wanted,” she remembers. “Cameron really helped provide structure to guide us.”

“If it were up to me and my husband, I’m sure we would’ve had much more angular lines,” Camille says of her landscape architect’s playful and organic addition to the not-so-perfect angles of the new and improved terracing.

Taking inspiration from their trips around Europe, the couple hoped to create a space that combined minimalist modern with the preexisting natural and organic elements surrounding the home. “Seeing all of the stone structures in Mallorca showed us that we really wanted to strike a balance between Old World materials and a modern feel,” Camille says of her travels. As for the abundant greenery scattered throughout the backyard, she says the secret was really identifying cohesion between feasibility and imagination: “It was just finding that sweet spot of planting things that we knew would work in this part of Austin but also had that European [vibe],” she says of the olive trees and rosemary bushes planted throughout.

AFTER: A finished fire pit rests beneath layers of lavender and foliage.

BEFORE: “I was so surprised,” Camille remarks of the larger-than-planned size of the fire pit, but the over-the-top space lends itself well to dinner parties.

But the organic inspiration did not end there. “Even the staircase and fire pit have very rounded curves,” she notes of the effort made to maintain the integrity of the preexisting structures. The fire pit, whose large size took Camille by surprise, was one of the major discussion points of the renovation. “The vision was that we wanted to gather people together to enjoy each other’s company and open-fire cooking.” With lots of heavy lifting and a bit of manifestation sprinkled in for good measure, Camille’s dream came to life.

Crate and Barrel outdoor seating is nestled in the couple’s ever-growing garden.

The curved staircase “was actually the most difficult and expensive part of the whole thing,” Camille says with a laugh. Makes sense when each stone weighs about 300 pounds.

Envisioning the dinner parties and countless memories to be made, Camille and her family plan to enjoy their newly finished home for as long as possible. Her advice for anyone looking to go the reno route? “Do a little bit at a time,” she jokes in a cautious tone. “It took my husband and me 10 years to start working on our backyard just because we were so intimidated.” As for her final thoughts on the grandiosity of it all, she states wisely: “When you have a big project, all you can do is break it down and just get started.”

  • David Stewart
  • May 29,2022

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