After cancelling last year for the first time in nearly a half-century, the Short North Tour of Homes and Gardens will return next Sunday.
Out of COVID precautions, the tour has dropped the homes portion to focus on the outdoors, along with one indoor bonus.
“Last year, we felt we had to cancel,” said Masana Mona, who is chairing the tour with Gayle Rosen. “But this year, we decided to hold it but to focus on the outdoors out of the safety of the patrons and homeowners.”
Starting at the caretaker’s cottage at Goodale Park, the tour will showcase eight yards, all of them a short walk from the park, before ending with a free visit at the Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art — exploring the grounds as well as inside the gallery. Highlights include “Coco Manor,” at the corner of Buttles Avenue and Park Street, a landscaper’s house rich with plants, and a poolside patio.
Celebrating outdoor spaces may be just the thing during these pandemic times. For many homeowners in the Short North and elsewhere, yards, porches, patios and decks provided sanctuary and socialization over the past 17 months.
“I spent more time in the yard than ever before,” said Haley Boehning, whose yard will be on the Short North tour. “This backyard really saved me. It enabled me to keep those connections. … It enabled that sense of community to continue.”
Boehning’s yard served as a personal retreat as well as a gathering spot for neighbors and an occasional office for the staff at her consulting firm Storyforge.
It’s no accident that her home’s outside did the duties of the inside. That was exactly the idea when she made over the yard five years ago.
Working with Ketron Custom Builders in Granville, who remodeled her home 14 years ago, Boehning set out to create indoor spaces outdoors: a kitchen, a living room and a dining room, along with a cozy fire-lit den and even a foyer.
Except for a large black walnut tree at the back of the yard, Boehning was working with a blank slate approximately 30-by-55 feet.
“There was an old fence around it, and just grass,” she said. “I called it the soccer pitch.”
Boehning had a handful of goals in the remodel.
“I’m a weekend gardener. I wanted something beautiful that didn’t take a lot of skills to maintain. I also love to cook, so I wanted a nice kitchen space, and I wanted a place people could gather around the kitchen. And a place to eat.”
The result is a series of spaces both flowing and defined.
Next to the home is the kitchen, with a gas grill (“for the weekdays”) and a Big Green Egg grill (“for the weekends”), both part of a long outdoor countertop.
Close enough to the kitchen for conversation is the living space — two sofas and two chairs around two tables, covered with a commercial-grade cantilevered, 10-by-14-foot umbrella anchored in the ground. “I’m translucent,” Boehning jokes. “I have to have shade.”
Two steps down is the dining space featuring a sleek waterfall and a 10-seat table topped with a hefty, 13-by-16-foot pergola.
“When I came home during the renovations and saw all that cedar stacked up, I thought, ‘What have I done?’ I had a panic attack when I saw all that lumber,” Boehning said. “But Travis (Ketron, the owner of Ketron Custom Builders) said we needed something with weight given the size of the yard. He was right. It feels right for the yard. The pergola feels balanced with the house.”
Guests enter the yard through a gate on the side of the house leading through a vegetable-and-herb-lined corridor that serves as a foyer to the backyard “home.” Adding to the interior-like effect of the space are hidden speakers, exterior Wi-Fi, multiple outlets and dimmable lights casting a glow over the plants and the dining and living spaces.
Boehning and Ketron framed the space with a double-sided cedar fence on the sides. At the back of the yard, they added siding and faux windows to give the cinder-block garage a facade mimicking the house.
Boehning’s backyard has much of the functionality of a home’s interior, but it is, in the end, outdoors. Boehning wanted to feel like she was walking into a plant-filled room, so the space is enclosed with flora.
Along one side of the yard is a raised bed filled with weeping cherries draped over hydrangeas. Arborvitaes line the opposite side. Wisteria climbs the pergola columns.
“I like the idea of a big green room,” she said.
If you go
The Short North Tour of Homes and Gardens will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 19. The tour will feature eight gardens, the caretaker’s cottage at Goodale Park and the Pizzuti Collection of the Columbus Museum of Art. Tickets cost $20 in advance or $25 the day of the tour. Proceeds fund the Short North Civic Association. For details and to purchase tickets, visit ShortNorthCivic.org.
A preview tour and rooftop party will take place from 4 to 10 p.m. Sept. 18 at Hubbard Park Place, 797 N. Wall St. Tickets cost $100 and can also be purchased at ShortNorthCivic.org.