Story by Karen Paton-Evans
Photography by Michael Pietrangelo
Helping generations of local families find adventure on the open road, Tom Raymond has just nailed the summer staycation in his own Tecumseh backyard.
Warm weather months comprise the busy season for the owner of Leisure Trailer Sales in Tecumseh. Taking care of customers who want travel trailers and motorhomes, Tom remains close to home. In the off-season, however, he and his wife, Linda, pack their suitcases and go. “We have traveled a lot to different resorts. Anytime we’re at one, we always look around and talk about what we would do if we ever put in a pool,” Tom says.
In August 2017, the couple decided to take the plunge. They engaged Chris Powers, a freelance designer who also works with Bellaire Landscape Inc., to design their personal escape and shared all the ideas they had collected for years. The Raymonds were thrilled when they saw Chris’ design. “It’s from different vacation spots that we’ve been to,” says Tom. “Each section of the yard has its own uniqueness.”
To make it happen, various local businesses collaborated to carry out specific components of the project. “It was a great team of people who worked well together. It all turned out beautifully,” Tom says.
Physical work got underway in mid-October, beginning with the removal of large trees and the excavation of a long, rectangular hole for the pool. With depths from 42 to 66 inches, “the pool is for playing around,” Tom says. Three submerged steps lead down into the shallow end. Underwater LED lights in 30 different changeable colours put on a show at night.
“Ours was one of the last pools that Relax Pools & Spas installed last year,” Tom recalls. “We just got it in and then the weather shut us down.”
The sounds of returning spring birds competed with the productive noise of the team hard at work.
Joe’s Cement Work poured the concrete decking around the pool.
Rock Solid Interlocking & Landscaping built a triple waterfall that flows from a contemporary concrete box into the pool. On top of the box are two large terracotta plant urns designed like fish, found at Origins World Inc.
Requiring minimal maintenance, the landscaping was also done by Rock Solid. Ornamental cedars were planted against the privacy fence. Lush ferns grow in urns. A Japanese maple provides year-round interest.
EuroSheds Inc. built the 10’ by 14’ wooden pre-fab shed housing the tiki bar, with a contained area for the pool equipment, electrical panel and storage. On one side the building, a big painted oar bearing the words ‘Tiki Bar’ hangs above a wide window. When Tom swings up the window and secures it out of view, a well-stocked bar inside is revealed. Four all-weather wicker bar stools line the bar counter. “That’s where everyone wants to sit,” Tom observes.
Decorating the tiki bar is a fun, ongoing project. For years, the Raymonds had picked up quirky and tropical accents, wall décor and other bits here and there. Tom says, “We stored them in my office, at home and in the garage. Now they are all in the tiki bar.”
With all the big features in place, Creative Homescapes enclosed the yard with a taupe vinyl privacy fence.
Appreciating the importance of recreation and relaxation, the Raymonds insisted their backyard be as low maintenance as possible. “I control everything to do with operating the pool on my iPhone,” Tom says.
To keep the salt water pool in sparkling condition, “every week, I bring a water sample to Relax Pools & Spas for testing,” says Tom. “They tell me if adjustments need to be made.”
Perhaps the easiest feature to look after is the 12’ by 20’ patch of green grass near one end of the pool. The faux turf never needs mowing or weeding. “It really brightens up that spot. We put it in mainly because we have a little dog,” Tom says. Any mess just hoses off.
When it comes to maintaining the backyard’s décor, “Linda is the one who arranges everything out there and keeps it looking great. I move some thing and she puts it back,” Tom chuckles.
There are plenty of spots to kick back in the backyard.
Loungers for swimmers and sunbathers line one side of the pool.
Under a big patio umbrella, a dark brown outdoor dining table and vinyl weather chairs from Patio Palace comfortably accommodate six hungry people.
A metal gazebo covers a sitting area arranged with coordinating brown all weather wicker armchairs and a loveseat. Brass and beaded lanterns suspended from the ceiling cast soft light after dark, encouraging family and friends to linger and swap stories.
The seat of honour is reserved for Tom at the shallow end of the pool. It’s a colourful Muskoka-style chair that the Raymond kids bought from Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Surf Shop to gift to their dad 15 years ago. The chair now has company: primary red, blue, green and yellow Muskoka chairs form a row beneath an umbrella.
“Linda and I are Jimmy Buffett freaks. We’ve seen him in concert and play channel 24, the Jimmy Buffett station on Sirius Satellite, on surround sound in our backyard,” Tom says.
The crew’s work on the backyard wrapped up in May – not a moment too soon for the excited Raymond family. “Now that the great weather is here, I’m tempted to leave work a little early each day,” Tom admits. Chances are he will find the pool already occupied by one granddaughter, age 5, and grandsons, ages 7 and 14. “They come over now and don’t want to leave,” Tom laughs. Summer days spent with grandma are already booked.
“This is a terrific spot for everyone to relax, chill and enjoy,” say Tom. “We’re going to have fun this summer!”