Before & After: Worth the wait

Witness a stunning transformation of a backyard paradise 20 years in the making.

Story by Barry Kaufman + After photos by Blake Crosby

There’s a saying that varies from telling to telling, but most know it as “the cobbler’s children go barefoot.” Essentially it means that those who provide the best services to others often have to wait in line like everyone else when it comes to providing that service for themselves.

Teresa Kunich of Group 5 Design is no exception. A sought-after interior designer, she has made her mark not just as a talented staging artist but also as an inspired remodeling expert. Inside and outside, she has guided countless projects to stunning fruition. Likewise, husband Don is an experienced contractor. But when it came to their own house, there was one project that hovered on the couple’s to-do list for decades. 

“We had been in this house for 20 years before we actually started to finish the back patio,” said Teresa. “My daughter got married, and we were planning on having a party back there, so we just said, ‘We should do this now or it would have to be another 20 years.”

Kunich reached out to the team at Savannah Surfaces to help complete the project. The back yard was beautifully transformed in the nick of time for the nuptials, and as you can see from the photos here, it was worth the wait.

Patio paradise


The five feet of elevated deck on the back mirrors the design of the front of the house. “It’s a butterfly-shaped house, as my husband likes to call it,” joked Teresa. 

To add visual interest and bring it more in line with the new darker trim, a classic Lowcountry-style tin roof was added above, the wrought-iron railing was replaced with floor-to-ceiling screens, and arched recesses were added with decorative pea gravel. As they have on so many projects, the Kuniches worked side-by-side with Melvin Fields of Fields and Company, with Don working on finishes.   

On the floor 3/4-inch Indian sandstone in seagrass, installed by Floors & Stones, LLC, transitions to the pavers around the pool deck. “ We are importers from India, so it’s an affordable natural stone,” said Lottie Anne Munday of Savannah Surfaces. “And we pre-palletize it in a four-piece patterns, so it is very easy to install.”

Pool deck do-over


That same sandstone was laid around the pool deck, expanding it from the previous utilitarian concrete decking. 

“It has a natural cleft, so it is a great non-slip exterior surface,” said Munday. The addition of a penetrating non-stick sealer allows the stone to retain its texture while making it more resistant to humidity and the occasional spilled wine (either of which, as we all know, are a part of life in the Lowcountry). “But being a natural stone, the elements don’t really break it down.”

And it’s not just rugged, it’s gorgeous. “The material is just stunning. It absolutely made the whole project,” said Teresa. “After we finished the back, we bought some more material and finished the front.”

Outdoor kitchen creation


The pavers continue into the outdoor kitchen where they mingle with materials ranging from stucco and stacked stone to tabby on the outer wall (not pictured). “Our whole house is done in that,” said Teresa. “It’s literally a tabby shell, very unique and different.”

At the center of the outdoor kitchen, a tile mosaic shows just how long the Kuniches had been dreaming up their outdoor living space. “We entered a drawing and won that at the Beaufort Water Festival 15 years ago,” said Teresa. “It sat under my bed until we could find a home for it… When you’re the builder, things happen slowly.”

The circular design of the mosaic will soon be complemented by the final piece of the outdoor kitchen – a full pizza oven designed by Don. It goes to show – the cobbler’s children may have to go barefoot for a while, but when they finally do get shoes, they are the nicest in town. “This was our third outdoor kitchen,” added Teresa. “If we had to, we’d do all the same things over again.”. 

Except, hopefully, wait another 20 years.

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