Our Next Big Project :: A Backyard for Actual People

We bought this house three years ago with our eyes wide open.

One of the best and also worst parts about this place was that it had a swimming pool. We didn’t buy the house because of the pool but, in spite of it.

Sadly, this old vinyl pool is thirty years old with a broken main drain, multiple leaks and is falling apart. Just keeping it clear and clean is a part-time job.

The first year we lived here it looked like this half the time.  We figured out that our well water that has a bunch of iron it and kept running into mysterious quirks of the pool and what parts were and were not working.

When you buy a house with a pool you are pledging your commitment to either take care of it, or to fill it in.

The time has come and we are planning on redoing the pool as part of our bigger goal of creating a more welcoming and purposeful place for hanging out with people.


We’re planning on keeping it as simple as possible–and I can’t wait to have straight lines instead of all those wacky angles. Right now the pool feels like a weird place in the backyard that’s separate from the house. In many ways we’ve felt like we don’t really have a back yard, at least not the kind where people can gather and we are really looking forward to changing that.

If people don’t hang out in the backyard then it’s kind of pointless.

The goal is to redo the pool so we can use it and properly care for it and turn it into a welcoming hang out spot for people that feels like an extension of our home instead of like a blue (or green) hole in our backyard surrounded by a fence.

Our Backyard Goals:

A Simple Pool with drains and pumps that work!

We are going for a small rectangle pool without a lot of concrete around it.

A Focal Point that can be used in the winter with fire pit or fireplace,

We are lucky enough to be able to use a pool for almost 6 months out of the year. We want to still enjoy the backyard area in the cool months, so providing something warm is a priority.

A Gathering Place with comfy seating & place to feed people.

You know I’m big on seating and places for people to Be. We want to have both comfy seating for long conversations and enough seats and surfaces for eating actual meals in the backyard together.

My plan is to incorporate a Neighbor’s Table (or two!) where we can gather lots of people to eat at one table together in our backyard. Glory!

Neighbor’s Table was started by Sarah Harmeyer who I got to hang out with for 10 days last year and has become my mentor in gathering people purposely. Y’all, she has gathered almost 2500 people around her own table (my hero!)!! And she wants us to do the same.

Here’s more about the Neighbor’s Table mission (watch out you will fall in love). Be sure to check out her shop (I adore the table tokens) and her adorable dad!


I am SO excited to finally get to start working on this backyard. I’ve been giving this pool dirty looks and hopeful glances for over three years now. It’s the biggest renovation project we’ve done yet and I am beyond intimidated. But I know it will be worth it to continue to create places here on our property for people to connect. Especially a place for our boys to hang out with their friends. This is why we moved out to the country to a fixer upper–we want to host people and create a place to relax, connect and just be.

PS, speaking of people coming and relaxing and Be-ing, my husband Chad is hosting the fourth annual ManTime in April here at our imperfect, in-process property. ManTime sells out every year and is the perfect place for your introverted or extroverted husband to spend a weekend being encouraged. Click here and then on “event’s to find out more.

Psst, it’s 9 months later, come see our progress on the backyard here.






  1. My kind of project! Just make sure that you and whoever you work with don’t get so laser-focused on the pool area that you forget about how the pool area will connect with the rest of you property. Plan the Great Big Picture and make room for your dreams!

  2. How exciting! It’s a life goal of mine to have a house with a pool! Looking forward to following along as you fix yours up! :)

  3. Kristina says

    We lived with a weird, ugly, crumbling pool (c. 1960) for about 10 years before we remodeled it. It didn’t have anything resembling a pool sweep – we had to vacuum it. which was horrible. We are farmers, and during harvest EVERY YEAR we forgot to add chemicals, and it turned green and frogs and dragonflies moved in, which had its charms, but still. Every spring was a terrible project to get it going again. Then we totally redid the whole thing – plaster, filtration, new up to code drains, et voila! No more hassle to maintain. A new pool is sooo much easier to maintain, you won’t even believe it. We also built a propane fire feature, and now our friends call and ask when “fire time” is. So many awesome conversations, so much great music made, so many teen parties and sweet courting out there with our daughters and their high school boyfriends (shhhh, I was peeking). You are just the folks to love it.

  4. Our house came with a huge above-ground pool and large deck/fence that was constructed completely with nails (not screws). The deck is falling and leaning and it’s all getting tore down and the pool filled in this spring/summer. I can’t wait to have a large usable part of my yard back! The previous owner put the pool in the worst place!! Also, it used to cost us $100-$200 per month to run it in the summer and we have long summers here too.

  5. This is so lovely. I cannot wait to see what you do with it. I love the idea of being a purposeful entertainer. It keeps your focus in the right place (gathering and fellowship) and not on perfection. Something I really struggle with and sometimes I ruin entertaining for myself by focusing on the wrong things. I would love to hear more about what you do to calm yourself (as an introvert myself i struggle) and open your home for the right reasons.

  6. I can just imagine how gorgeous this outdoor space will be when you finish it! So excited for you!

    PS: My grandparents have a huge pergola with porch swings and a firepit beside their pool and it is one of our favorite places to hang. Just a suggestion =)

  7. Making my backyard and pool area inviting is a goal of mine, too. I love the idea of the neighbor’s table. And I can’t help but think how nostalgic it is at your property was once a sawmill and soon will have a large wooden neighbor’s table to host meaningful gatherings of people you care about. It will be a full circle moment. Great goal.

  8. Have you ever heard of natural pools? They use plants to clean the pool instead of chemicals. Kind of look like a pretty pond but totally safe to swim in. Can’t wait to see what you do!

  9. Bethaney says

    We bought an old crumbling house and pool seven years ago and had to wait a few years to remodel it. Like you, we saw it as a potential liability rather than an asset, but I can now say we were wrong. It has been a highlight of our summers. In the summer, my husband and I have early morning coffee by the pool without the kids. After a hot morning of chores and garden work we can jump right in. (Never thought i’d get into the habit of gardening in my bathing suit!) We grill by the pool, read by the pool, have fires by the pool, watch the bats come out and swoop close over our heads, and fall asleep on the couches by the pool. We feel like we live in a vacation house all summer. When we finally had enough money to remodel it, we went with a salt water system and have never regretted it. So many memories have been made because of the pool for our kids and our friends. I do not regret it at all! Enjoy!

  10. Can’t wait to see what transpires! Where on your website is the subscribe button/bar? I’ve looked and looked and just not seeing it!

  11. Go with a salt water pool to cut way down on maintenance and the expense. We love ours and all we do is clean the filters and once every few months pour a bag of salt in. No other chemicals needed! Initially the cost to install is higher but you will save tons of $ by not using chemicals.

  12. Such a beautiful backyard! I’m so jealous. I hope I have a beautiful big backyard like that.

  13. our backyard has been on our list for SO long. So glad the kitchen is done, but WHEN are we gonna do that backyard! ha!!!!! xoxo Cant wait to see your progress, sweet friend!

  14. I went to college with Sarah Harmeyer! I’m excited to see what you do.

  15. Wow I didn’t realise that pools require so much maintenance! Definitely would be a consideration when it comes to purchasing a house featuring one. I’m glad that you’re putting in the effort to revamp your existing one and can’t wait to see the update!

  16. The house is very nice and the yard is very spacious. The scenery is beautiful too. thank you for sharing

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