A Family Affair

Drawing on the expertise of family and friends, a Basking Ridge homeowner designs an outdoor structure for all of them to enjoy.

Despite a full-time career in finance, Tim Caffrey always fancied himself an architect, designer and builder. “It’s a passionate hobby,” he explains, “it’s my golf.” Lucky for him, he has an extended family of professionals in the business: Tim’s brother Dan is a landscaper; his father-in-law, Bob, a plumber; his brother-in-law, Lou, an electrician; his stepfather, Mike, a carpenter; and his long-time friend Darrick, a builder. So after Tim sketches an idea—as he did with this ambitious backyard structure—he knows exactly who to call. “These are all my go-to guys,” Tim says.

The Caffreys moved to their Basking Ridge house 17 years ago. There, Tim and wife Robin have raised their four children—Matthew, 24, Caitlin, 22, Meghan, 19, and Patrick, 17—while expanding and renovating the original structure. “When we bought the house, it was a red brick-faced ranch,” says Tim. They tore it down to the studs, leaving a single wall, and rebuilt, adding a family room, kitchen and an entire second floor. Tim had a rough vision of expanding the outdoor space as well, but, he says, “life got in the way. We postponed it for a period.” Then, when the time was right, he took it on with zest. “We love spending time outside, and we really wanted a place for the family to gather,” he adds.

Drawing on inspiration from a childhood spent partially in the Colorado Rockies, Tim had a rough vision of a heavy wood-trussed structure; sort of a gabled house without walls. Then, after a vacation with Robin at the Lake Placid Lodge—a winter getaway where the couple spent many cozy hours wrapped in fleece blankets near an enormous outdoor fireplace—Tim’s vision was complete: A massive stone fireplace would anchor their outdoor structure, creating a four-season living space on the backyard deck.

Once Tim sketched the initial plan, he recognized that he needed a licensed professional. He consulted with his business partner Bob Caffrey, and brought in architect John Heyrich to make workable construction drawings to secure the permits. Then it was time to call on his go-to guys.

“Lou, Bob, Mike and Darrick all helped build this,” says Tim, referring to his sister’s husband, Lou Pepe; his father-in-law, Bob Campione; his stepfather, Mike Strelec and his good friend Darrick Anderson. Tim’s brother Dan did the excavating and the new landscaping. The men worked side-by-side for several months. Tim says he hired a few guys to build the rough frame and a mason to lay the stone and bricks but, otherwise, it was a hands-on family experience. Since Tim works locally (after putting in 20-plus years on Wall Street), he was able to keep tabs on the progress. “I have a real short commute, so I would come back and forth during the day,” he says. 

Meanwhile, to pull the space together, Robin called on interior designer Kim Carluccio-Wasser, of Once Upon a Table in nearby Chester, who had helped with the home’s interior. “It was a challenge,” says Carluccio-Wasser. “Tim wanted Aspen, Colorado, and Robin is a little more fussy and frou-frou. I had to meld it all together.” The result is a practical and beautiful space that’s entirely weatherproof. “With the exception of a few pillows, everything here is indoor-outdoor. Even in a rainstorm, they don’t need to bring anything in,” says the designer.

Several years in the making, Tim’s vision was finally complete—just in time for his 50th-birthday celebration, the first party of many hosted in the new outdoor space. That party was followed shortly by a pre-prom party for Patrick—“there were lots of moms and dads here, snapping pictures,” says Tim. With all four kids home for the summer, the space has seen a lot of use. “The kids started putting a calendar together right from the start, so they could each have individual parties,” Tim jokes, and Robin likes nothing more than hosting Sunday family dinners, which have become Sunday family barbecues. And Tim? He’s looking forward to fall: “I plan to enjoy football season out here,” he says, “with a roaring fire, a glass or two of wine,” and, no doubt, lots of family.

Photos by Laura Moss.

Darrick Anderson Camelot Custom

Bob Caffrey
Berkeley Construction 908-303-1641

Dan Caffrey
Cafco Landscaping

Bob Campione
CamCo Plumbing

Kim Carluccio-Wasser
Once Upon A Table

Will Evertz
Eastern Outdoor

John Heyrich
Heyrich Architect

Lou Pepe
Al Pepe & Sons

Tony Puli
Puli Construction & Mason

Dave Sainato
Waverly TV
(outdoor sound system)

Michael Strelec
Michael Strelec Carpentry
Outdoor TV, Skyvue TV 877-475-9883



Warming Trends

It’s simple to heat your deck, patio or backyard and extend the outdoor living season—without building an entire outdoor fireplace. Fire pits of all kinds are the rage in backyard living. You can buy a ready-made, easy-to-assemble fire pit table, grill, tub or hearth at any of the big-box chains and many specialty shops. Or have a landscape designer create a custom fire pit for you. Some are propane-fed, others burn wood. A few of our favorites:

It’s like a rustic camping trip when family and friends gather around this fire pit. Literally a pit, it’s accessed by meandering stepping stones through the backyard. The 24-inch opening is lined with natural fieldstone and encircled with boulders for safety. A steel drain in the center sucks away water, preventing the fire pit from becoming muddy. Custom built by Rich Cording, CLC Landscape Design, Ringwood; 973-839-6026; clcdesign.com.

Starting as low as about $100, fire pit and fireplace options are plentiful at home stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s and chains like Target or Wal-Mart. The Saratoga outdoor fireplace is a wood-burning steel structure with a protective screen; $149.99. The 36-inch square amber glass fire bowl is made of powder-coated steel for extended outdoor use; $169.99. Both available at target.com.

This bayfront fire pit is built from natural ledge-style fieldstone. It’s gas-fed, with stainless steel self-ignition, much like a gas grill, triggered by a wall switch. Located on Manahawkin Bay in Long Beach Island, it’s the ideal spot to spend a peaceful evening.

Custom built by Reynolds Landscaping and Design, Manahawkin; 609-597-6099;

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