Hot Fun in the Summertime

An interior designer and an architect collaborate to create a backyard space that’s as functional as it is pretty.

Sharon Klesse likes to joke that she arrived on the scene just in time. Just in time, that is, to put her distinctive touch on her soon-to-be-husband’s Short Hills home.  Here’s the backstory:

Interior designer Sharon met architect Tim Klesse on a job—Sharon’s brother’s house—which resulted in a seamless collaboration. So seamless, in fact, that—fast-forward a couple of years—the couple married in 2009. Sharon, along with her two sons, Evan (now 13) and Harrison (now 11), moved into Tim’s home with him and his son, Timmy (now 17). As luck would have it, Tim was planning a major renovation, with construction plans already completed to expand the kitchen and laundry room and add a mudroom. “I showed up just in time for paint colors,” says Sharon. “I picked the tiles, the countertop materials and the fabrics. I made my mark.”

As rewarding as that experience was inside, a similar situation was taking place outside. Tim already had a backyard patio—complete with a hot tub, built-in barbecue station and a tranquil koi (and occasionally frog) pond. It was an intimate area for relaxing alone or entertaining. It was Sharon, however, who came in and enhanced it. She replanted, adding shrubs and flowers to create a rich, green environment. She added flowerpots and birdhouses and developed the space’s cohesive color palette—vibrant orange offset by lush green. “I love pulling it all together, accessorizing and adding the finishing touches,” she says. “Bright colors make you happy,” she says.

The result is a collaborative effort, an outdoor space that is attractive and fully functional. “It’s pretty and it works,” says Sharon; a designer’s—and architect’s—ultimate goal.

 Now the back patio is the go-to space for entertaining. While the Klesses enjoy more formal dinners during the winter months, in the summer it’s all about the backyard. “It’s so conducive to entertaining,” says Sharon. “The back door is right off the kitchen and the patio is right there.” The couple enjoy grilling, a task made easier since Tim already had the grill area, complete with a prep sink and storage cabinets beneath.

While Tim is the grill master, Sharon focuses on the aesthetics. She prepares everything in advance, from setting the table to arranging the bar area and having everything ready to serve. “So I’m acting like a guest when the party starts,” she says.

The backyard gets plenty of use even when the couple isn’t entertaining. While Tim tends to the koi pond—“he feeds the fish and the frogs,” says Sharon—she tends to the plants and flowers, as well as an herb garden with rosemary, basil, cilantro and dill. The boys like hanging out, whether it’s in the hot tub or just gathering around the table with friends. The space even gets use after dark since Tim designed a lighting plan for the entire patio, creating a sparkly night-time haven.

“It really is ideal,” Sharon says. “It’s secluded and private, intimate and cozy. We make use of every inch of space.”

(Photos by Joe Polillio)

Sharon Klesse Interiors:
Tim Klesse Architects:
38 Chatham Road, Short Hills, 973-379-6602
Landscaping, planting, pond and pavers:
Anthony Leone, 908-305-2170
Grill station and stonework:
Luigi Santagata, 973-390-7149

Click here to read about cool summer products that can spice up your outdoor entertaining spaces.


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