A Backyard for the Generations

Cape Cod Home  /  Summer 2020 /

Writer: Elizabeth Shaw / Photographer: Mike Crane 

How do you design a backyard that can be enjoyed by every generation of family that comes to visit? Get some inspiration from Blue Claw Associates and the Welchs!
Staging and merchandise provided by Summerland Homes & Gardens and Coastal Style in Osterville.

It’s a warm summer evening on the Cape. The family just got back from a perfect day at the beach in Chatham. The kids are sun tired and the adults are ready for a cocktail and dinner, but as the sun goes in, the desire to stay out remains strong. At this home in Chatham, you may never want to go inside again. 

For Jim Welch and his family, it’s only ever been Chatham. His mother stayed in Chatham, brought her kids to Chatham and when it came time for Jim and his family to create their own Cape memories, there was no other choice but Chatham. So since 1998, the Welch family has spent endless summer days at this beautiful Chatham residence. After years in the home, an addition required them to reevaluate what they wanted their backyard to be. “Off the dining room slider, we used to have a porch with a little pergola above it, a small patio sitting area, and the rest of the backyard was just basically a wasteland of overgrowth,” says owner Jim Welch. “At one point, we had put a little secret garden back there, which was very cool, but very hard to take care of. When we put the addition on the house, we had to blow away the backyard. We had a clean slate. So we said ‘Okay, what do we really want to do here?’ We started with what we really wanted: a place for a fire, a place to gather, we had the hot tub that we moved closer to the house, and we wanted an outdoor kitchen, which came out beyond our wildest dreams.” Working with Don Connelly of Orleans’ JC Donald Company and Ian McCarthy of Blue Claw Associates in Osterville, the Welchs were able to create the backyard of their dreams. 

Guests stepping out of the house are immediately greeted by an oversized pergola shading a dining table that comfortably seats 16. “Our old pergola was on the smaller side, maybe only 8 or 10 feet wide, and it had a picnic table under it. It worked fine, but when we started talking to our landscape architect, Phil Cheney, about a kitchen, we had envisioned something that was a big L, and he said ‘Well let me incorporate it into the other stonewalls and see what I can come up with.’ I told him it sounded great, but I wanted a pergola out there; can we even get one that big?” laughs Welch. “Don looked around and found one. It’s basically a kit, made from aluminum and fiberglass so it’ll last forever. But, I think that’s the biggest one he could find.”

“I was looking through a magazine and saw the putting green, and thought that was a great idea. We have six grandchildren, and our kids loved to play in the sand box, so we put one in the corner. It’s all really evolved over time”- Jim Welch

An outdoor kitchen means never having to go inside. Situated within the L-shaped stone wall, a large grill provides Welch with all his summer cooking needs, while a stainless steel sink helps with the clean up. With plenty of prep space and even more seating thanks to the large blue stone counter, every entertaining need can be met. The eye catching stonework done by his craftsmen is a point of pride for McCarthy. “I’m a big fan of stonework, so I was excited about the project because it allowed our masons to really show their talents because there is so much stonework on the project,” he explains. “Working with Phil Cheney, I was able to see his plans from a bird’s-eye view with the curved planter beds and the seat wall. I then would take a drone photo and overlay them and see how they match up, which was really cool.”

To the right of the kitchen and dining area is the grandkids’ favorite spot, featuring an oversized chess set and the hot tub. “We were shopping for furniture and we saw those big chess pieces used as decoration, and we said, ‘We gotta have a huge chess set!’” says Welch. “I’ve been playing FaceTime chess with my grandson in Falmouth who hasn’t been able to come visit. And, when the littlest ones are here, they don’t know how to play yet, so they just move the pieces around the board for fun. They move a piece and yell, ‘Chess!’” While the kids play their own version of chess, or explore the sand box, the adults can practice their short game on the putting green, or relax by the focal point of the entire space: a massive outdoor fireplace that demonstrates McCarthy’s team’s expertise. With something for everyone, it’s a wonder that anyone ever goes inside.    

The substantial pergola was the biggest one that could be found, providing the perfect cover for large gatherings around the dining table and along the stone bar area.

McCarthy notes the increase in these kinds of have-it-all backyard spaces. “I see the trend toward outdoor living and people wanting to have a resort in their own backyard to spend time with family and friends. You have the fire, the outdoor kitchen, the putting green, and a lot of these projects incorporate swimming pools as well. Years ago, people would strive to have a green backyard, and now it’s getting more complex, almost like an addition to the house, but you’re under the sun and stars. It was great working with the Welchs and getting to know them. They’d been in this house for years before they got to a point in their lives when they could realize renovating the house in order to update and capture a view, but also create such a great space in the backyard.” 

Visit Blue Claw online at bluclawassociates.com and Summerland Homes & Gardens at summerlandhomesandgardens.com!

For more outdoor living inspiration, check out the rest of HOME Summer 2020 here!

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth Shaw is a former assistant editor, photographer & videographer for Cape Cod Life Publications. Born and raised in Massachusetts, Elizabeth spent many summers on the Cape, before she and her family moved down full time in 2016. She graduated from the University of Rhode Island as a double major in Writing & Rhetoric and Film Media, and started at Cape Cod Life the following fall. In her free time, she takes as many pictures of her dog, Watson, as possible, in between beach trips.