The Big Outdoors

Members customize outdoor living spaces for maximum year-round enjoyment


At first it was a slight increase, but then the trend rose like Carolina jasmine in spring. Over the past nine years, outdoor living spaces have emerged as the most popular special function room of homeowners. While this preference started to emerge well before 2020, COVID-19 pushed it into overdrive. More than 90% of Americans claim outdoor living space is more valuable than ever before. And they don’t want to just take a walk outside. They want to relax, cook, and play in their own backyard, utilizing every square inch of space. With exquisite views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, The Cliffs members are seizing new construction and design trends to maximize time outdoors. Let’s meet the neighbors.


Kerry Leiman chuckles when thinking of the move that almost happened. When she and Jon were first considering a vacation home, Arizona was the top contender. A visit to an Upstate friend literally changed the direction of their life. “I’m not exaggerating,” she says. “When we first stepped on this homesite, it took us 17 seconds for us to say, ‘This is where we’re going to be.’ We fell in love instantly and bought the homesite.”

That homesite sits inside The Landing at Keowee Springs and it’s where they spent the next two years building a five-bedroom, seven-bath home with Dillard-Jones, Preferred Builder at The Cliffs. “We wanted it to be right on the lake and it’s stunning,” she explains. “We built the house with friends, family and the future in mind.” The Leimans also wanted to take advantage of the climate and view they don’t get in Chicago.

They worked with Hot Springs Pools & Spas to build a pool and spa that hug the lake line. Leiman envisions herself playing with grandbabies on the tree-lined deck, while watching her kids kayak in the cove below. “We knew we didn’t want to be on open water,” she says. “We wanted to be on a cove, because it’s like a cul-de-sac. It’s about eight homes and everyone is so friendly.”

When guests visit, Leiman enjoys the ability to cook on a grill deck off the sidewall of the kitchen. “At first I wasn’t sure I’d like it,” the busy mom admits. “But it makes so much sense. It’s just big enough to fit a grill, smoker and counter. It’s made food prep so much easier.”

Her favorite spot is the screened-in porch. She gazes upon the water and points out, “It’s big enough for a fireplace, TV, seating area, and dining area with table and chairs. It’s so cozy. When I wake up in the morning, I like to open the sliding glass doors and sit there with the dog to ease into the day.”

The dog, Maizey, is frequently at her side—and in the water, which causes the Anatolian shepherd and Great Pyrenees mix to shed—a lot. “Oh, she’s a mess,” Leiman says shaking her head. “When you enter the house from the lake-side, we built a shower just for her in the mudroom! It’s all tiled and I can bathe her without bending over. It’s like it’s right out of a grooming station. She tolerates it. Maizey sits there and gives me the side eye.”

The Leimans say when they’re in the Midwest, they’re counting down the days until school is out and they can return to the Upstate sunshine. “This build process has been so smooth. Like we’re on an HGTV show,” she confides. “It’s been a seamless, wonderful experience. Now, we try to spend as much time here as we can.”

Brian & Janet Childs | The Cliffs at Walnut Cove

The sun’s rays are rising to tickle the Asheville skyline. Brian and Janet Childs sit and chat on their side deck. It’s one of four, separate outdoor seating areas they’ve designed at their home in Walnut Cove. “In the early morning, I like to sit and listen to the birds out here,” shares Brian. “We’ve put in a lot of plantings for pollinators. We see lots of activity with birds and wildlife. In the evening, we’ll watch the deer.”

The slate deck, surrounded by lush beds, was one of several priorities when the couple remodeled the home with guidance from Morgan-Keefe Builders, Preferred Builder at The Cliffs. “We gutted the whole first floor,” Brian says. “We bought the house in 2017. It was a traditional mountain house and we wanted a more contemporary, modern look, and we wanted to increase our outdoor living options.” He estimates he and Janet spend more than 70% of their waking hours outside. “We moved here from Florida and now live here full time,” he reveals. “We used to have a home in Jackson Hole. We love outdoor pursuits and outdoor living. The weather is perfect here with four seasons, but not super intense.”

During refurbishment, crews transformed an under-utilized lanai into an additional 500-square-feet of living space, elevated another area with decking and installed a covered, timber-frame porch. Those three focal points join an earlier construction and design project that features a fire pit. A few years prior, Water Dance installed the pit and a soothing waterfall that connects to a stream and filtered, illuminated pond. “If it’s really hot, we’ll sit under the timber frame, which is completely covered,” Brian says. “It has skylights and really cool LED lights. We’ll have dinner out there and listen to the frogs in the pond and the waterfall and stream.”

The couple worked with Stratton Design Group to install unique lighting in each area and they keep the pond chlorinated for swims with the dog. “I have had to shoo bears out of the pond a few times,” Brian recalls with a laugh. “This is a magical place. No matter the time of year, the wind, or the weather, we always have a comfortable, seating area outside. We just love living outside.”


This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To see more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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