Your Favorite Room

Bringing the indoors out of doors

Ron Cornelius' favorite room in the house is the backyard.

"People move here for the views, and then they spend their whole life in the house," the Village of Oak Creek designer said. "I don't understand that."

Cornelius likes to spend his mornings reading his newspaper in his backyard that borders the Sedona Golf Resort's course. Any visitor to his home is automatically drawn to the backyard by the view through the glass panes that are the back wall of his living room.

The patio seems to be merely an extension of the living room, in fact. And that's just how Cornelius wants it.

Ron creates outdoor living spaces, from water features to built-in barbecues.

The former art student calls himself an "artist by nature," and started designing backyards when he took on landscaping projects at his previous homes. This, too, he realized was an art.

"Sometimes I'd move a 500-pound boulder five or six times until it looked right," he said.

And he said designing a backyard is more artistic than just digging a hole and filling it with water.

"It amazes me that people spend a million dollars on a house and then spend nothing on the backyard," he said.

His personal style combines the best of the indoors with the best of nature. He's learned the tricks of the trade as he's gone along - from plant selection to koi care.

For his water features, which he calls his specialty, Cornelius tries to "get the water to flow the same way it does in nature," he said. It is also important to avoid the "necklace" look of just stringing a bunch of stones around a pond.

A well built fish pond includes both steep sides to make access difficult for predators and shelters within the water for the fish to go under.

Water features, whether waterfalls or streams, are run on constantly recycled water. Water that is lost is the victim of evaporation. The larger the water surface, the more evaporation there will be.

"Part of the art of building a pond is doing something that becomes ecologically functional," Cornelius said. "Each one is completely different. I try to make it look like it was always there."

What really makes the backyard seem an extension of the house is the patio, the tile, the barbecue, the fireplace and the counterspace.

His drop-in type barbecue includes the sink, flagstone tabletop and cabinets that are the same as something that would be used inside. The tabletop is actually bi-level, with a triangular design in the raised portion. He also had custom-made chairs for seating at the counter.

The mantel of the fireplace is mesquite from Mexico. The same piece was used for the outside mantel as for the mantelpiece of his indoor fireplace, only finished differently.

The lighting he uses is also similar to what could be used indoors over the dining table. This, too, gives the entire patio the feel of being an indoor room.

There are also cozy chairs for relaxing and catching the view of the red rocks. His current residence is a showcase for his company, Backyard Sedona.

He has lived in the area for three years and has been designing outdoor living spaces for two years. For more information, call (928) 284-2636.

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