Private Eden

poolside in morningside back yardstone orbs decorate the gardenHomeowners Chip Cheatham and Ken Covers relax with dog Sydney in their outdoor living room.a stone pathway in the Cheatham's back yard

When Chip Cheatham and his partner, Ken Covers, bought their Morningside house more than three years ago, blurring the lines between indoors and out was a major priority – despite the fact that both the interiors and the backyard required major renovations. In fact, the rear façade of the house was virtually closed off to the outdoors.

“There was no way to access the yard from the kitchen or the bedroom,” Cheatham says.

And as the two soon found, it was for good reason. The neighboring hilltop was overgrown with winding weeds and bamboo, checked only by a chain link fence, while the hardscape surrounding the pool area provided little room for outdoor living.

Creative challenges, however, are what Cheatham, the president and creative director of PierceMartin, thrives on.

He and Covers, both avid gardeners, and with the help of Ellis LandDesign, began transforming the yard from landscaping nightmare to backyard oasis.

“Many people escape to the Georgia mountains, lakes or to the beach on the weekends,” says Cheatham, “but come Friday, the last thing we want to do is get in the car and drive for hours. We have created our own personal escape in our home and garden.”

To that end, Cheatham designed a 75-foot staggered wall to replace the chain link fence and to anchor the space.

He extended the hardscape to include steps spanning the length of the home, providing outdoor access from the kitchen and master bedroom, and he added a spa adjacent to the pool, complete with upholstered seating and pillows.

Upon removing the existing weedy groundcover, enough rocks were revealed to create a rock garden, which also served as the inspiration for the marble countertop in the kitchen. They added a vegetable garden, in full view of the screened-in porch, and an access route along the side of the house.

Cheatham and Covers added as well as moved existing native plants such as cherry trees, azaleas and rhododendrons, then introduced species you wouldn’t expect to find in an Atlanta garden, such as echeveria, a handsome succulent; sempervivums (a hardy succulent alpine plant that translates into “live forever”); and Equisetum, the tall, bamboo-like plant commonly known as horsetail.

It’s a mix the well-traveled Cheatham pulls off marvelously, accenting the group with unique garden statuary such as stone orbs and bronze cranes (known to confuse many a bird) from trips to the Pacific Rim.

Next on their agenda: a greenhouse, ensuring that Cheatham and Covers will be able to nurture gardening inspirations for years to come.