This couple had a vision and worked to make it happen.
By Anna Patterson

Photos by Melissa Donald 

Two words: Art Deco.

This style of the 1920s and ‘30s is characterized by bold geometric shapes and strong colors. (Think of the design patterns in the movie The Great Gatsby.)

This was the vision Tish Geftos and her husband, Stephen, had when they moved into their Highlands home four years ago. From day one, they have poured their heart and soul into making it their own. “Together, we have a pretty good knack for ignoring bad decor and seeing the potential of a house,” Stephen says.

One of their biggest remodeling triumphs
was taking their tiny, scrappy backyard and turning it into a lush patio oasis.

When they moved in, the “yard” consisted of weeds, cinder blocks, and mounds of dirt. An old, rusty swingset and a smattering of random plants tried to cover up the mess. Two fences bordered the yard — the original and a taller privacy fence.

All in all, the backyard was a disaster. With little room to work with, the Geftos had to think creatively to bring it back to life.

Originally they thought about splitting the backyard into two sections, but the space just wasn’t working. They came to the conclusion that the backyard was better as one piece. “Do a lot of talking through your ideas and make sure everyone is on the same page,” Tish advises. “It’s your living space. Both parties need to be happy.”

Another challenge was finding a way to extend the art deco theme of their house into the backyard. “There’s no such thing as an art deco garden,” Tish says. “So we had to look into other decor from that time period and determine what we could use for the yard.”

This covered space is located on the side of their garage. The Geftos revived the design of their bland
backyard using an art deco theme. 

They started looking at pictures and studying the designs of art deco brooches and jewelry. Based on their research, the Geftos designed their own backyard. “We sketched it out and gave it to the landscaper,” Stephen says. “At one point, we even took spray paint and redid their lines to fit our precise design.”

Contractors — Cornerstone Landscaping and Carlton’s Landscaping — had to do everything backward. They laid out plant beds first, then installed the patio.

The Geftos decided that the best way to reconstruct the space was to get rid of the grass entirely. They covered the area with bluestone tiles and lined the border with black cobblestone. To tie in the art deco theme, they arranged the stones in a diamond pattern in tile. In the landscaping, plants were arranged to create a sunburst shape.

The Geftos designed the layout of the stone tile which shows the classic art deco sunraze pattern. 

Today, the backyard thrives with new life. The lush green foliage that lines the fence gives off the illusion of an exotic jungle. The stone patio creates the perfect getaway for a relaxing afternoon of reading or hosting a summer barbecue.

Their black rattan patio furniture and fountain set the right tone for the type of style the Geftos wanted. 

Tish’s advice to those thinking about a remodel: “Do your research. That’s how you know what you want, how you gain the knowledge. Read, watch remodeling shows, go to open houses. You need to think about resale value. Don’t be scared to tell [contractors] what you want, but consult their expertise. They don’t know what you want — work with them. Communicate with them.”

Tish is director of quality and IT for the Kentucky Organ Donor Affiliates (KODA) and Stephen bartends for The Back Door in the Highlands.