Imagine.

It’s a sultry southern evening.  Guests arrive for an alfresco dinner and are ushered down an emerald lawn to a spacious but intimate setting.  Old growth trees tower above the rustic scene. Mild breezes rustle the leaves.  The temps soften.

Ferns dot the sides of the lawn and an expansive Tennessee flagstone terrace.  Guests mix and mingle.  A stone fire pit is in the midst, but not for this season of heat. Adirondack chairs, designed for relaxing, await their inhabitants. Cocktails and southern hospitality are served in generous portions.

It has become a lovely time in early evening beneath the sprawling shade trees.

Appetizers are enjoyed; there’s no rush to dinner.  Just before the first course is served, guests are seated at a lengthy stone table dotted with bottles of wine. The vintages vie with a large chandelier dangling above crafted of 25 bottles, these filled with a mix of different bulbs.

They are dimmed and glowing through the colored glass.

Chargers made of rounds of wood sliced from a fallen tree are topped with neutral plates bookended by flatware designed like twigs.  A long piece of bark ambles down the center of the table, surrounded by moss and votives.

Chef/hosts serve divine regional Italian courses, each savored in the European manner, slowly, with appreciation for the food, vino, company and setting.

The sweet ending: homemade ice cream beneath sparkling stars.

A sweet experience in Italy?

No.  A lovely space on this side of the pond at the Franklin home of Marti Veto and her husband Tom McGrew.

This outdoor living and entertaining space is a product of McGrew’s own imagination.

“Our house here on West Main is built on an acre lot, but there is only 68 feet of frontage.  The lot is long and deep.   Until 2015 the back portion of the lot remained in natural habitat with undergrowth and trees.The distance from the back of the house to the front edge of this outdoor venue is 400 feet. As we were working on the project, if I lost a tool or something, I would say it’s in the wayback yard,” said Veto. “Hence the project was dubbed the WayBack.”

A couple of years ago McGrew re-imagined the space and carefully drew his vision out in detail on graph paper.  Then the work began.

“Tom and a friend spent an entire summer clearing the land,” she said.  “It was a huge task.  Tom is totally MacGyver-esque.  If he can dream it, he figures he can do it.”

Once the land was cleared, the couple had 16 tons of Tennessee flagstone hauled in for the terrace and outdoor kitchen.

“We sourced the flagstone from Crab Orchard, Tennessee.  It’s beautiful, very natural and rustic which is what we wanted,” she said.

Atop the stone pad is an Imperial dining table that seats 12. The base is Western red cedar, and the top is two 4’x6’ slabs of limestone. It took a forklift and six men to place the top on the base. Above, a chandelier crafted of a 100-year old iron gate from which 25 wine bottles with their bottoms removed dangles.

“We did the bottles ourselves,” Veto said.  “We had quite the system.  One of the bottles was a wedding gift; it is filled with a charming windchime.  The others host light bulbs of different filament shapes and sizes,” she said.

The chandelier is not only wired; it has a dimmer switch.  McGrew planned out every detail.

The couple has an entire outdoor kitchen with a 26-inch sink, refrigerator, cooler, grill and big green egg.  It’s designed for entertaining, but also personal enjoyment.

“We love to entertain, but we also enjoy the space for ourselves.  We often have our meals out here, plus it’s a perfect spot just to relax,” she said.

A large firepit is perfect for evenings with a chill in the air.  Adirondack chairs beckon.  A partial stone wall separates the kitchen from the guests’ mingling and dining area.

Their sanctuary also sports a water feature; its stream tumbles and gurgles soothingly into a 1000-gallon koi pond. There’s even a little bridge that connects the dining area with the firepit area.

Enchanting.

They have a special set of serving pieces, plates, glasses and flatware for use outdoors.

“We didn’t want breakables, of course.  And we didn’t want anyone who drops a glass to worry about the glass breaking.  The plates and serving dishes are Melamine; the glasses are handsome acrylic.  There’s so much available these days for outside dining and entertaining,” she said.

Visiting the WayBack as a guest is akin to going on a trip. The space is a delight, quiet, beckoning and enchanting. And the hosts are just as charming.

This fairytale setting reflects the nature of the couple’s romance and wedding.  They were introduced by mutual friends in 2013, though others had tried to introduce them six years earlier.

It was a match made in heaven.  Love at first sight.  Their first date was over lunch.  They’ve been together ever since.

The proposal came in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.  The wedding last October on Italy’s Amalfi Coast.

The couple loves to travel, but also to stay at home enjoying their re-imagined WayBack.

 

Vicki Stout serves as SEM’s Food and Travel Editor. She is also a freelance writer and public relations consultant. 

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