When evening falls on the back lawn of this suburban Birmingham home, nature offers spectacular sunsets that create a sanctuary from city life. On the horizon, an infinity pool vanishes into the landscape, adding an ethereal element to a terrace that’s become a happy oasis for homeowners Natalee and Jeff Smith.

When the Smiths purchased the property several years ago, they reconceived the vast back yard, pool area and hardscape to become an extension of rooms opening from French doors of the primary residence. They enlisted the help of interior designer Nicole Roby to create outdoor living spaces that highlight the panoramic views.

Infinity Pool = Infinite Possibilities 

The first step in Nicole’s collaboration with Natalee and Jeff was to help them define their vision for the new outdoor living area. They envisioned a gathering place for family and friends, a home base for big family get-togethers like their Fourth of July party as well as a place for their children and six grandchildren to hang out on lazy summer afternoons. As for entertaining friends, the Smiths knew the terrace and pool area would be perfect for the kind of indoor-outdoor events they enjoy hosting. 

Nicole drafted a plan that works beautifully year-round and can be easily reconfigured as necessary for a very large gathering.The infinity pool offers the natural focal point for the scene overlooking miles of rolling hills, the iconic Vulcan statue, and the golf course of Mountain Brook Club.

Organic Inspiration 

Inspired by the landscape and the view, Nicole wanted to keep the focus on nature, so a sense of restraint was important in design. Creating a haven of bespoke comfort became a guiding principle in selecting furnishings, and discretion was key in choosing the palette. 

“The furniture needed to be as durable as it was comfortable, and Natalee wanted the area to express a feeling of relaxed elegance. It had to be as inviting to guests coming for cocktails or dinner, as it is to family bringing the grandchildren over for a cookout and a swim,” said Nicole. In working with color, organic tones dominate; you’ll see earthy caramel neutrals in the upholstery and experience rich textures in the fabrics and trims. The verdant greens of the landscape are reflected in the abstract animal print of the rug that defines the seating space. Chaise lounges along the sides of the pool are outfitted with custom cushions in a classic cabana stripe.

Perched atop his favorite chaise, the family’s beloved standard poodle Lord Baron holds court poolside - perhaps pondering a quick dip, or simply enjoying the admiring glance of the photographer.

This mood board with luxurious fabrics and finishes provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into NRD’s design process.

Relaxed Luxury

“To achieve the aesthetic of relaxed luxury, it was important to include soft surfaces – a sofa you can sink into, chairs you can really relax in, so we went with cushy, swivel chairs and the comfiest outdoor sofa we could find,” says Nicole, “Natalee wants every detail to make her guests feel celebrated and special. I scouted out fine all-weather designer fabrics and trims, the choices available today are remarkable.” 

The Smiths have found their outdoor living space to be much more than an enchanting architectural feature. It’s a treasured hideaway when tranquility is the order of the day, and it’s a happy retreat infused with laughter and energy when family and friends gather. Either way, it’s a very special place where at the end of the day, around sunset, all you must do to enjoy its beauty is show up and take a seat. Natalee and Jeff will take care of the rest.

Nicole Roby is the Lead Designer and Owner of Nicole Roby Designs based in Birmingham.