Sugarloaf plans tour of outside spaces

Photo by Nate McCullough

Photo by Nate McCullough

DULUTH -- For David and Kelah McNeill, their backyard is a sanctuary.

Completely private, the family's outdoor living spaces were designed to be an extension of their home with an elegant, rustic style.

Their house is situated on the family's 1.2-acre lot to make the backyard as spacious as possible. Surrounded by trees, the pool, cabana and upper and lower level patios create what Kelah McNeill calls their own slice of heaven on earth.

The family will open their outdoor living spaces to guests this weekend on the 2010 Outdoor Living Tour hosted by the Women's Club of Sugarloaf Country Club Charities.

This is the second year the women's club has organized such a tour.

"Sugarloaf had always been doing the holiday tour of homes in December and there started to be so many of those we decided to take a different spin on it and concentrate on the outdoor living space," said Jane Maran, vice president of the club's board of directors and a member of the tour committee.

This year's tour features the outdoor living spaces of five homes within the Sugarloaf Country Club, from the putting green and fish pond found in one backyard to a rock waterfall that cascades into a pool in another.

The tour, Maran said, could serve to inspire guests to enhance their own outdoor living spaces.

"I think a lot of people aren't taking the vacations they used to so they're enhancing their own yards to be able to play outside and make it feel like they're somewhere else," Maran said.

For Tess Alecxih's husband, Jim, who travels for his job, spending time in the family's outdoor living space is his idea of a vacation.

"When you travel that much you don't want to travel for fun," Tess Alecxih said. "You want to be home."

The most important feature in the family's backyard for Jim Alecxih, who loves to cook, is the outdoor kitchen.

"This is key for him and this is the first thing we built," Tess Alecxih said. "We started with this and then we built the rest. We finished our terrace level and did the outdoor pool at the same time."

The outdoor kitchen includes a refrigerator, a large cooktop for boiling or frying food, a double burner, a warming oven, a grill, refrigerated marinating drawers and an ice maker.

"He didn't leave anything out," Tess Alecxih said with a laugh.

And the family puts its outdoor kitchen to use year-round.

"Just about every night and even in cool weather, we love to grill out and we love to be outside so we use it all the time," Tess Alecxih said. "This is a huge source of entertaining when friends are over and we're outside. Everyone is around here."

The outdoor living tours will be given from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday. Tickets can be purchased at the Sugarloaf Country Club gate for $15 each with proceeds benefiting Hands of Christ, a Duluth cooperative ministry that offers those in need food and financial assistance.

For more information on this year's tours, visit www.sugarloaftour.com.