BACKYARD PARADISE: Penny and Mack Varner create outdoor living space the entire family can enjoy

Published 9:09 pm Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Installing a backyard pool was not something Penny and Mack Varner planned. They added a family room in 1988 to their Vicksburg home, which was built in 1939, and spontaneously decided to add a pool at the same time.  “A friend suggested it,” Penny Varner said. “And it was almost like we decided to do it and a week later there it was. Best decision we ever made because it has given us so much pleasure.”

Their “party pool” is octagonal and gradually goes from 3 ½-feet from the sides to 4 ½-feet in the middle. The couple enjoys “floating” in the small pool, rather than swimming.

“It’s like an extension to our living area,” she said. “Year round, we enjoy the ambiance of the pool, as it is just a few steps from our family room. We don’t cover (close) the pool in the winter, so we enjoy being out around it all year.”

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The grandchildren especially enjoy the pool on visits and the Varners quickly realized they needed a place to permanently store pool toys, floats and towels. The couple decided a pool house would be ideal.

“We realized that a pool house with a bathroom would make for more relaxed family fun,” Penny Varner said.

The pool house, which was added in 2006, serves a double purpose.

“I love tropical plants and when I met with pool house architect Rick Griffin, we came up with a plan to make a greenhouse-pool house work for wintering bougainvillea, hibiscus, shrimp plants and pentas,” she said. “So we have a pool house in the summer and a greenhouse in the winter.”

At the last minute, the couple decided to include an outdoor shower with the pool house.

“It has been not only a novelty to the grandchildren, but a great place to rinse off popsicle juice,” Penny Varner said.

She said the grandchildren enjoy fun pool activities like races, pool basketball, the traditional Marco Polo and night-time diving for quarters, and “practically arrive in their swimsuits” when they come for a visit.

“I realized early on that swimming was not much fun on cool temperature holidays — Thanksgiving, Fall Break, Easter, Spring Break — so, we decided to get set up to heat the pool on the occasions that they came off season,” Penny Varner said. “It was an instant hit and has extended ours and their enjoyment immensely.”

While the pool might be the centerpiece, it’s the rock waterfall that is the feature of the backyard.

Mac Ferris, owner of Ferris Landscaping in Vicksburg, is a close friend of the Varners, and took great interest in watching the pool house as it was constructed.

“One day he said, ‘I see a waterfall in the landscape,’” Penny Varner said. “We said ‘Go for it!’ He asked if we wanted to approve his plan and we said ‘Heck no, what did we know about building a waterfall?”

The waterfall includes a huge capstone.

“Mac Ferris is a genius artist,” Penny Varner said. “His artistic imagination created the spectacular focal point of our outdoor enjoyment.”