On June 12th, the Hartland neighborhood is hosting a home tour featuring backyards and outdoor living spaces. From covered patios to pools, water features, and scenic landscaped gardens, the tour will highlight more than a dozen of the most beautiful backyards in the neighborhood.
We’ve highlighted Hartland couple John and Sandy Borders’ recently renovated outdoor space, which will be featured on the tour.
Hartland’s outdoor space gets a major upgrade, just in time for the neighborhood’s first backyard/home tour
John and Sandy Borders built their Hartland home in 1991 “…with every penny we had,” according to Sandy. The Borders, the third party owners who have built in their immediate vicinity, have gradually remodeled and reconfigured their space to become the home of their dreams.
Their latest project, the addition of a screened patio and detached garage that doubles as an art studio, fulfills a functional need and creates more space for the couple to house family and friends. The Borders’ backyard with its refreshed landscape is a peaceful spot for bird watching and doubles as a playground for their three dogs.
Although it wasn’t their first renovation, the seed for this project was planted back in 1991 during the original construction.
“From the day we built I wanted a three-car garage, but that wasn’t in our budget at the time,” Sandy said.
Since the neighborhood does not allow for front garages, the original double garage opens to the side. An extension to that garage would have taken away part of the house’s kitchen — an option Sandy wasn’t interested in.
“I’ve been trying to figure out how to do this over the years, and then I saw an incredible house with a stone arch connecting a smaller structure to the main part of the house,” she explained. “I thought it was just an extension of their home, but I was driving by one night and I could see the light from the garage door opener. A lightbulb went out and I knew how to make it work.”
Inspired, the Borders chose a detached, rear-entry, one-car garage connected to the home by a limestone arch. The garage was designed with a second floor that was meant for storage but ended up serving a very different purpose.
“I wanted the garage to have a second floor for storage instead of using an attic with a pull out staircase when we get older,” Sandy said.
However, a magazine article about Lexington artist Andre Pater changed that plan.
“I saw an article in a magazine, and [Pater] had just published his book – I was so impressed I bought a copy,” Sandy said. She later decided to order more books as Christmas gifts and emailed the artist after having trouble finding them.
“His wife contacted me and I ordered straight away,” Sandy continued. Father’s wife later emailed Sandy about a virtual sketch class Father was hosting in September 2020, with all proceeds going to the National Sporting Library and Museum.
“I signed John because I knew the last time he drew – really the only time he ever drew anything – was when we got engaged in 1977 and he sketched my engagement picture. [But] I knew he had what it takes.”
John took the online drawing class and, according to his wife, “he’s been drawing non-stop ever since.”
“So my storage room is now a drawing studio,” Sandy said, laughing.
John, a doctor specializing in internal medicine, added: “I had never drawn anything other than this one thing in the ’70s, but that’s what she went for. I drew my first thing in October 2020 and moved on. The first lesson was all I needed.”
The studio is a comfortable space filled with light from the windows that overlook the backyard and offer a tranquil view of the trees and birds. One wall is covered with cork boards at Sandy’s suggestion, serving as an impromptu gallery for John’s sketches and drawings.
“Every time I draw something, I make a copy and stick it on the wall,” John said.
Another wished-for item the couple added to the home is a screened-in porch—something Sandy has always wanted. The porch opens to the kitchen and outdoor patio on one side and the driveway under the new arch on the opposite side. The space is anchored by a large limestone wood-burning fireplace.
“This was the back of the house and we just wanted to keep the exposed bricks, but our painter suggested whitewashing them. I said, ‘Just do it; You guys know better than me,” Sandy said.
Along with the whitewashed brick walls, a birch wood ceiling and the limestone fireplace make the lanai light and airy. With casual seating and a dining area, the new front porch is perfect for summer entertaining.
“We’re part of a life group of six couples, so we planned around that. The goal was to host that group,” Sandy said.
To complete the project, the Borders had a curved limestone retaining wall built around the edge of the new driveway.
John said: “The contractor brought in a team of stonemasons who are world class. They took their time with the archway and other stonework. They didn’t seem to care how long it took. It would be perfect.”
A steep slope to one side of the courtyard is covered in ferns and other greenery, with a built in stone staircase that blends in perfectly. Fringed with boxwoods, ferns, hostas and other plants – many of which survive from the original landscaping – the newer landscaping is accented by the existing mature trees and the visual benefits of the lack of fencing.
Still surrounded by her original neighbors, Sandy said: “We all love the park-like setting and have all mutually agreed not to build fences. Anyone who has dogs has invisible fences.”
The Borders have worked with a number of landscapers over the years to modernize their outdoor spaces, most recently in collaboration with Michael Snowden of Redmond’s Garden Center to rebuild a water feature. The couple also do much of the planting and maintenance of the landscape themselves, and the pie-shaped garden is a natural habitat.
John said: “We enjoy our birds. We are their employees who constantly feed them.”
The Borders hired Conrad Construction Company – a team they were familiar with – to bring their ideas to life. After hiring the company for a ground floor remodel of the home in 2019, they knew Phillip Conrad would exceed their expectations.
Said Sandy, “There’s no other contractor we would use besides him.”
Attention to detail is one of the main reasons Borders goes back to Conrad Construction for every project. They also have nothing but praise for the team at American & European Painting, who are experts in painting and finishing.
Of the garage and screened porch walls, Sandy said, “That’s old, used brick that really matches our original 1991 brick.”
“The painters actually went through and smeared dark spots on the bricks to bring them not only close together but perfectly together,” John continued.
The Borders are thrilled with the additions and look forward to hosting friends and family — including their son and daughter-in-law and one-year-old grandson — on their new screened-in porch this summer.
“It exceeded everything we expected. Everything is better than we thought,” said John.
The Hartland Tour of Homes • Sunday, June 12 • 12pm-5pm
Tickets can be purchased from 11:45am on the day of the event at the Hartland Clubhouse, 4910 Hartland Pkwy.
All proceeds from the tour will benefit the family of Hartland neighbor Britt O’Brien, a Center College student who was paralyzed in a diving accident last summer.
About the O’Brien family
(Recipient of Hartland Home Tour proceeds)
When Camille Tucker came up with the idea of organizing a home tour in her Hartland neighborhood, she admits that the initial impetus was somewhat self-serving: “I wanted to do a home tour in the neighborhood, out of selfishness, because there were houses I wanted see it up close.” But with a little more thought and the formation of a committee, it became clear that the tour should also be linked to a good cause. Committee members quickly agreed that the family of Hartland neighbor Britt O’Brien, who was left paralyzed in a diving accident last year, would be the perfect recipients of the proceeds from the tour.
The O’Brien family moved to the Hartland neighborhood in October 2003, where parents Tim and Kristen raised their two children, Britt, 21, and Gracie, 19, in their current home. In December 2018, the family met the first of a series of hardships when Tim, aged 47, was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. By August 2021, Tim’s cancer was in remission and life for the family was feeling relatively normal until death. Brien’s received a call in the middle of the night that no parent would ever want to receive: their 21-year-old son Britt was taken on a plane to the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta after nearly drowning in a diving accident Summer trip to Georgia with friends and Center College lacrosse teammates. Misjudging a nighttime dip in the pool, Britt hit his head on the bottom of the pool, immediately losing feeling in his limbs and unable to swim. A friend pulled him out of the water just when he was sure he was going to drown.
His family were told early on that after suffering a severe C4-C6 spinal cord injury, Britt would never be able to move anything under his chest. During a very long and frightening hospital stay, Britt underwent emergency surgery to decompress his spine, contracted severe pneumonia and remained in a medically induced coma in intensive care for about five weeks. Britt was finally able to return home in January 2022. Center College helped pave the way for him to return to school last semester, and this summer he will return to his family, who are currently completing renovations to their traditional Hartland home to accommodate for a first-floor bedroom and other accessibility requirements.
Today, Britt is considered quadriplegic but is working hard to regain what he can, resulting in him needing full-time caregivers to help him with all chores of daily living. Arranging 24/7 care has been a major undertaking for the O’Brien family, especially as Tim is currently undergoing bi-weekly chemotherapy to treat a recurrence of his cancer.
The family has expressed their gratitude for the great support for the many ongoing financial needs that Britt’s injury will necessitate, including the upcoming Tour of Homes being organized in her honor.
“The Hartland Tour of Homes is something that will be and will be a wonderful celebration of how far Britt has come [us] the [we] are not alone and continue to be loved and supported [our] Journey to complete healing for Britt and Tim,” said Kristen.