By Ginna Parsons/NEMS Daily Journal
PLANTERSVILLE – If you’re looking for Amy Riley, don’t go knocking on the front door of her home in Plantersville. Instead, walk around to the outdoor living area built of Tishomingo stone that’s adjacent to the house.
“I stay out here as much as I can,” said Riley, 54, a retired teacher. “It’s such a peaceful, peaceful place.”
Riley and her husband, Tim, decided to build the space last year. Even though they have a cabin between Fulton and Smithville, they don’t use it very much right now because they have small grandchildren and they don’t want them near the water.
“So we didn’t have a place to grill or be outdoors,” she said. “With this, we do.”
Work began on the structure in May 2012 and was completed in September. First, they graded the area and poured concrete for the foundation. Framing and rafters came next, followed by the ceiling, the stonework and fencing.
“The ceiling is pressed tin that came out of the old Coke plant in Aberdeen,” Riley said. “We painted it blue to keep the wasps away. And I have an aversion to sharp corners, which is why I wanted arches all around. They had to build a form to go under the arches until they set.”
After they stained the concrete and took care of plumbing and electricity needs, they added cabinets, copper countertops, stainless steel appliances and very special furniture.
“The bed swing is made from wood at my husband’s grandfather’s old barn in Nettleton,” she said. “The dining table with benches was my great-grandfather’s old farm table.”
The 18-by-30-foot space is anchored by the kitchen on one end and a massive stone fireplace on the other.
The kitchen area has a Jenn-Air grill, built-in coolers, a sink and a separate oversized burner for making big pots of soups and stews.
“The faucet over the soup burner is called a pot filler,” Riley explained. “That way when I’m making soup or something, I don’t have to carry a big heavy pot of water over to it.”
Stone ledges built into the walls in the kitchen hold such things as spices, sponges and dish soap. In other areas of the room, they support candles and plants.
Eight bar stools face the kitchen area and guests are welcome to have a seat and enjoy a meal or snacks on the copper countertops.
“I can’t wait for them to weather to a verdigris green,” she said.
The wood-burning fireplace takes up the other end of the outdoor area. An old grist stone is the focal point above it.
“My husband found that when he was a little boy,” she said. “I guess he’s had it for 50 years now.”
Lighting in the room is provided by four pairs of wall sconces, five small eyeball lights in the kitchen ceiling, lights in four ceiling fans and white Christmas lights strung all the way around the room.
“When we were building this, I thought ahead and had electrical outlets placed close to the ceiling so I could add a little sparkle with the white lights without having cords hanging down the walls,” said Riley, who got most of her ideas for the living space from the Internet and Pinterest.
“We wanted this area to be really open,” she said. “I love to look out and see the horses and the cows in the pasture. Out here at night you can hear the owls and the whippoorwills and the crickets. I love being out here.”
Riley said she and her husband practically live in the outdoor space year-round and she can’t recall the last time she cooked a real meal in the big house.
“When my husband gets home from work, we come out here and relax,” she said. “He watches the news and we might cook a hamburger or grill some chicken. I think we probably eat less than we used to. We enjoy being out here so much we don’t even think about food.”
Riley said her bunch, which includes three children and their families, even celebrated Christmas in the outdoor living space last year.
“The curtains are drop cloths from Home Depot,” she said, “so they’re heavy, practical and inexpensive. In the winter, we close the curtains and build a fire in the fireplace and it’s really pleasant.”
Riley also winters over plants in the space, such as ferns and philodendrons.
“My plants love it out here, too,” she said.
And so do her animals.
The Rileys have a menagerie, including horses, miniature horses, cows, a donkey, dogs, cats and kittens on their 100-acre farm. Metal fencing around the outdoor area keeps the larger animals, including two Great Danes, from wandering in, but cats, kittens and two Chihuahuas come and go as they please.
“I love to come out here and read,” she said. “My plan is to come out here in the mornings more. Right now I enjoy it more in the evenings. This place fulfills every dream I’ve ever had, I guess.”