As a young boy, Ernie Reynolds spent his summers mowing lawns in Brentwood and school-day afternoons tending to neighborhood properties. He was encouraged by his parents early on to enjoy Tennessee’s beauty, the same people who instilled a strong work ethic in the designer that has led to 30 successful years in the landscape and hardscape industry.
Since he was a bright-eyed Furman and Belmont University student, Reynolds has been working in the businesses—first growing a startup in Middle Tennessee into a full-service landscaping company that won multiple awards and completed projects for the likes of Vanderbilt University and Opryland; and most recently, launching Outdoor Classic Structures, a design-build firm with a studio in downtown Franklin that focuses on non-climatized areas and outdoor construction.
“Our mission is to build spaces for people to spend time in, ones that integrate the natural environment,” Reynolds said. “We are a general construction company that specializes in outdoor spaces. We produce creative, innovative ways for people to interact and enjoy hobbies in a comfortable setting.”
Whether it’s a municipal park in the city or a detailed memorial garden in a suburban neighborhood, Reynolds and his experienced staff offer significant outdoor projects for new construction, additions and renovations. From swimming pools and grading projects to irrigation systems and exterior kitchens, Outdoor Classic Structures’ services span the spectrum. Just last week, the firm’s design and garden work won the “Best Landscaping” award at the Home Builders Association’s Parade of Homes in Arrington.
With his deep background in horticulture and a unique resume in outdoor construction, Reynolds is an expert in creating vogue spaces that are heavy on practicality. Take for example a past project: A rooftop garden for an urban condominium complex that included a sweeping green space complete with a gazebo, fire ring and outdoor kitchen.
“We are in a temperate climate, so there are only a couple months we need to keep the doors shut and the windows down,” he said. “There are so many opportunities for interaction with the outdoors.”
Currently, the Outdoor Classic Structures team is in the process of completing a Westhaven courtyard, one that incorporates several intricate elements into a relatively small space. Think patios under pergolas, an outdoor television area, and a cascading waterfall that creates a floating-deck illusion. Add in a lushly lit garden, and the space has been completely transformed into a high-functioning outdoor living area.
“The home is a personal reflection in so many ways,” Reynolds said. “We build on the personality of the home to create an outdoor experience that reflects the indoor.”
Reynolds—whose quiet and intelligent humor seems to help quickly establish a certain comfort level with others—says that part of the job is discovering what each client is looking for, and helping him or her search beyond that initial vision.
“I find myself in a role of a listener most often. Many have preconceived ideas of what they want out of their space,” he said. “We are all put into certain boxes at times. My team is always listening to see how we can think outside of those box ideas.”
Reynolds moved his design studio to downtown Franklin in early 2011, six years after first opening Outdoor Classic Structures. He said he made the transition to Second Avenue South to re-establish a certain sense of community for himself—he has volunteered with numerous organizations, and is currently on Williamson County CASA’s board of directors—and his business.
“I wanted to be in Williamson County, and I dreamt of being in downtown Franklin,” he said. “I wanted to say to our customers, ‘Look, we’ve invested here.’ We want to be part of the quilt of this community.”
Reynolds has big ideas on the horizon for the Outdoor Classic Structures’ design studio: he is finalizing plans for an expansive backyard extension that will include a courtyard, second-story porch and outdoor kitchen, among other amenities.
The studio sits in an early-1900s building listed on the National Historic Register, and uses its décor and exposed beams and bricks to compliment the impressive front yard: a small, shady lawn carefully cultivated with iris, sedum, hosta, hydrangea, azalea, yew and four kinds of boxwood.
“The front lawn is less of a showcase as it is a garden that mingles with the house,” Reynolds said. “It’s meant to be an invitation to come in. Our door is always open. I’ve come home to find folks sitting on the porch, and I love it.”
For Reynolds, Franklin represents something his company also emphasizes: a reverence for history with an appreciation for innovation.
“Franklin respects its past and has found the magical solution of integrating that with modern life and all its conveniences.”
For information, visit the design studio at 203 Second Avenue South or visit www.outdoorclassicstructures.com.
This is part of a series on merchants in Downtown Franklin.