Worldly Delights Collectibles from years spent abroad find themselves at home — both inside and out. As you wind through the streets of this neighborhood, the first thing you notice is the tall trees. It almost feels like you're in East Texas instead of east Fort Worth. The trees are part of what drew Pam and Paul Smith to this gated community. The couple grew up and lived in the Seattle- Tacoma area of Washington, but thanks to Paul's work, they spent the last 15 years abroad. A logistics contractor with a military background, he found work in Dubai and South Korea, and he and Pam immersed themselves in the cultures of their newly adopted countries. The Smiths had friends in the Fort Worth area, home to a lot of retired military folks, and in 2009 they purchased a house in the Riverbend Estates neighborhood, with plans for making Texas their new home. But Paul continued to receive extensions on his contract until finally, in December 2014, he retired for good. Adventurous travelers, the Smiths have many stories to share about their time in the Middle East and South Korea. They also have a trove of souvenirs, not of the knickknack variety, but meaningful pieces that have their own backstories. The couple shopped the local markets, galleries and antique stores, storing much of what they bought because they lived in a high-rise in South Korea. "I wasn't sure what we were going to do with all these things," says Pam, but she loved the fact that whether they were ceramic pots or bronze statues, the pieces had stories. Packing for their return to the States meant more than stuffing suitcases. They had enough to fill a 40-foot container. Once they were back in Fort Worth, the Smiths finally had a chance to tackle the house and garden. Both are hands-on when it comes to landscaping and gardening, and the bare lawn in the back of their large corner lot offered a blank canvas. Paul's plan was to shield the view of the neighboring houses as much as possible, create berms and deep flower beds, and add a pool and patio. Having grown up in the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest, the Smiths are definitely outdoor people. While the extreme heat in Texas — along with the voracious mosquitoes — can dampen one's enthusiasm for outdoor living, the couple was looking forward to year-round patio time and a pool. Paul hired J. Caldwell Custom Pools for the installation, but he and Pam did all of the landscaping and planting. He discovered his happy place, visiting and selecting landscape boulders and other decorative rock from the Whiz-Q Stone yard in Fort Worth. "The toughest thing was when they had to remove some of the trees from the backyard for the pool. I had to leave that day and not watch," Pam says. With perennials in place — including rows of hydrangeas, along with new shrubbery — the pergola took shape, as did an extended patio surface. Paul found wood columns at the Old Home Supply store and used them to hold up the pergola. The new outdoor "living room" is one of their favorite places to sit each evening. Carefully placed around the yard are many of the souvenirs from their time spent overseas, along with family treasures and estate sale finds. In the bed next to the hydrangeas are some oversize ceramic pots. Originally used to store kimchee, they now anchor one side of the flower bed. Pam also brought back large rubber pots from Korea and uses them to hold a variety of herbs, including fennel and parsley to feed black swallowtail caterpillars. Paul has wired the pots with small outdoor lights and added irrigation. Sitting among the azaleas is a small Japanese lantern that once belonged to Pam's parents, who grew rhododendrons and azaleas. In the same corner of the garden sits a pair of bronze cranes from Korea, along with a concrete pagoda. A little Foo dog holds court on the sidewalk. And while ceramic Asian garden stools are ubiquitous in garden shops these days, Pam's versions were purchased when the couple lived in Korea. Inside the home, she points out a set of Chinese paintbrushes. These, too, have become commonplace as decorator items and are readily found at import shops. She laughs when she thinks about all the flea markets in China she scoured to find hers. There are other displays and vignettes: a Chinese rain suit and hat made of coconut fibers, beaded items from Tibet, contemporary Asian ceramics, a vintage kimono and framed textiles, a carved bed from Dubai. Pam also is a watercolor artist, and she has replicated on canvas some of the memorable photographs taken on the couple's travels. We step back outside to watch the sun fade into evening. A wild rabbit wanders through the beds nibbling on vegetation. "We hear coyotes howling, but I think the rabbit knows this is a sanctuary," says Paul. With a light breeze blowing and the frogs starting to sing, it feels like one for people, too.
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