Pergola With Curtains

Pool, Waterfall, Kitchen, and Shade

Des Peres Missouri

New Pool, Shade Structure, Privacy Screen, and a Family Gets its Idyllic Backyard

Prior clients, a couple in Des Peres, Missouri, an outlying St. Louis suburb, came to our firm with four requests: a new swimming pool, a shaded dining spot with outdoor kitchen and fire pit, a hot tub, and some form of screening so they wouldn’t be able to view their existing tennis court from inside their home and even from parts of the property.

Wish List:

  • Swimming pool with waterfall
  • Outdoor shaded dining area, kitchen, and fire pit
  • Screening to conceal tennis court
  • Hot tub close to house

 The Site and its Challenges The couple’s site offered a good-sized three acres of mostly open turf to work with for the built additions and some new plant materials. But we knew that careful placement of the features and a good drainage system were essential to avoid altering the terrain so much that water runoff would become a problem both for the landscape and house. Screening the tennis court was an equally big challenge since its 10-foot-high mesh fencing was clearly visible from the house and from where we imagined placing the structures.


     Swimming pool, waterfall, and surrounding decking. We picked a place 25 feet from the house to construct the swimming pool and set the pool elevation two steps lower than the first floor of the home to give just a hint of separation of the pool space and its waterfall feature, for direct views from the center of the interior of the home, a classical design solution. Because the family wanted to use it for lap swimming–as well as recreation–during the area’s long hot summers, we went with a traditional rectangular rather than freeform shape, and put the deep end in the center to make volleyball games easier for family fun. Steps lead directly into that part of the pool in a nice cut-out design. We next constructed decking along three sides from stamped, dyed concrete to fit the home’s contemporary style and edged that material with local limestone. We made the width wide enough to be able to accommodate entertaining 25 to 30 people at a time with adequate standing and seating room for tables and chairs. We left one side unpaved and planted with turf to pare the amount of hardscape, which can prove hot in summer and less natural. We selected a third material, sandstone, for the large tiered ledges for the waterfall feature, as well as for the pool coping. It adds a complementary visual touch. Nearby, but close to the lower level and master bedroom, we installed the hot tub since if it’s not close enough to a home, it won’t get used, we’ve found.

      Shaded pergola. A large cedar pergola with sloping sides that mimic the home’s hip rooflines offers a place to sit out of the sun but with good views of the pool and property. We designed it creatively with louvers on its roof to allow in light and starry views at night. This novel pergola design–the first one built in St. Louis–remains totally dry during rainstorms, yet still open to the sky, translating into both local and national recognition, as well as some awards. The small kitchen includes just a barbecue grill and cooler recessed into the sandstone-topped countertop, that material selected for design uniformity. Despite the trend of many outdoor kitchens getting larger, this couple didn’t need a big, super-outfitted one since their indoor kitchen is so nearby. We also constructed a square-shaped, limestone-faced, gas-fired fire pit for more family enjoyment within the area, going with a permanent rather than portable design as a more visual focal point.

       Screened tennis court. To conceal the 10-foot-high very visible mesh fencing of the court, we built a small berm and planted a Norway spruce, flanked by ornamental flowering Sargent crabapple trees.

       Hot tub. This feature needs to be located conveniently near a house so it doesn’t require a long walk outdoors in colder months, though it provides great fun in the snow and frigid temperatures when homeowners can climb in and get warm right away. We set it near the master bedroom exit door, and on the opposite side of the yard from the pool.

Connecting, illuminated walkways. Because of the site’s extensive acreage, we built walks from the same stamped, dyed concrete as the pool deck, which wind from the back to the tennis court. But to break up the hardscape, 8 to 10 inches of turf were left between the steps. Limiting the choice of hardscape materials to three prime ones also yielded a more contemporary look, in keeping with other choices and the home’s design. Energy-efficient LED lighting were placed along the walks for night-time use and views from inside the house out, and the same lights were installed within the pool and waterfall, and along the columns and in the roof of the pergola. Together, all illumination provides good views, yet the sources are barely visible.

Cost Factors: Consideration was given to the choice of materials because of the extensive work involved in this project. Stamped and dyed concrete is less costly than more natural stones, as well as more modern in spirit; and the cedar for the pergola is less expensive than a choice like Brazilian hardwood might have been. We planted pockets of annuals, and seasonally come spring, summer, and fall fill urns on the pool deck with different annual combinations.

Award Winning Project from PLANET. Chronicled in St Louis Homes Magazine and Ladue News Magazine 

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