A Steep Ridge Becomes the Hidden Asset
- Reclaiming a small building for an at-home office and pool house
- Constructing a gunite swimming pool for laps and recreation
- New pergola with courtyard beneath between the house and detached office for entertaining out of the sun
- Adding a tall brick fireplace with stone accents for warmth and another focal point
- Avoidance of having deer from the area destroy favored hostas and other plants
- Winner of 2 National Environmental Improvement Awards.
- Chronicled in “The Garden Book” by acclaimed Garden writer Barbra Ballinger.
- The pool and courtyard have inspired the couple to entertain much more in good weather, but they also use the outdoors up until Thanksgiving because the fireplace provides some warmth, especially with blankets and hot drinks in hand.
The owners wanted a setting that would complement their rustic home that sits on three wooded acres in Wildwood, Missouri. We developed a master plan to make the best use of the site and meet the owners’ needs, including salvaging a small historic building into his office and pool house, develop the space between the office/pool house and house creating a courtyard for entertaining, and constructing a pool where a steep ridge existed. Bonus: Better distant views are now more appreciated.
The Site and its Challenges Because of the steep ridge, we recommended a pool with a vanishing edge would look most natural, but that meant we had to decide how to bring in heavy equipment to the area where access would be minimal. The other prime factor influencing design designs was to make any of the new built designs as well as plant materials fit the couple’s rustic home, which consists of cedar shake siding and lodge pole columns. Finally, because the “clients” wanted to keep to a “reasonable” budget we carefully balanced choices in hard- and softscape that represent quality but are not the most costly.
Courtyard. Because we prefer not to create too much hardscape to an outdoor pool setting since it can easily end up looking overwhelming, we set up the design to have the paved courtyard serve as both the pool deck and general outdoor living space, yet still large enough to suit the outdoor entertaining desired. We paved it in big squares, 16 inches by 16 inches of travertine, laid on a diagonal for an elegant look, and repeated lodge pole columns that are part of the main home’s design. The area can comfortably fit as many as 35 people–standing and sitting at tables and chairs.
Fireplace. To make the fireplace more visually interesting, we accented its brickwork with stone detailing. It stands 17’ high.
Swimming pool. Because the pool’s prime purpose is for lap swimming and recreation primarily, we knew that a classic rectangular shape close to 40 feet long would be best, and constructed it by the ridge to let the ground fall away for the dramatic, modern vanishing effect so many homeowners now desire. Water “falls” over the slope to a basin at the bottom and is recycled back to the top to be water wise. Because of local ordinances that require fencing, which can be an eyesore if too much of it is seen, we fenced all the way to the property lines keeping the space looking larger rather than cut off by the fence. By lowering the vanishing edge water reservoir, we negated the need for fencing directly behind the pool leading eyes toward more distant views.
Plant Choices. Deer resistant and deer avoidant measures insure planted materials long term health. In addition, we placed plantings in urns and containers, which allow the couple to ergonomically change out annuals for color seasonally. Among other favorite choices: Blue spruces in stunning copper containers and annuals for additional pops of color in copper window boxes. For good perennial cover throughout the garden, we installed Rudbeckia, Liriope, Hosta, as well as Dwarf Wisteria along pergola posts. We used Japanese Red Maple, Magnolias, Serbian Spruce, Boxwoods, and Hydrangea for flower color, fall color, and lots of green in winter.
Extra touch. To fasten a beam in place between the office and house, we commissioned a blacksmith to make brackets, which are both decorative and functional.
Cost Factors The courtyard’s hardscape size could have been pared or a less costly material than travertine used, possibly, concrete, which then could be scored for a more high-end stylized look. A fire pit could have been selected instead of a fireplace, though it wouldn’t be as much of a focal point in the yard. The vanishing edge could have been eliminated, though that cost was partially compensated for by the pool’s rectangular shape.