Outdoor Living, Fire Features, Amenities & Lighting

A Full Day’s Delight
With increasing frequency, I'm running into higher-end clients who lead hectic 9-to-5 lives - too packed for them to be able to enjoy the swimming pool we're proposing to build with much more than holiday-weekend frequency.  Obviously, the key with these homeowners is making certain the pool we're discussing is something they can appreciate and enjoy 24 hours a day - whenever they happen to be home and can be drawn out into a
#27: Fire Bowls
This article concludes a little series I've been doing that feature bowls in association with my pool and spa designs.  The first two were about water bowls in very different applications.  This one is about fire bowls and, in greater detail, about materials you can put in them to cover the burners, disperse the flames and make them look good even when
Safe Lighting Around Pools
There's a common misperception among designers and builders whose projects carry them beyond a pool and spa and out into the landscape:  In large numbers, these professionals believe that low-voltage landscape lighting systems are perfectly safe for use in close proximity to the water. The truth of the matter is that the National Electric Code (NEC) has defined an exclusionary zone of ten feet around pools and spas for these fixtures! That's right:  Even with low-voltage
Sliding into Backyard Waterparks, Part 2
The feature clients like most about custom pool slides – particularly those of the modular variety – is their tremendous flexibility:  The average slide is about 15 feet long, but the sky truly is the limit, with elaborate installations stretching out across 30 or 40 feet in length.  Slopes are generously variable as well, but there are obvious space considerations that come into play with larger-scale projects.  A good rule of thumb for a desirable 20-degree slope:  Every foot built up vertically generally requires about three feet of horizontal build-out. Obviously, this means that space availability is a major factor in slide design and construction.  The great thing is, the basic procedures of slide installation do not vary much with size, so the process, once learned, is pretty straightforward and repeatable. Here, we’ll be focusing on what this means with
Sliding into Backyard Waterparks
How do you tear kids away from the Internet or video games on a nice summer day and get them outside to play?  These days, more and more families are answering that question by creating small-scale waterparks in their own backyards. The great thing is, these micro-waterparks don’t have to be as garish or visually aggressive as their full-scale commercial counterparts.  In fact, these spaces can be as easy on the eye as the watershapes at luxury resorts and hotels:  Indeed, those are just the
Reindeer-Proof Holidays
The arrival of Dasher and Blitzen is just around the corner, and it’s a certainty that once they’ve landed on your rooftop (with such a clatter, I’m sure), they’ll cast hungry eyes on the plants arranged in the gardens below. Remember: Santa will be
The Sizzle of Fire and Water
When I want to work real magic into my designs, I play with fire – and do my best to find extraordinary ways to combine fire with water to express the full, captivating power of both of these natural elements. Picture flames dancing across the reflective stillness of a pool; or visualize them alongside an inviting walkway that leads you
The Science of Lighting
As I see it, successful landscape lighting is a two-part process:  First, the designer applies aesthetic principles that create the art, then he or she supports that artistic vision with scientific and technological savvy.  One without the other doesn’t work:  You can’t effectively practice the art until 
Lighting the Way
As I mentioned in the first of this series of articles, I initially became involved with the art of concealment when a client showed me an interior room’s lighting system that was activated by touching a kickplate hidden in the floor moldings. It was one of the coolest things I’d ever seen (or not seen) and set me off on a career-long pursuit of
Want to Avoid Getting ‘Hosed’?
There are all sorts of amenities associated with outdoor living that, taken together, conspire to create what I see as undesirable visual clutter. This is why, when I approach any backyard project, I take my time in sizing up my clients and doing all I can to figure out how they’ll be using the space. If it’s to be an active, family-oriented play/recreational space, for example, I’ll start thinking about