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Although it was situated on the edge of a golf course, this backyard needed help. So Juliet Wood completely reinvented the space and made it a resource for all sorts of outdoor family fun.
Although it was situated on the edge of a golf course, this backyard needed help.  So Juliet Wood completely reinvented the space and made it a resource for all sorts of outdoor family fun.
By Juliet Wood

As is true of many designers, I carry a large number of unusual ideas in the back of my mind, waiting for the right site, the right client and the right project to pull them out and put them to use. Some of these ideas are innovative or even wild and most of them are unconventional – otherwise, they would have found quicker paths to my drawing board.

In the project covered in this article, I was lucky enough to break out two of these special ideas – one an unusual transition from the home’s upper level down to the poolscape, the other in the form of

It was a challenging site for a long pool that would overflow on all four sides. But with the right foundation and a well-engineered shell, writes Grant Smith, the project came together beautifully -- although it apparently wasn't enough to get his clients to stick around to enjoy the view!
It was a challenging site for a long pool that would overflow on all four sides.  But with the right foundation and a well-engineered shell, writes Grant Smith, the project came together beautifully -- although it apparently wasn't enough to get his clients to stick around to enjoy the view!
By Grant Smith

As an engineering-oriented designer/builder, I know that it simplifies a project if I’m working with like-minded clients: They tend to listen well and get a quick grip on crucial details that have an influence on the outcome. They also tend to operate on the conservative side of the construction spectrum, preferring not to take unnecessary risks for themselves or their families, friends and neighbors.

In the project discussed here, not only was the client an engineering and general contractor, but he and his wife were successful real estate investors with extensive holdings. As a result, they had the wherewithal, knowledge and desire to have the pool and spa behind their San Diego-area home stay put on the middle of a long

Every watershaping project starts with a big box of possibilities the designer digs through in selecting features that meet the needs of the site, the clients and the budget. Kurt Kraisinger will examine this early digging to start a brand-new series on how designs come together.
Every watershaping project starts with a big box of possibilities the designer digs through in selecting features that meet the needs of the site, the clients and the budget.  Kurt Kraisinger will examine this early digging to start a brand-new series on how designs come together.
By Kurt Kraisinger

The backyard-design process, it’s been said, is something like completing a jigsaw puzzle: You start with a framed space and assemble available pieces to fill in the picture.

But there are two problems with this common analogy: First, the number of available pieces far exceeds the physical capacity of the frame and, second, there are no precut tabs or notches to guide placement of the selected pieces. So you’d be closer to the mark if you said that design is like the worst, most challenging jigsaw puzzle ever – and even then, the typical backyard-design task is much harder.

Shining a light on this process is

Called back to a pool he'd bid on unsuccessfully ten years earlier, William Drakeley found that the winning contractor had fallen short in several ways. It was now up to him to persuade an extremely reluctant client to start all over again, this time with a more suitable approach.
Called back to a pool he'd bid on unsuccessfully ten years earlier, William Drakeley found that the winning contractor had fallen short in several ways.  It was now up to him to persuade an extremely reluctant client to start all over again, this time with a more suitable approach.
By William Drakeley

As we were wrapping up a WaterShapes article called “Working at Water’s Edge” back in the fall of 2018, it occurred to me that there was another story to be told about one of the projects highlighted in the text.

In that article (click here), a pool I wrote about was set up on the edge of a large, manmade lake. I briefly noted that I’d been called to the site as a consultant after having seen the place several years earlier as a designer/builder who hadn’t won the contract. In this article, I’ll go back to my initial contacts with the client and tell a fuller story of a trying relationship that, slowly and with great difficulty,

It's always fun working with clients who know what they want but don't think they can have it, writes Shane LeBlanc. And that's particularly true when they're great collaborators who've already taken steps to set the tone and prepare the space for a crowning aquatic touch.
It's always fun working with clients who know what they want but don't think they can have it, writes Shane LeBlanc.  And that's particularly true when they're great collaborators who've already taken steps to set the tone and prepare the space for a crowning aquatic touch.
By Shane LeBlanc

If I’ve learned one truth about working with water in confined areas, it’s that success is most often measured by how much more spacious an added watershape makes those areas seem.

The funny thing in this particular case is that the yard wasn’t especially small, sloping away from a formal house down to a rustic cottage set on the edge of the property. What was crowded was the upper-level area into which we decided to insert a big part of the pool: It was hemmed in on one side by the home and on the other by the lot’s setback – a span of maybe 28 feet – below which the available space opened up and flowed down for about 30 feet to the cottage.

In quick order, I found myself confronting three

Called in to rescue a troubled project, Jeromey Naugle figured out what the client really wanted in no time at all -- then had to cope with starts, stops and delays while delivering all of the features the homeowner craved to complete an impressively reflective backyard.
Called in to rescue a troubled project, Jeromey Naugle figured out what the client really wanted in no time at all -- then had to cope with starts, stops and delays while delivering all of the features the homeowner craved to complete an impressively reflective backyard.
By Jeromey Naugle

From the start, this one was all about reflections.

The client was building a beautiful new home in Paradise Valley, an older, high-end suburb of Phoenix, Ariz., that nestles up against the base of Camelback Mountain. His greatest desire was to pull the dramatic structure and its setting together with a big, courtyard-style pool that would offer him special, unique perspectives on his surroundings, both up close and in the distance.

To make it happen, the home builder had taken some pencil sketches provided by the client and his interior designer and handed them off to his

After leaving us with a cliffhanger last month, Scott Christie follows up here with information on the clients' surprise request and on the process of bringing the backyard into final form with -- in addition to the original pool and spa -- a new pond system and, oh yes, a crumbling ruin.
After leaving us with a cliffhanger last month, Scott Christie follows up here with information on the clients' surprise request and on the process of bringing the backyard into final form with -- in addition to the original pool and spa -- a new pond system and, oh yes, a crumbling ruin.
By Scott Christie

My recent article in WaterShapes left readers in some suspense.

As reported last time (click here), we were most of the way through the design process and were actually getting ready to start important work on site when the homeowners sprung something new on us. They’d just returned from a trip to Europe, and they’d been so inspired by what they’d seen that they wondered if we could inject a sense of the “Old World” into the project.

The goal had previously been about creating a naturalistic setting in which wilderness seemed intent on reclaiming the space. Their fresh desire was to make explicit the notion that a

As part of a huge, evolving, multi-year project, Scott Christie and his colleagues were tasked with adding a pool to an estate's big backyard. In the first of two articles on what took place, he guides us through a design process filled with details, changes -- and a key surprise.
As part of a huge, evolving, multi-year project, Scott Christie and his colleagues were tasked with adding a pool to an estate's big backyard.  In the first of two articles on what took place, he guides us through a design process filled with details, changes -- and a key surprise.
By Scott Christie

There’s a lot to be said for working with the same homeowners through extended periods on various projects on single sites. From easier communications and familiarity with personalities to full awareness of site dynamics and the capabilities of local talent, the advantages of these long-term relationship quickly collect in long lists.

In this particular case, we at Hess Landscape Architects (Lansdale, Pa.) have worked on one particular property for a pair of clients for ten years now. This has included a variety of projects on an estate that covers

As glass-tile specialist Jimmy Reed sees it, the earlier he gets involved in a project, the better. In this case, however, he joined the project team a bit late -- which led to some unusual and expensive consequences as well as tough decisions having to do with layout and visual flow.
As glass-tile specialist Jimmy Reed sees it, the earlier he gets involved in a project, the better.  In this case, however, he joined the project team a bit late -- which led to some unusual and expensive consequences as well as tough decisions having to do with layout and visual flow.

This was one of those cases where a project that offers all the indications of a direct path to success took a couple of weird turns that complicated things in unusual ways.

The pool and spa are located high up in Trousdale Estates, a canyon-hugging neighborhood above Beverly Hills, Calif. The views are magnificent all the way to downtown Los Angeles in one direction and to the Pacific Ocean in another – and the spaces in which the pool and separate spa had been placed took the fullest possible advantage of those prospects.

Our client was a multifaceted home-design/build company that had a distinguished track record with this sort of all-concrete

Reimagining a classic pool is a tall order, especially when the original was a legendary regional favorite. But that's the task that confronted Gary Novitski and his colleagues, who started by cleaning the slate and then delivering four new watershapes to meet modern-day aquatic needs.
Reimagining a classic pool is a tall order, especially when the original was a legendary regional favorite.  But that's the task that confronted Gary Novitski and his colleagues, who started by cleaning the slate and then delivering four new watershapes to meet modern-day aquatic needs.
By Gary Novitski

With the effects of the Great Depression still rocking the economy in the mid-1930s, the Works Progress Administration became a major employer and creative force that put many still-treasured public facilities on the map. In fact, there are few cities in the country that don’t boast a park, bridge, post office or some other public structure built by some of the millions of laborers who found work through the WPA.

In 1937, Vincennes, Ind., was a particularly fortunate beneficiary of WPA’s prowess in the form of the Rainbow Beach Aquatic Center – one of the most innovative and distinctive of all such facilities built up to that time. The goals were two: to provide jobs for the unemployed and to address an alarming increase in

The homeowners had waited decades to revamp their backyard and came to the project with high expectations about how their new spa, fountain and deck would look. Now it was up to Grant Smith to solve a few tricky technical issues while making the most of the distant views.
The homeowners had waited decades to revamp their backyard and came to the project with high expectations about how their new spa, fountain and deck would look.  Now it was up to Grant Smith to solve a few tricky technical issues while making the most of the distant views.
By Grant Smith

It all started in the years following World War II, when large parcels of undeveloped suburban land were carved into tracts in which, all too often, as many homes as possible were included to accommodate huge population influxes. In a nutshell, this is why so many of the lots in places like southern California are relatively small.

We do lots of our work in these “bedroom communities,” and I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked to shoehorn full-featured pools and spas into tiny backyards with limited access. It can be done – we at Aqua-Link Pools & Spas (Carlsbad, Calif.) frequently tackle small-yard projects – but each of them carries

Designing and building any pool in close proximity to a body of water has its challenges. But if you start by focusing on one primary goal, writes William Drakeley, you'll find that the rest of the tasks involved in these technically demanding projects will become much more manageable.
Designing and building any pool in close proximity to a body of water has its challenges.  But if you start by focusing on one primary goal, writes William Drakeley, you'll find that the rest of the tasks involved in these technically demanding projects will become much more manageable.
By William Drakeley

As watershapers, we all have one common goal in mind: We don’t ever want our concrete pools, spas, fountains or waterfeatures – whatever it is we’ve just finished building – to move at any time, in any way at all.

This is true no matter the physical or geological circumstances. On a slope, on the flat, elevated above a parking garage or set on rock or in sand or clay, wherever we’re working, we follow

10 3 farley video artBy Mike Farley

I consider myself fortunate to work in a part of the country where the soil holds few mysteries. There’s a lot of clay, which means we make our shells stronger than you typically do in the sandy soils of Florida, but we don’t generally have the sorts of steep slopes where you have to worry about having a pool

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