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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

The project started with a touch of mystery, says Chuck Baumann, but not knowing the name of the client up front was no barrier to defining the site's potential -- or to asking for an expanded budget that would take full advantage of breathtaking views of San Francisco and its bay.
The project started with a touch of mystery, says Chuck Baumann, but not knowing the name of the client up front was no barrier to defining the site's potential -- or to asking for an expanded budget that would take full advantage of breathtaking views of San Francisco and its bay.
By Chuck Baumann

Some of the most intriguing projects begin with an element of mystery.

I received a call from a prominent local designer who informed me that he was putting together a Dream Team for a special client and a special site – but for now, no name would be attached: All we were to receive was a reference number (15-LLC) and a location along with a preliminary plan and some photographs. I wasn’t alone in receiving this preview: Other top-tier exterior-design professionals had been

The homeowner saw his backyard as an incurable disaster, but Shane LeBlanc found great potential on its open slope -- as well as a golden opportunity to test out some unique design concepts he figured he could use in transforming the unadorned space into something truly spectacular.
The homeowner saw his backyard as an incurable disaster, but Shane LeBlanc found great potential on its open slope -- as well as a golden opportunity to test out some unique design concepts he figured he could use in transforming the unadorned space into something truly spectacular.
By Shane LeBlanc

We may have wrapped up the project discussed here more than five years ago, but I still see this backyard almost every time I take clients around to see examples of our work. The way I figure it, there’s no better way to start a portfolio tour than by knocking prospects’ socks off.

There’s lots of cool stuff going on here, some of which can readily be seen: the sweeping, Lautner-style perimeter-overflow edge around much of the free-form pool; the glorious water-on-water vanishing edge overlooking a large pond; a nice, full-featured spa; and the floating

The clients wanted to add a pool to the existing features of their large backyard. Kurt Kraisinger was happy to oblige, but he had a grander vision for reorganizing their entire space around a core fire feature and had to figure out a way to persuade them to come along for the ride.
The clients wanted to add a pool to the existing features of their large backyard.  Kurt Kraisinger was happy to oblige, but he had a grander vision for reorganizing their entire space around a core fire feature and had to figure out a way to persuade them to come along for the ride.
By Kurt Kraisinger

It’s been my good fortune through the years to have worked with some wonderful clients who’ve inspired me to take the extra step, think in different ways and do everything possible to make them happy.

This family was on that level: They love entertaining friends and relations, yet more than anything, the four of them enjoy spending time together – a throwback to the “Leave It to Beaver” spirit of the 1950s and ’60s. At every turn, they were easygoing and patient in ways that made

When the homeowner suddenly (and completely) changed his mind about this project's direction, it was easy to slide into a new groove, says Andrew Kaner, simply because the fresh start offered so many opportunities to transform the pool, deck and views from so-so to spectacular.
When the homeowner suddenly (and completely) changed his mind about this project's direction, it was easy to slide into a new groove, says Andrew Kaner, simply because the fresh start offered so many opportunities to transform the pool, deck and views from so-so to spectacular.
By Andrew Kaner

Did you ever have a client who knew exactly what he or she wanted in a project, only to change direction once he or she heard the price? That happened with the poolscape discussed in this article – but with an unusual twist.

The homeowner, a prominent South Florida businessperson, had purchased the waterfront property with its existing pool. And he wasn’t finished: He also purchased two neighboring homes, flattening one to make way for a sculpture garden and setting up the other as staff housing. When we saw the site for the first time, the main residence was

Taking a chance with someone who wasn't yet his client, Skip Phillips sketched up an alternative to a proposed pool renovation and ended up completely transforming a large backyard space. It was suddenly a major project -- and then came a long list of efficiency-oriented details!
Taking a chance with someone who wasn't yet his client, Skip Phillips sketched up an alternative to a proposed pool renovation and ended up completely transforming a large backyard space.  It was suddenly a major project -- and then came a long list of efficiency-oriented details!
By Skip Phillips

I’ve noticed through the years that, from my perspective at least, some of my favorite projects come with the best stories. The poolscape seen here is definitely one of these.

The client started things off by purchasing a house in an ultra-high-end neighborhood, then personalized it with all sorts of details, materials and finishes that turned the existing house into an extremely comfortable Country French-style estate. The one element it lacked, he figured, was a nice swimming pool.

While he was considering his options, the home next door – one with

Working on a steeply sloping site above a Texas lake, Mike Farley ran into a bizarre local rule that knocked him back a couple steps -- literally. But that episode didn't keep him from providing his clients and their kids with more fun and features than they had ever imagined possible.
Working on a steeply sloping site above a Texas lake, Mike Farley ran into a bizarre local rule that knocked him back a couple steps -- literally.  But that episode didn't keep him from providing his clients and their kids with more fun and features than they had ever imagined possible.
By Mike Farley

One of the important lessons I learned as a young watershaper is that I am not a surveyor.

Working on a pool design in the hills south of California’s Napa Valley many, many years ago, I found myself on a sloping lot, broke out my line level and figured I could, with some patience and care, map all of the relevant elevations and develop a suitable design based on my observations of the contours.

As it turned out, I was

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