This project was the result of the owner’s desire to install a swimming pool and outdoor living space inspired by tropical resorts they had visited on family vacations. The one element asked for specifically was a large waterfall spilling into the pool. The challenge for the designers was how to achieve the look the owner’s wished without the use of clichéd items such as thatched huts and tiki torches. The designers decided lush full plantings using plants found in the northeast region that met certain design criteria would be the primary way of giving the tropical feel. Boulder outcroppings, irregular stone paving and fire bowls along the back of the pool would complete the look.
The property is located in a newer subdivision with homes on both sides and a school to the rear. A walkway connects the neighborhood and the school along one side. The desired privacy would be addressed by the placement of plants and trees around the perimeter in mounded beds. Placing the waterfall to the rear of the pool helped block the view of the school beyond. The township had restrictions on the amount of impervious material allowable on site. The patio was designed to the maximum allowable size with square footage going to where it would be most usable. Planting beds were cut into the patio to decrease unnecessary square footage, divide spaces, and allow for more places to add plants and trees.
A rectangular swimming pool was chosen to make it easier to install an automatic pool cover. The pool was designed, with input from the landscape designers, and contracted separately by the owner. The landscape designers chose the location of pool and waterfall so that it was prominently placed to be the focal point of the backyard. The pool includes a curving sunbathing shelf running from end to end, finished in a lighter color to make it more visible, with removable umbrellas for shade and to add to the resort feel. To tie into the boulders used throughout the design, a large boulder was used as a substitute for a diving board. The yard sloped down towards the back of the property which required a large amount of soil to be added and large boulder retaining wall along the back.
For the planting design, the designers choose to focus on plants with larger leaves, various leaf colors and textures, and plants with large flowers in bold colors. These plants were then arranged into a loose lush planting scheme mixed with more traditional northeast plants such as pines, grasses, and roses. Unique plants such as hardy bananas were added for their tropical and exotic look. The full planting beds help to nestle in and enclose the living space.
Broken flagstone was chosen for the patio and intentionally left irregular at the edges. PA flagstone was avoided and a stone with gold and brown tones was chosen. Boulder outcroppings added to the natural and tropical theme. The fire pit was designed with a large built-in bench to increase the amount of seating. The designers chose a rounded smooth shape and incorporated the same stone as the pool coping for the caps and bench. For entertaining guests the outdoor kitchen was outfitted with a large gas grill, beverage taps, refrigerator, sink and a dedicated lobster cooker. The kitchen was finished with granite countertops and stainless steel cabinets. Two strategically placed fire bowls, along with the low voltage lighting, add additional interest to the space at night.
While the designers were faced with many challenges the resulting design incorporated enough elements to achieve the desired look and feel. Using plants appropriate to the northeast that fit the design criteria and carefully choosing hardscaping materials was essential. The owner’s feel they now have their own tropical theme resort right in their Pennsylvania backyard.