Balance aesthetics with functionality
The questions I began asking had the Beaulieus perplexed at first. What outside areas do you visit regularly? From which approach would guests arrive for a poolside barbecue? Through the house? From the side yard? Where should the pool’s filtration and heating systems be placed? Do you need storage for pool chemicals and such?
Clients often are concerned primarily with a landscape’s aesthetic properties, but as a designer, I also think about making the site function properly. One way I try to achieve this goal is to establish strong sight lines to the focal points and “destinations” that provide the garden’s structure. I always begin by analyzing a site’s opportunities. It may not be necessary to create new focal points and destinations but rather to simply emphasize existing ones. In this case, the Beaulieus mentioned that there was an existing path beyond the pool, which led to a general store a short walk away. We decided to make this path a destination.
To make the pool settle into the landscape, my first suggestion was to align the traffic patterns with focal points in the landscape. It made sense to take advantage of the existing path through the woods, so we decided to align the view from the proposed sunroom with an element indicating passage on the other side of the pool. I designed that element as a white arching arbor. It provides an eyecatching
destination and also functions as a screen to the pool’s filtration and heating equipment. By having a focal point beyond the pool, views extend over it, and the pool becomes part of the larger landscape.
Another major challenge was how to attract visitors up the slope at the side yard. We decided to build terraced retaining walls and a fairly wide staircase, which we aligned with a planned circulating waterfall on the opposite, uphill side of the pool. As with the arbor, this staircase signals a traffic pattern and serves as a destination and an organizing element within the design.
As for the larger landscape, the woodland edge left behind by the clearing and bulldozing was unattractive. A thinned-out understory exposed the site to views and noise from the road beyond. This stark sight line would be especially evident from the planned sunroom looking toward the woodland path. Our design solution was to place a storage shed against this woodland edge. This useful structure was appealing to look at from the sunroom and provided a strong architectural background for the pool area.
Photo/Illustration: Tara Goldberg