The Canvas:Southern bayou, drenched soil, massive treesThe Palette: French Quarter flairs, a woman’s curves, the warmth of crimson brickThe Masterpiece: A backyard brimming with romance, a mold is broken
The Canvas:Southern bayou, drenched soil, massive treesThe Palette: French Quarter flairs, a woman’s curves, the warmth of crimson brickThe Masterpiece: A backyard brimming with romance, a mold is broken

Floating lazily down the Bayou De Siard, you see the backyards of many homes along the northern Louisiana waters. But one is quite remarkable.

There’s a small dock reaching away from the house toward the creek. A little farther up, a tiered backyard accented with dark bricks, Bourbon Street-style gas lamps and a dramatic statue of a sensuous woman remind you that you’re in the South — the humid, tranquil, passionate South.

“A lot of the materials — black tile, red brick, gas lights — I would say the clients were going for a New Orleans look, especially with that statue,” says John Lambert, owner/contractor of A-1 Fiberglass Pools Inc. in West Monroe, La.

Lambert, who founded A-1 Fiberglass in 1980, consulted with the homeowner, a heart surgeon, before developing the $85,000 backyard project in conjunction with landscape architect Rhymes Oliver. When Lambert first saw the yard, there was a small patio surrounded by little landscaping. The muddy property sloped toward the bayou.

“Originally, it had a traditional Southern look with a lot of azaleas and such, [but] all the plants and trees were too big,” Lambert says. “So we dug them up and set them on a truck. I think they were taken somewhere else and reused.”

Lambert and Oliver worked to create a unified look that complemented the style and colors of the home and fit the client’s needs. “The homeowner wanted a negative-edge pool overlooking the bayou,” Lambert says. “Our specialty is custom-built fiberglass shells that are built like gunite pools with negative edges and waterfeatures and such.

“But with fiberglass, you have to specially order a negative-edge pool,” he adds. “The homeowner wasn’t willing to wait that long, so [we] decided to go with a negative-edge waterfeature.”

Gray matters

The project unfolded quickly, taking a mere 21/2 months to complete. The land was leveled and the soil readied. Then, the 17-by-41-foot fiberglass shell was put in place. Though Lambert prefers using dark pools as opposed to white fiberglass shells, the owners selected a light gray finish for their shallow vessel.

Lambert installed deep tan decking with a salt-rock finish and lined the pool with dark ceramic, slatelike tiles. Then the builder raised the sides of the deck 18 inches on either side of the pool, extending the ceramic tiling up to accommodate five laminar jets that shoot clear streams of recirculated water into the center of the vessel.

Lambert and his team obtained red bricks from a local company to balance the coloring of the home. He created six short brick columns to line the sides of the raised deck and support two gas lamps ordered from New Orleans.

“We’re a hands-on company, without a lot of ubcontracting,” Lambert says. “We do all the brickwork, masonry and everything ourselves.”

He then used those same red bricks to convert an existing circular fountain into a simple flower bed. He also used them to create the pool’s bull-nose coping. In addition, the bricks line the two sets of stairs that lead to the first and third levels of the backyard. For those levels, Lambert reused some of the 1-1/2-inch charcoal slate pieces from the original patio to play off the rich, gray color of the home’s roof.

To infinity and beyond

However, the most impressive element of the project was a specially made fiberglass waterfeature: a raised, vanishing-edge marvel. Located between the pool deck and lowest level, it required tedious hours and a tricky design to perfect.

First, a concrete foundation was poured. Then, Lambert hand-laid the resin, covering it with large, individual pieces of fiberglass. The final layer was a fiberglass gel coat. The feature was lined with the same slatelike ceramic tiles used along the pool.

“It’s similar to gunite construction, where they come and blow it in,” says Susannah Salley, design consultant for A-1 Fiberglass. “After the fiberglass pieces were laid, we blew in the black gel-coat finish. John chose to use fiberglass here because the finish lasts a little longer.”

The waterfeature works on a separate, automated pump that creates either a “trickle or a big waterfall sound.” The vanishing edge, which is most effective when viewed from the first level of the yard, is accented by a 3-foot statue of a woman arching her back.

“The negative edge is 27 feet long and about 3 feet deep,” Lambert says. “We had to set the statue on a pedestal so that it barely touches the water. Then we lit it up with an underwater spotlight.”

Lambert and his team tried to create a soft, mellow glow throughout the backyard. To accomplish this goal, they installed fiberoptic lighting in the pool, small spotlights and floodlights. “The bayou [provides a lot of] inspiration,” says Salley of Lambert’s work.

“We wanted a soft lighting setting,” she adds. “It all ties together.”