THE CANVAS: Sloping grassy knolls, small spaces, a restrictive golf community

THE PALETTE: Irregular flagstone accents, a spectrum of creamy hues

THE MASTERPIECE: Southern romanticism, whimsical fairy tale, a project that proves good things come in pairs

The Sugarloaf Country Club is distinctly Atlanta, offering patrons grand homes on large lots overlooking green expanses. The golf community has strict rules when it comes to construction, though.

“In this particular lot, from the rear property line, we had a setback of 50 feet; from the sides, it was a 15-foot setback,” says Jeff Mittelman, residential sales director at Master Pools by Artistic Pools Inc. “Even though this home was large, the yard became a narrow space. It was tight access on a tight site.”

Getting a circular, vanishing-edge spa and koi pond wedged into the tiny square required some ingenuity. “It wasn’t a project you see every day,” says Ron Coker Jr., president/COO of the company, which is a Pool & Spa News Top Builder. “We needed to tailor the spa and waterfeature to the residence and fit the lay of the land. We try to aesthetically blend each project into the topography, so it looks like it was meant to be there.”

Romancing the stone

Deciding how to use the yard’s elements required understanding of the natural terrain. Immediately, Coker and Mittelman knew the aquascape would need extensive hardscaping.

“Everything here is rolling hills and trees and mountains,” Mittelman says. “The idea was to continue that naturalistic theme by bringing in stones and boulders, leveling the yard with the support of retaining walls and creating a garden atmosphere.”

The aquascape utilizes roughly 12 tons of a multihued Tennessee flagstone and nearly 14 tons of boulders.

Before bringing in the heavy stones, the team had to construct a retaining wall that would support the entire structure. Nearly 8 feet high, the wall curves upward to form the spa’s weir wall, 4 feet of which is exposed and faced with a dry stack of the flagstone.

“Stacked stone is one of my personal favorites,” Coker says. “It’s also a local material, so it marries well into the topography. In addition, there’s a beautiful view from the golf course if you’re looking back up at the spa: You get the dramatic sight of this stone-faced water wall.”

Around the koi pond, the team placed modular boulders. “You’ve got regular, round boulders that are used sporadically in the project,” Mittelman says. “We worked in conjunction with a landscaper to create the mountain-stream look with exotic plants.”

Among the vegetation is a richly colored Japanese maple. Myriad perennials, ferns and low-lying shrubs give the project warmth. Water lilies and bright pink flowers contrast with the dark interior of the pond and a Tahoe blue Pebble Tec brand finish completes the spa.

The coloring of the residence — a traditional, three-story brick home — lent itself easily to the selection of purples, pinks, creams and grays seen throughout the landscaping.

Double vision

As much as visual impact influenced the design, Coker and Mittelman also needed to make the aquascape functional. Their solution was to create a yin-yang effect in the waterfeatures, pathways and accessories that form the lush landscape.

For instance, the spa can be reached by two trails, passing alongside the dramatic Japanese maple. Flat boulders were used to form a set of two steps at each entrance. “It’s a Zen feel,” Mittelman says. “You can take the little bridge over the pond and access the side of the spa, or you can continue on the stone path to the main stairs.”

Still, Coker and Mittelman say there is little intentional uniformity in the project. “It’s intended to be natural — a lush, boulder-stream effect. But at the same time, there is the deliberate effect of water cascading down from a high precipice,” Coker says. “From that precipice, you’re going in two different directions: one over the vanishing edge of the spa, and the other of the water cascading gently down in into the pond.”

Though the waterfall appears to spill from the spa, it’s actually water from the pond, which runs on a separate system. “At the other end of the pond, there is also a second small waterfeature. It’s mirroring the larger one adjacent to the spa,” Mittelman says. “The extended stone ledge next to the larger waterfall frames out the area. There’s also a lot of low-voltage landscape lighting throughout this project. At night, this project is so pretty.”

Two small, patina animal statues rest on the ledge at the base of the waterfall. And a pond-side, wrought-iron bench provides a restful respite for two.

“The goal was to create a unique waterfeature and spa experience, a gardenesque atmosphere,” Mittelman explains.

“We built a nice-sized spa with a vanishing edge, a lot of exposed stone walls and a separate garden koi pond,” he adds. “I think we pulled it off.”