Elegant remake: Amazingly enough, this backyard began as a 30-year-old plot that had fallen somewhat into disrepair. “It had definitely seen a sunnier day,” says Randy Angell, lead designer/creative director at Pool Environments in Plano, Texas. The client wanted a clean, modern garden, with a touch of Zen. That meant the dark aggregate deck finish, brick coping and overgrown landscaping would have to go. It all looked very heavy and overgrown, which seemed inappropriate for the client. Angell felt a light touch would match her personality. “She’s very soft-spoken and delicate, very well-spoken as a world traveler and designer,” Angell says. Lighter materials, straighter lines and a strategic deck layout helped bring the backyard and its retro-shaped pool into the modern age.
Eye-catching serenity: The client wanted a raised waterfeature she could view from her kitchen window. Angell created two raised planters, angled off each other. One is clearly dominant — it’s taller, filled solely with the very vertical and dark horsetail reed and finished in dazzling green glass tile. This wall features a row of seven 2-by-2-inch stainless steel scuppers to add the needed touch of delicacy. The scuppers and accents align with the cap of the other planter, which is filled with lower, softer textured grass and veneered in a Pennsylvania bluestone with a greenish cast. “I wanted the scuppers to have purpose in their placement,” Angell says. “That’s a very subtle element that helps draw the eye all the way across that without anything causing it to stop.” This was the only spot where Angell changed the pool’s shape.
Their little corner of the world: Designers have to be careful how they react to the small details on a property. You never know what’s important to the client. When Angell saw this mature Hackberry tree and the unusual shape it formed, he made all kinds of plans. But the previous bidders hadn’t. When they suggested removing the tree, the homeowner lost interest. “Thankfully when I walked in, I saw that tree and flipped out,” Angell says. “I said, ‘We need to uncover that tree so you can see it.’ I wanted to create a sculpture garden around the base so we could actually see the artistic form of that trunk. I think that’s when I sold her on using us.” The trunk that had grown across the yard sat about 24 inches off the ground, so he envisioned people using it as a bench.
Almost from scratch: Angell kept what was best about the site — the original pool shell and some existing trees — and scrapped the rest. The main design challenge? To make the pool shape fit in a modern theme. “There was not one angle that aligned with another, and nothing was squared with the house,” Angell says. “It was just a combination of really odd angles.” He tempered that shape with the cantilevered coping, which was colored and sized to resemble large slabs of Lueders limestone. The back of the coping does not go in a straight line, but pulls in and out. The gaps between the hardscape slabs are wider than normal and inset with black Mexican pebble. “By creating that rather random rectangular shape to the backside of the coping and paralleling it with the house, it helped me deal with the pool’s very irregular shape,” the designer says. “It helped downplay that existing shape, by taking the eye away from those irregular angles and squaring it off more with the house.” The lighter color of the concrete helped create a feeling of calm and spaciousness.