There is a painting I love by Howard Hodgkin that hung in my office for years. It’s called “Rain.” A thick, gray band runs around the outside perimeter of the canvas framing an area of green curves and other shapes. The colors are moody, the lines blurred.

After looking at it for a moment, the meaning becomes clear: This is someone’s view from a window, gazing out at the rain. Yes, there’s the faint suggestion of a curtain, hills, and a barn, but the painting is abstract almost to the point of being unrecognizable.

My favorite thing about this work is also my favorite thing about many of the projects in this year’s Masters of Design issue.

Rather than depicting the way rain outside a window truly appears, Hodgkin’s painting focuses how it feels to look at that same rain.

And that type of abstract, emotional communication is highly evident in this year’s winners.

A personal favorite of mine is the inground spa designed by Skip Phillips and Gene Brown. This project is not only an inviting place to soak away one’s cares, it’s a stunning, complex visual statement. The razor-clean strokes of the pool, spa, deck and house mirror each other in a brilliant conversation about line and order.

Another project close to my heart was designed by Sean Topper and Phil Bowles, who created a pool that is almost spooky in its ability to change appearance given the time of day and where the viewer is standing. From one perspective, it’s an eye-pleasing meditation in blue and gray, but looked at from another angle, this pool almost makes me feel that the earth itself has opened to expose a rare, impossibly dark and shiny substance.

And don’t miss the waterfeature by Randy Tumber and Jason Jayne. Though it’s not making a “statement” in the true sense of the word, this project does an amazing job of replicating nature while adding a number of clearly man-made features that serve as wonderful surprises for those lucky enough to walk through this property. From the team’s spectacular rock placement to the vivid yet understated landscaping, this is a lush celebration of life itself.

It gives me great pleasure to introduce these 15 outstanding projects, and I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.