THE CANVAS: Old World Spanish motif, tropical foliage, suburban chic

THE PALETTE: Classic distressed red brick, natural rock and boulders, rustic-colored stamped concrete

THE MASTERPIECE: A private lagoon, entertainment epicenter, jungle fever flavor

When Jason Stoker designs an aquascape, he usually installs the pool and then works outward. He starts with the deck, then the landscaping and so forth. However, for this project, the deck and landscaping were already in place.

Stoker just needed to figure out a way to make it all fit together. “The client was a repeat fiberglass pool customer, so he knew what he wanted,” says the project manager at Fiberglass Pools of the Desert. “We had to find a pool that would not only fit the yard, but also conform to the existing landscaping.”

It was a small backyard. To make matters worse, it sloped uphill, and was populated with huge birds of paradise plants and banana palms. But for Stoker, a pastPool & Spa News Masters of Design winner, it was all in a day’s work.

The match game

He had no problem selecting materials for the project. Elements already existing in the backyard would serve as guides: a patio composed of stamped concrete with distressed brick trim.

This was a new type of aquascape for Stoker. Typically, he builds pools in desert communities that feature a more hardscrabble, arid look. “This one was done in San Diego,” he says. “It’s an Old World, Spanish-like design. I don’t think the distressed brick would go as well with the stuff we do in the desert.”

Stoker did his best to match the new stamped concrete to the 10-year-old material on the patio. Concrete is fickle, though. When it’s poured at different intervals — particularly a decade apart — it will never match up exactly.

So Stoker made sure the old and new weren’t placed too close together. He positioned a ribbon of brick to separate them. “When they’re apart like that, you can’t tell it’s not an exact match,” he says.

Meeting the challenges

He and his crew faced some obstacles due to the project’s undesirable soil quality and tight backyard space. “One of the biggest challenges was the placement of the large boulders [for the waterfall], which were set with a crane,” Stoker says.

“It’s difficult in a yard that is already landscaped — it kind of dictated where the waterfall would be,” he adds. “Usually, it’s nice to build a waterfall and then landscape around it. But here, we had to do it the other way around.”

The soil conditions were problematic, too. Hard clay abounded, making digging tough at times. “It was bad clay,” Stoker says. “All the digging for the conduits and pipes had to be done with a jackhammer.”

Putting it together

The sloping lawn already had one small retaining wall, so he decided to use the area for a raised spa and waterfall. The original wall — the lower one situated on the pool’s perimeter — had to be altered to accommodate the waterfeature.

“We took about 15 feet off the retaining wall to build the waterfall,” he says. “The ground gradually sloped up, so we cut into the slope and built the second retaining wall. We matched the first one by putting a brick wall cap on it.”

The fiberglass spa was situated into the deck. It was then ensconced with more distressed brick.

The waterfall, constructed with natural stone that was selected to match the colors in the brick and stamped concrete, is fed from two sources. Spillover from the spa and a small stream created by a waterfeature at the back of the property line flow into it.

Installing a fiberglass shell was important. It needed to fit in with the predetermined design elements without overwhelming them, yet still be able to accommodate the rock waterfall.

“A lot of it had to do with the size of the yard,” Stoker says. “We didn’t want the whole yard to be the pool. We wanted a free-form look as well. The one we chose has a kidney pattern on one side, but it’s straight on the other side.”

The project cost approximately $90,000. The various appointments — such as the wooden bridge, chiminea, potted plants and patio furniture — were selected by the homeowner, who has a background in design and landscaping. They helped pull the entire design together to make every element work in harmony.

“[The owner] told me he wanted it to be the best pool he’s ever owned,” Stoker says. “And now he says it is.”