THE CANVAS: Small, dirt-and-grass space

THE PALETTE: Rustic materials, dramatic color scheme, lush vegetation

THE MASTERPIECE: Bucolic simplicity, a venue for formal parties, an artist’s sanctuary

The goal of any builder who serves elite customers is to create a work of art in the backyard. This time, Michael Inzerillo had to design a masterpiece for actual artists.

The clients were a well-known painter and his wife, a university art professor. This home functioned as a weekend retreat. The couple asked Inzerillo to create an environment that would provide inspiration.

To meet their needs, the president of Swimming Pools by Jack Anthony Inc. crafted this quaint cottagelike setting, complete with a pond-style pool and wood-sided studio. The scene itself appears to come straight from a painting.

Small spaces

The lot size was under 10,000 square feet, and Inzerillo had to take into account the location’s stringent setbacks, so he got creative. The yard featured a 4-foot grade change that sloped down from the back of the property toward the house. This largely directed the concept.

“In small areas, grade changes help you design the space better. It gives more interest,” Inzerillo says.

But a simple retaining wall wouldn’t do. “Rather than creating a single 4-foot wall in back of the yard, we built two 2-foot ones,” he says. One wall houses a planter while at the other grade change Inzerillo raised the pool out of the ground and veneered the outside with stone.

The strategy gave the illusion of more depth to the yard.

Pond theme

The couple wanted their pool purely for decoration, and requested that it look like a pond.

In designing it, Inzerillo stuck with a basic philosophy. “Ponds appear simple and clean,” he says. “Less is more.”

He selected a subtle, free-form shape with a black liner to reinforce the impression of depth that you see in a natural pond. Inzerillo also used custom-radius steel steps inside the pool that would be camouflaged by the liner.

The builder utilized natural materials such as Corinthian granite, mountain laurel dry-stack stone and cleft bluestone. Plant beds along the pool were chosen to enhance the pond theme and provide color throughout the year.

To give the homeowners more privacy, Inzerillo screened the pool and patio area with trees such as evergreens, weeping cherries and sweet-smelling pears.

Special request

The artist also wanted a studio to accompany the waterscape. Inzerillo and his team designed a small structure with extra-tall ceilings to accommodate the artist’s 10-foot-tall canvases. It features cedar-shake siding and a polished concrete floor.

Besides requesting a space for reflection, the homeowners also needed an area suitable for cocktail parties. The patio is designed exactly for this function.

“We have lighting in the grass and in the walls,” Inzerillo says. “On the [granite decks], we used concrete joints between the stone so it’s like a flat surface. When guests walk over it they can be very comfortable.”

The end product would inspire anyone.