Casual Elegance – designing an outdoor entertainment area
A young New York couple looks to landscape architecture to create an outdoor living space for entertaining
by Bill Einhorn, LDAW Landscape Architects, www.ldaw.net
I was hired by a young couple with three children in Westchester County to design and construct an outdoor entertainment area. They had just purchased the home and it already had a nice pool but it was disconnected from the residence. The owners wanted ideas on how to tie the areas together, increase the amount of living space as well as extending the outdoor season. Between the pool and the house was a basic wood deck. The deck was at a different level from the pool and you had to walk down steps and through the lawn to get to the pool area. The customer also wanted a link to the rear lawn area for the children. One of the major challenges I faced as a designer was the steep slope up from the end of the deck to the rear yard.
New items on the clients’ wish list were an outdoor fireplace, a built-in BBQ area and a large spa they could use all year long. As per my usual design method, I drew about 5 different sketch concepts showing different arrangements for the proposed program elements. After shooting some elevations I determined that there was only a 4” difference from the existing deck to the pool area and there really was no need to have steps leading down from the deck and walk back uphill to the pool area. My goal was to have the new terrace, fireplace, BBQ area, and spa all on the same level and with similar materials visually tying all the areas together. After reviewing the concepts with the client we combined aspects of several of the ideas into a final plan. I also created a 3D model for the client which really helped them understand what the space would actually look like.
The fireplace was the main feature and we wanted it seen from the kitchen and living room area adjacent to the sliders. Because the space was long and narrow due to the slope, I wanted to elongate the fireplace area to include built-in seating areas and firewood holders. I chose a 48” modular fireplace unit as the skeleton for the area. The stone used for the fireplace and walls was Connecticut Field Stone. The BBQ area needed to be adjacent to the kitchen and would include a refrigerator. A few of the concepts for the spa had it as part of the pool deck with expanded seating. We ultimately decided to have the spa as a more secluded, intimate space at the far end of the pool that could be enjoyed year-round by installing equipment separate from the pool which would be shut down for the winter. The spa we installed was a fiberglass model and an impressive 10’ in diameter. We decided to have it raised to promote seating on the coping. Pool and spa automation has come a long way over the past few years. We installed a fully automated computer system for the pool and spa that the customers could control from a wireless tablet as well as being able to program the spa to be on and heated through their iPhone by the time they got home. The spa also included LED color changing technology which puts on a great color show if desired.
The existing landscape style around the pool was very natural with many boulders, bamboo, and ornamental grasses. We extended the boulder theme to wrap around the spa area and planted it with bamboo including a Rhizome barrier. To keep the naturalistic theme the new steps leading up from the pool area to the rear lawn were stepping stone slabs approximately 6” thick. Additional plantings to the new areas included a variety of plants that would provide seasonal interest. A few of the plants we used were Butterfly Bush, Hydrangea, Stewartia, Agastache, Knockout Roses, Coreopsis, and several varieties of ornamental grasses with creeping succulents within the step areas.
The new spaces proved to be a great success. The client loves the fireplace area and were even having fires while we were still working on other areas of the property during construction. The spa has proved to be a big hit with the teenagers of course and with the adults after the kids have gone to sleep.
This was a wonderful and rewarding project to work on. As a Landscape Architect here in New York I definitely have seen a trend toward extending the time clients are able to enjoy their properties and features such as spas, fire pits, fireplaces, and outdoor kitchen areas are a few great ways to achieve that goal.
This past month we were called back to design and install a Bocce court for the client on the uphill area. Due to the slope, we had to sink the terrace end of the court and have a retaining wall around the perimeter. It was very challenging to create a level area 75’ long but it came out great and the clients love the new space!
About Bill Einhorn
Mr. Einhorn is a licensed Landscape Architect in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. Bill received his landscape architecture degree from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University. Prior to establishing LDAW, Mr. Einhorn was the Landscape Architect at the New York Botanical Garden. Bill has also lectured for the Cornell Cooperative Extension, The Horticultural Society of New York, and various garden societies. Presently, Bill teaches several landscape design courses at The New York Botanical Garden. In 2006, Bill was awarded “Instructor of the Year” for his significant contributions to excellence in continuing education. Besides running LDAW and teaching, Bill also serves as the President of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (www.apldny.org) here in New York, and served as Chair for the Residential Design Professional Practice Network for the American Society of Landscape Architects (www.asla.org).