Real Estate: Back-yard Oasis
By: Katie Wilmeth
Special to The Examiner
08/28/08 12:05 AM EDT
“We want a pool” is a familiar refrain heard by many a parent with persistent children and a big backyard.So it’s no surprise that many swimming pool makeovers often center around swimmies, noodles and other pool-friendly floating devices.
But when Christopher Cahill, owner of Olney’s Botanical Decorators, set out to transform his client’s backyard from a plain Jane swath of land into a welcoming oasis, he didn’t forget about adult swim.
“It’s totally meant to be the playful combination of the adult playground as well as having enough space for the kids,” said Cahill, who, with landscape designer Brian Hahn, spearheaded a $600,000 top-to-toe makeover of this Ashton backyard.
Cahill and Hahn’s client, a high-level executive for a local hotel company and his three young daughters, wanted a livable backyard where they could hang out, cook, swim, relax and entertain guests.
With this direction in mind, the pair set about creating a true retreat that the family could use nearly year-round.
The pool, obviously a standout feature of the backyard, has a dramatic feel with three waterfalls (one for each of the client’s daughters) that cascade flush against the pool’s Carderock stone wall. The interior finish also lends an opulent touch with blue and black pebbles accented by tiny seashells that give the pool a sparkle on sunny days.
The pool is just the beginning of what was a true transformation of a long underused backyard.
As Cahill puts it, the backyard — complete with weathered deck and an oddly placed screen porch — was a “late ’70s, early ’80s horror story.”
Where that deck once was, now stands a contemporary space that’s worthy of the new millennium. The new screened-in porch has 15-foot ceilings, warm butter cream walls, Ipe (a Brazilian walnut) floors and mahogany doors that lead into the family room. A gas fireplace with a stucco and granite hearth that turns the porch into a three-season space, with wrought iron railings and sophisticated furniture, complete the look.
Retractable screens were added to the porch to allow for flow during parties. The screens can be lifted to connect the porch to a second outdoor space on the deck, which is also covered to allow for all-weather use.
A grand staircase descends to the pool deck, where there is plenty of seating, as well as five chaise lounges.
“Everything here has grand proportions,” Cahill said. “But it doesn’t feel like it.”
Indeed, despite the “enormously large” pool (measuring in at an impressive 22 by 48 feet) and a dining table that seats at least eight, the space looks at home as the backdrop for a cocktail party or for a simple game of Marco Polo among the home’s three girls.
The pool deck gets another shot of sophistication with its flagstone and travertine inlay floor. The warm yellow travertine gives the deck a Mediterranean feel and also keeps the floor cooler than flagstone would — meaning no burned feet in the summer.
A large hot tub is tucked away on the pool deck at the foot of the stairs, placed there for easy access from both the upstairs deck and downstairs patio. Cahill and Hahn encased the tub in stone to “give it a very low profile, which is different from hot tubs that usually stick out like a sore thumb,” Cahill said.
The ground floor patio is another nod to the adult- and kid-friendly design. A large table for entertaining sits on top of the travertine inlay — a design that was made to look like a rug — while a pingpong table takes up the rest of the space.
New doors and windows were also added to the back of the house to open up the space by the patio and create easier access from the house.
Cosmetically, the project appears practically perfect, but it might be what visitors don’t see that’s even more impressive. The deck and patio were both waterproofed with an intricate set of pipes, drains and irrigation, while the pool, which would be flooded during rainstorms by the remnants of an old river, is protected by a retaining wall and several other “engineering feats,” Cahill said.
The completed project — which technically isn’t complete; they will add a pool house in the coming months — was a hit with the client and his three daughters. And during the renovation process, a fifth person was added to the mix. Cahill and Hahn started working for a dad, but by the end, they were also working for a new husband.
Interesting, Cahill said, because the project had taken a bit of a masculine turn (see the wrought iron, mahogany, stucco, neutral color palette and other decidedly non-girly accents).
But the bright red and yellow umbrellas? Those pops of colors were added once a woman came on the scene.
Still, even with all the entertaining the couple does, the three girls perhaps use the new space the most.
“The kids will play in the pool as long as they can,” Hahn said. “It’s hard to get them out