Style Council
- By Melanie Jauregui - August 2004

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I: Organic Undulations

     The clients on this first project — in Alpine, Calif —had a long wish list and lots of general ideas about what they wanted. This gave me a starting point while leaving plenty of room for interpretation when it came to specific design decisions.

     When we first met, they said they wanted something natural, even mountainous, to give what was otherwise a drab, flat-as-a-board space a rustic

feeling. Theft lot was a big square, quite typical of those in the subdivisions of East San Diego County these days.

     As I do with all my clients, I closed in specifically on what they meant. Through the entire conversation, we kept returning to the same set of ideas: They wanted lots of plants, plenty of mounding and an overall sense of undulation in the landscape — a “voluptuous” setting, so to speak— to go with a pool, spa, waterfeature and built-in barbecue.

Staying Flexible

     As we kept exploring and reviewing books and magazines, the clients were also (surprisingly) attracted to some highly formal elements (including an arbor allêe) that can be tricky to fit within a natural style. Fortunately, we were working with a large project area that made it possible to create distinct spaces that could be blended and held together by picking up plant and stone material, for example, and working with them from zone to zone.

     In this case, low walls surfaced in Cameron ledger stone were key integrating elements. It all starts with the pool and a raised portion of the bond beam that extends well beyond the pool and gradually disappears in the rolling contours of the garden. All of the extended walls were laid out with sweeping curves that gracefully reinforced the impression of undulation.

     I’ve used this extended-wall detail on other projects to lead the eye into a garden while integrating a watershape into the scenery: There’s a wonderful unity that rises where a pool isn’t separated from its setting — and in this case I think it works quite well.

     In shaping the undulations, we took the spoils from the swimming pool dig and piled them up in several places in low, gentle contours. Nothing was too drastic by way of elevation changes, as we didn’t want it to look like we’d “buried dead horses” all over the property and topped them with symbolic tombstones of rocks or plants: The whole area is very softly graded.

     The pool itself has a freeform shape. The foreground spa is set down in the pool itself instead of serving as a large, separate statement. Nearby is a water- feature — a small Koi pond designed not to compete with the spa, but rather to function visually as part of the pool itself while being operationally separate from it. (The effect works because of the small bridge that separates the vessels while leading onward to a large raised deck and shade structure that overlook the pool.) There’s a small waterfall with the Koi pond that provides aeration for the biological system as well as a soothing set of sounds.

     The pool and spa interiors are finished in fine, dark-gray and black pebbles that pick up the dark veins in the Cameron stone. Here as in many of my other projects, I relied on the skill and color sense of my hardscape/swimming pool installer, Goran Kirovski of Triton Pools & Spas (Escondido, Calif.). He’s a genius with hardscape color, giving me the freedom to design a spectrum of subtle, custom looks right on site.

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This is a reprint of an article originally printed in Watershapes Magazine - Volume 6 - Number 8 - August 2004