The three experts who made this incredible backyard oasis possible weigh in on what makes it special—and how yours can be too.
Gardens for Living
The Watkins family placed their modern home in a breathtaking valley, merging the new and the old in seamless symmetry. But it took a lot of planning and foresight to make the two looks harmonize.
“How do you take this really beautiful modern house and make it appear to belong on that hill there?” asks John Phillips of Gardens for Living, the landscape designers behind the project. It first took some heavy lifting in regards to the landscape. “There’s a gentle slope away from the house and it just goes from the house and blends in and eventually becomes pasture, and we had to roll the grade away to accomplish that.”
Phillips also intentionally balanced the striking appearance of the house with landscape features that are equally as powerful. “The house is so dramatic, there had to be something dramatic as you’re approaching the house, too.”
Phillips’ Tips for Your Yard
- Trees are a wonderful addition to any landscape, and there are so many great native flowering trees to choose from that add a lot to home.
- Don’t forget movement in the landscape. So many landscapes are very static—just evergreen, round balls in front of a house. But if you look in nature, nature has all sorts of grasses and whispy plants that move in the wind.
- And just remember that we have so many wonderful native plants that do not require as many inputs (as far as fertilizer, being sprayed, etc). Always lean toward native, adaptive plants. There are hundreds.
Living Stone Construction
Though the landscape forms the literal background for the Watkins’ residence, it’s the manmade elements that make the most of it. “The project was a blast, you can tell hopefully by the way it turned out—to plan, to design and to build. It was a very rare property—big tract, one ideal place I chose to put the house,” says Sean Sullivan of Living Stone Construction, who built the house and accompanying outdoor structures.
“Part of the design inspiration for the house is the drive up the valley, and you can see the valley out the back of the house. You’re drawn straight out the back to where all this outdoor living is. You’ve got an amazing view, kind of a rural feel, but also you’ve got the clean, contemporary, comfortable spaces that we’ve created out there.”
Nature provides the rustic views, but the amenities in the outdoor area are all modern. The pool house features an incredible stone fireplace that juts upwards through the timber frames. The outdoor kitchen includes a built-in gas grill, Green Egg smoker and fridge, plus a slick bar space for entertaining.
Sullivan’s Tips For Your Yard
- Identify your most important features. A lot of times it’s the view, but sometimes it’s a creek or the tv or the fireplace. Design your other features around that element.
- Take risks! They’ll pay off.
Medallion Pool Co.
No luxury backyard is complete without the pièce de résistance: a pool. “The Watkins project was special because the homeowners had a strong vision of what they wanted their space to be, especially as it relates to the contemporary design of the house,” explains Mark Dorsey, P.E. and Owner, Medallion Pool Co. “Anytime you get to design and build an outdoor living space and integrate that with a new home, the result is a well-thought out use of the space with the added benefit that it complements the architecture of the house.”
Dorsey wanted to ensure the pool was beautiful now, and timeless for the future. “The best pools are ones that are actually used by family and friends for many years to come,” he says.
Dorsey’s Tips for Your Yard
1. Integrate the outdoor spaces with how the home functions and flows. Locate the pool in an area that’s not too far away from the functional or public areas of the house, whether that’s a deck, walk-out basement or porch.
2. Not everyone can afford the full outdoor kitchen, fire pit and dining area, but you can integrate those spaces with an existing kitchen entryway, for example, off a deck or porch. Making it easy to use ensures you’ll utilize the space and make the investment worthwhile.
3. If you’re building a new home and are undecided on how you’ll use the outdoor areas, still think ahead in terms of utilities (water, gas, power). You can plan ahead and save thousands by running those items to the potential future outdoor build areas.