Award-winning Ellicott City, Md., residential pool and spa project

Choice Logo120

0109 Choice

The owners of this Ellicott City, Md., home travel for business a lot, and they wanted a relaxing getaway that didn't require additional travel. So they commissioned Botanical Decorators to design and build a private backyard oasis.

The homeowners asked for an outdoor living space that felt intimate yet could accommodate gatherings for 100 or more people. They asked for materials that were natural but not too rustic and for plantings that would come up to the edge of the pool to incorporate the site's natural setting. A pool for the family, an outdoor grill and a porch swing are some of the specific amenities the clients requested. They also asked that the mechanicals be as low-maintenance and energy efficient as possible. With those requests, they gave the landscape architects at Botanical Decorators control of the project.

The proximity of a forest conservation easement, a six-foot grade change and an existing drainage swale in the middle of the yard imposed restrictions for siting the pool. With no margin for error, every measurement and elevation point had to be precise for the design to work.

The designer worked outwards from the pool, the main hub of the design. Orienting it at 45 degrees captured the site's long views, visually enlarging the space. Patios, walkways retaining walls and amenities were all developed in relationship to the pool.

To address the grade change, three areas were developed: The upper level serves as a gathering area, directing visitors to the main entertaining and dining level, while the pool is on a third level. A 2-foot raised bond beam seperates the pool level from the dining area and provides the elevation for the spa.

Botanical Designers took particular care in selecting the materials to carry through the home's interior and exterior design. Random geometric flagstone with a bull-nose wall cap and stair tread are used adjacent to the residence, while irregular Pennsylvania flagstone with a flame torch relief edge for the wall caps, coping and treads ease the transition to a more natural feeling.

The walls are built from local Maryland quarry stone to match the home's facade, and the pool was finished in Ocean Blue Pebble Sheen to evoke a natural lake. MasterTile's "rainforest" tile at the waterline transitions to the quarry stone coping.

After the bulk of the pool shell and mechanical work was completed by Custom Home Pools, Botanical Decorators completed the masonry, carpentry and landscaping. The fencing was the last detail; because of the grade changes, the installation wasn't standard and Frederick Fence modified the industrial-grade fence as necessary to maintain the overall lines of the design.

Botanical Decorators notes that the custom details, the effortless transition between spaces and and the pool's relationship to the surrounding environment make this project extraordinary. "When we asked for a quote to close out the job, the homeowners responded, 'If we'd known at the beginning what we wanted, this would have been it!'"

Each month we feature one of 11 annual AQUA Choice winners. The 2009 honorees are: Botanical Decorators, Olney, Md. • Catalina Pool & Spa, Maple Ridge, British Columbia • Da Vida Pools, Austin, Texas • Ocean Quest pools by Lew Akins, Belton, Texas • Pools By John Clarkson, Jacksonville, Fla. • Rosebrook Pools, Libertyville, Ill. • Royal Oasis Pools & Spas, Medford, Ore. • Southernwind Pools, Dallas, Texas • Tumber & Associates, Orangeville, Ontario • Wise Pool Company, Conroe, Texas. For more information about AQUA Choice or to enter the competition, visit

Page 1 of 107
Next Page
Buyer's Guide
Find manufacturers and suppliers in the most extensive searchable database in the industry.
Learn More
Buyer's Guide
Content Library
Dig through our best stories from the magazine, all sorted by category for easy surfing.
Read More
Content Library