A custom pool project in Olney, Maryland

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A typical pool project may include the deck and vessel, some fencing and perhaps some plants and sod around it to make it look nice. This job was more involved. It required the incorporation of a variety of elements into one seamless and agreeable whole.

The clients were interested in implementing a master plan for the backyard of the property to make their yard more usable and enjoyable. Some of the pieces of the backyard puzzle included a new deck overlooking the pool, a screened porch with a gas fireplace, a covered porch off of the kitchen with remotely controlled retractable screens, a covered level lanai off the basement level, a therapeutic spa encased in stone, a loving-arm staircase for more comfortable access from the driveway, a rather large 22-by-43-foot pool with an automatic safety cover, Sheer Descent waterfalls and host of amenities and details to accompany each. In addition, the plan also had to prepare space for a future pool/guest house.

All these pieces were spread out before Botanical Decorators president Christopher Cahill and landscape designer Brian Hahn, waiting to be properly arranged and executed.

There were two keys to binding the home, backyard and surrounding environs together - unity of design and the careful choice and use of harmonious materials.

The design aesthetics are evident, while the materials warrant closer inspection.

The coping, stair treads, wall caps and patio borders are two-inch thermal quarry stone, bull-nosed in place and flame torched both to restore the stones' natural texture and ensure a flawless finish.

The builders chose a combination of travertine and random geometric Pennsylvania flagstone for the pool and adjacent patios, while the stone for the walls was obtained from a local quarry to match the stonework on the front of the house.

Meanwhile, the pool's interior is finished with Tropical Breeze Pebble Tec, while at the water line, MasterTile's "Rainforest" makes an easy transition to the quarry stone coping.

The Hard Part

That was the easy part, says Hahn. The hard part was planning and executing a drainage scheme that would keep all the different elements high and dry after a good rain.

"From the driveway to the lower side of the pool," he says, "we had nearly a 10-foot change in grade in a very small area. We also had an existing septic field which prohibited development in the more level part of the property. The existing drainage was coming off the driveway and cascading down into the backyard.

"The drainage from the adjacent property came like a river in a swale that intersected the middle of the proposed pool. This was resolved by building a berm off the end of the drive to redirect the water, but this was not going to be enough. The upper side of the pool needed a 28-inch raised bond beam so a new swale origin could start above the pool. A retaining wall was also needed to raise the grade near the corner of the driveway so that the water could be further directed behind the future pool house. Forty-five loads of soil were imported to manipulate the grades."

Complicating matters were the 65 trees and heavy brush that needed to be removed to open up the site and bring light to the pool, and provide space for an expansive play lawn for the kids.

The result, however, was the transformation of a very ordinary bit of land sloping away from a worn wooden deck into what must be considered the centerpiece of a stately woodlands home. The agreeable sensation that accompanies viewing the project comes from the well-considered size ratios throughout, from the pool to the deck and steps, the raised bond beam to the height and fullness of the plantings.

"It is hard to grasp the sheer scale of this project," says Hahn. "Everything is in grand scale, yet the proportions relative to each other is what makes it work."

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

Botanical Decorators

Olney, Maryland
Category: Concrete Pool or Pool/Spa Combination
Other Contributors: Custom Home Pools (Howard County, Md.): pool shell, mechanicals and plumbing, pool electrical, pool interior finish nd tile; Frederick Fence (Frederick, Md.): aluminum and black chain link fencing and gates


Circulation: Pentair WhisperFlo 2.25-hp pump with a 1.2-hp booster pump for the Polaris cleaner, driving through 2-inch high flow pressure PVC pipe, Jandy 2.5-inch schedule 80 valves, a dedicated cleaner line and three independent floor returns for maximum heater efficiency.
Safety features: Hayward dual anti-vortex drains, formed-in-place bench swimouts in the deep end, brass 'J' boxes, electrical bonding on steel rebar in the deck and an automatic pool cover.
Sanitization system: Pentair Purex Triton FNS Plus 60 filter, Nature2 Pro G Plus mineral water purifier, Nature2 Pro G chlorinator.

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