Home Sweet Pool

River's Edge Landscapes Mirrors its Name in The Lyrical Marriage of Water, Plants and Stone

Article by Melinda Gipson

Photography by River's Edge Landscapes

Originally published in Leesburg Lifestyle

If all you wanted was a quick swim, Ida Lee is a great choice. But what you really want, is to come home to a place that opens to an outdoor world that is at once magical and relaxing – to ALL your senses. There’s the sight of a well-turned line, intricate and beautiful rock walls and steps that invite you into the water or to enjoy the comfort of a toasty fire as twilight beckons. The smell of that fire mixes with the evening’s release of fragrant flowering plants, chosen to breathe romance or nostalgia onto the scene.

You become wonderfully motivated to accomplish a set of energetic laps in the pool, followed by a warm dip in the adjoining spa. Whether you hear the soothing sound of water tripping over stone steps, the murmur of enchanted guests at a dinner party or the excited squeals of children splashing in the sunshine, this is your retreat, and, with the combined artistry and functionality of a great landscape architect, it can be whatever you want it to be.

Prepared with photos of some of his recent, breath-taking outdoor creations, we asked Paul LaPointe to explain what goes into the realization of these dreams, and what you can do to create a backyard paradise of your own.

“You’re only one swim away from a good mood.” – Speedo Marketing Copy

A steeply sloped backyard can present a problem or an opportunity. The opportunity shown in Photos #1 and #2 allowed for intimate terraced levels including a lower poolside terrace, a small spa terrace, a mid-level garden patio to enjoy a summer lunch after a cool swim and an upper roofed patio for shade lounging.

A lap pool (Photo #3) offers a unique line-of-site from the kitchen window where the far end of the pool seamlessly spills into the natural landscape beyond. 

Lyrical stonework emulates nature with thoughtful curves that accentuate the curves in the elegant Grecian style pool of Photo #4. A large turreted stone feature serves several purposes including providing a dramatic ending point to the tall stone retaining wall on one side. On the other side, it provides a unique border to the wide stone steps that gracefully follow around the curve of the turret. 

Fire and Water align in Photo #5. Sitting just a couple of steps above the pool level, a fire pit surrounded by soft landscape plantings and subtle accent lighting expands poolside enjoyment.

In Photo #6, a spa spills artfully down custom fabricated circular stone ledges into the main pool, creating a soft and soothing sound. This special feature was inspired by a photo the client saw of a pool in a more tropical climate. To create this feature, we started with large gauged stone slabs and custom cut each radius in such a way as to get an even ripple effect. Each layer had to be set level to a fraction in order for the water to flow down perfectly even across the entire feature. 

On every level, there's room to entertain in Photo #7. Stone borders a cooler travertine tile pool deck to tie in other stone elements in adjacent patios and walls. Photo #8 shows how sculptured conversational coves are created with elemental spacing.

Planning Your Pool: 5 Considerations

1.     Purpose: What are the main reasons you’d like to have a pool? Family fun? Entertaining? Exercise? For relaxation and decompressing? Thoughtful answers to these questions will go a long way toward helping guide you through many decisions involved with building a pool including size, depth and shape, location and features. If the pool is for family fun, think about a size that will comfortably accommodate your family and gatherings with friends, perhaps including a shallow section for the young ones and a deep end for older adventures. If the pool is for exercise, then a long and narrow lap pool might fit the bill. For R&R chill time, a “tanning shelf” might be considered – a shallow ledge, a few inches to a foot deep for low lounge chairs or floats.

2.     Budget: As with most things, there are many options when considering a pool and even more when it comes to its surroundings. Besides all the options to consider with the pool itself, there are ancillary components that really complete the pool project. Consider style, materials and sizes of pool decks and patio areas, landscaping, grilling area and outdoor kitchen space, night lighting, walkways and paths leading to and from the pool, possible retaining and/or seat walls, a pavilion or other shade structures, pool utility screening, and fencing. Whatever the cost of the pool, plan on investing at least that amount on the exterior elements to get the most out of your new pool experience. 

3.     Location: Location will have an important impact on how well a pool will serve your purpose. If it is for family fun and entertaining, you might like it to be the centerpiece of the backyard -- close and easily accessible from the house. If it is for your get-a-way chill time, perhaps it is around the corner or off to the side hidden by landscape. You may want to see it from your kitchen window to be sure everyone is safe and having a good time. Remember that in northern Virginia, it will be under a winter cover for 5-6 months out of the year. Other factors: county codes require certain minimum distances from property well and septic.

4.     Overall Appearance: Browse photos of different swimming pools online or thumb through some magazines. Tag and set aside the photos that appeal to you. This will help ensure that your designer and project contractor understand your vision and achieve your goals. 

5.     Planning: Now you need someone to help put it all together! This is where having a talented and skilled landscape designer and architect to develop your plan is crucial. They can weave together your vision,  budget, location, and functionality resulting in an aesthetically pleasing design that becomes reality! See 

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