The Shape of Things
Nature may not be composed strictly of flat planes, straight lines and perfect circles, but you can’t find fault its own unique innate geometry. There is beauty in its unevenness, its resistance to clearly defined forms.
Such is the case with the large craggy rocks, sharply sloping hills and dense woodland forest that make up this seven-acre property in Andover, Massachusetts. The homeowners, who live in a modified ranch house high above the wide backyard, wanted a new pool area with a contemporary feel, using colors and materials that contrast with the intrinsic look and feel of the site. Though surrounded by the grays, greens and browns of rock and woodland, the new structure would comprise white, silver, rich red and blue in its use of concrete, stainless steel, mahogany and, of course, water, with the occasional splash of other vivid colors from paint and plantings.
Landscape designer Scot Indermuehle of Sudbury Design Group is the architect behind this successful fusion of forms, creating a geometrically precise retreat within a wooded, sloped, ledged backyard.
Indermuehle’s design embraces the property’s natural features, which include big ledges and rocks. He exposed and cleaned many of the rocks, cutting around a particularly large ledge by the pool and lowering the yard by almost seven feet. “The whole yard in the back probably slopes a good twenty feet,” says Indermuehle. “We were able to create these multiple levels, working our way down to the lower yard.”
Cantilevered steps meander from a back deck off the house all the way down to—and into—the pool. A heavy three-inch overhang on each step makes them appear as though they are floating within the soft massing of Miscanthus grass along the slope.
The steps first descend to an area with a round fire pit set within the large, multi-level deck. “The patios are an etched relief concrete, which gives it a pigment and texture like limestone,” says Indermuehle. “We were after the neutral color of limestone but with a concrete finish.”
Surrounding the fire pit is a mahogany insert flush with the patio; the wood mimics that of the diving board reaching over the sixty-foot lap pool below. A bright yellow wall frames the scene.
Below the fire pit area, a round spa sits within a portion of the deck that hovers above the pool’s edge. Across the pool, a red cylindrical cabana eight feet in diameter, designed by J.F. Sirois Architectural Woodwork of Haverhill, Massachusetts, abuts a nearly fifteen-foot-high ledge. (Along with their aesthetic value, the rocks and ledges that dot the property also help ensure privacy.)
The stainless-steel–lined interior of the cabana encloses a full bath, shower and changing room. The custom red and yellow hues of the cabana’s exterior and accent walls around the deck were inspired by the owner’s artistic background and frequent travels to California and Australia.
The pool sparkles a sapphire blue in the sunlight. “Because of the amount of ledge on the property there was a lot of runoff water in this area,” says Indermuehle. “So before building the pool we basically had to put in a full stone leaching field to make sure water didn’t build up underneath. All of the outer walls are engineered concrete that, as a structure, hold this up.”
A diving board made of mahogany and steel juts out from one end of the pool. Three stainless steel water fountains, lit with fiber optics, add to the scene’s sculptural quality, as do the tall ornamental grasses bordering one side. Masses of green bamboo flank either end, while pots of colorful perennials add pops of color. Just behind the pool, the ground drops off abruptly into the woods beyond.
Lighting was another key element. At night, the property glows with a soft golden haze from lights strategically placed along the pathway down from the house, around the pool and, of course, blazing warmly from the fire pit.
At any time of day, the wild natural landscape is a perfect foil to the level edges and carefully defined structures of the manmade oasis it now embraces.
Landscape design: Scot Indermuehle, Sudbury Design Group
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