A Briarcliff Manor Property Gets a Staycation-Style Upgrade

This backyard redesign complete with pool and hot tub creates the ultimate staycation.

You know a project is a home run when the homeowners are still texting photos to the designer a few years after its completion. “He sends me pictures of himself in the hot tub, enjoying it with a big smile on his face, or of his son jumping into the pool,” says David Katz, senior design consultant for Neave Group Outdoor Solutions, who transformed this 1.25-acre property into a private, lush setting with a spa-like pool. The Briarcliff Manor homeowners lived in the house for nearly 30 years, raising three children there, before undertaking this transformation.

A Backyard Escape

After the husband retired from a very demanding career, this empty-nester couple wanted to improve the outside of their early 1900s Portland Cement house with a pool, patio, and landscaping. “This was their time to enjoy their property and try to be on vacation all the time,” says Katz, who was initially called in to build a plan that another firm had created. The homeowners had paid for plans but sought feedback from Katz, who noticed some significant flaws. The original plans didn’t address the need for privacy; the pool was sited with a direct view of the neighbors. The house had a long driveway leading up to a single-car garage and limited parking. Katz envisioned a courtyard for cars and improved access to the house’s front entry. Katz sketched some of his ideas on the spot and soon was hired to design (and build) a new plan.

pool

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Something for Everyone

Katz’s design called for gardens with a lot of softness (“She wanted more foliage than blooms”) and included a front courtyard, bluestone patio with dining area, and a solution to the couple’s pool-versus-hot tub debate. “She wanted a pool and didn’t want a hot tub; he wanted a hot tub and didn’t need a pool,” he says. “They got both and they both love them each tremendously.” The 12’ × 30’ pool with waterfall edge fits perfectly in the space, a Zen spot for swimming, soaking, and lounging, with a sun-shelf/in-water pool patio that faces east, offering beautiful views. The pool is also equipped with swim jets that can create resistance, so it’s suitable for exercise. The pool and spa design are in keeping with the couple’s plan to age in place. Both are located close to the door, with few steps to navigate. Simple to operate and keep clean, the pools have automatic covers, and the switch is located next to the door of the house for easy access. A rill set into the bluestone connects the pool and spa visually, but the two are completely contained and have separate water. Landscape lighting adds interest to the pool, spa, and plantings for evenings alfresco.

backyard lounge chair

Pretty Privacy

To ensure that the family can enjoy this tranquil outdoor space in privacy, and surrounded by natural beauty, Neave Group planned for a variety of trees for screening as well as a layered mix of plants. Green giant arborvitaes now line the driveway, and 19 columnar white pines between 14 and 16 feet tall were planted to shield the yard from the neighbors up the hill. Flowering Kousa dogwoods and red bud trees bring in color, while graceful, upright Japanese maples lend architectural beauty that spans the seasons. Adding to the welcoming entry of the house, a custom-designed, powder-coated aluminum pergola arches over the front steps and holds up wisteria in bloom. Stone steps leading back to the pool area are lined with astilbe, a soft touch.

All Year Round

When the weather’s cooler, friends and family can warm up by the firepit, and the pool can be heated year-round. (All the mechanicals for the pools are stored in a subterranean vault that lies under a metal “trap door,” just up the hill from the patio area, so they don’t interfere with the lush landscape.) The couple raves about how the property evolves throughout the seasons and enjoy watching it change throughout the year.

backyard oasis

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While they were once big on traveling, the couple now find they prefer spending more time together at home. Unlike a vacation that’s over in a week or 10 days, this backyard escape is available all the time. “They can put on music out here, read a book, have a glass of wine, and soak up this is unmatched tranquility,” says Katz, who has become friends with the family and continues to get positive feedback. “They get relaxation out of it; shoulders drop; tension leaves. Knowing you have this all the time is pretty special. It gets better every day.”

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