Pool on the Hill
Westchester’s hilly terrain is no foil for homeowners determined to attain their fantasy yards. Here are five pools up to the grade.
Some homeowners will say that it’s the pool that makes their outdoor space. But the pros know better: outdoor spaces make the pools, with the lay of the land dictating their design and construction. With Westchester’s hilly terrain—especially in the northern part of the county—a flat piece of property is a luxury pool builders and landscape architects rarely encounter. Mother Nature usually occupies the seat of honor at planning meetings.
“The most common request I receive is to take a hilly site and make a nice level area,” says Jan Johnsen of Bedford Hills-based Johnsen Landscapes & Pools. “This is an absolute when putting in a pool because water seeks its own level.”
But fear not. Local pros are well versed in tackling tricky topography and have a few well-honed tricks up their sleeves. “Often, the tougher the site, the better the design,” says David Fiore, vice president of design and sales at Glen Gate Company in Wilton, Connecticut. “You have to be more creative to make it work.” Here, some inspired solutions for those who are naturally inclined.
light to the finish
Instead of seeing this Bedford home’s sloping property as an obstacle, Norwalk, Connecticut-based All American Custom Pools & Spas decided to embrace it, building the pool in tiers to take advantage of the different views they afford. The tiers are arranged so one steps down from the patio to first a spa level, and then down to the main pool deck. The third tier houses the stone-faced “waterfall” and reservoir and serves as the basin that catches the spillover from the pool’s infinity edge. Old Spruce Mountain stone coping (the stone adjacent to the pool) was selected to complement the stone patio, constructed of Idaho Stand-Up Quartz. (The quartz was also used on the various tiers as a unifying element.) The interior of the pool was finished with a beige-toned 3M composite, giving the pool an azure color reminiscent of the waters of the Caribbean. “It’s a misconception that in order to give your pool water a rich, deep color, you should use a blue finish,” says Gina Samarotto, designer at All American. “It’s all about the reflection and refraction of light.”
With an ingenious use of architectural engineering, Bedford-based Perennial Gardens transformed the steep slope of this Chappaqua property into a summertime oasis. Installed in collaboration with Bedford Poolscapes, the pool was set to allow easy access to the home’s lower-level entrance by excavating one side and building up the other with a four-foot retaining wall.
To achieve the natural look the homeowners wanted, boulders were taken from local sites and sandblasted to remove imperfections. Spruce Mountain stone was used as the coping to blend seamlessly into the Super Laredo stone patio. Because of the property’s slope, a waterfall, crossed by a stone-slab bridge for direct access to the house from the Jacuzzi, is set high for a dramatic effect.
David Fiore, vice president of design and sales at Glen Gate Company in Wilton, Connecticut, and chief designer of this Rye pool, had to push the limits for this project: there was a 16-foot drop from the home’s basement level to the end of the property, which abutted a salt pond often used by the family.
To accommodate the pool, which was sited adjacent to the pond, he built an 11-foot sea wall. The wall’s arc shape follows the property line, dictating the pool’s distinctive curved edge; the angular spa-side of the pool mirrors the home’s geometric shape. A combination of bluestone and limestone was used for the coping and deck.
a well-deserved raise
The owner of this Purchase home came to Valhalla landscape architect Daniel Sherman with a long wish-list. He wanted a sophisticated pool area with “fun” features (including a spa with falling water, an outdoor kitchen, and a full-service bar), lots of patio space for entertaining, and privacy from the neighbors, but he didn’t want the open view of the distant woodlands obscured. And Sherman had a challenge nature provided on its own: the rear of the property slopes upward. Homeowners’ Association rules further complicated the matter, restricting retaining walls and grading within 50 feet of a rear lot line, which left little room for a side patio. What to do? Sherman’s solution was to bring the retaining wall forward, actually making it part of the pool and elevating it to create a visually striking transition from the pool to the lounging level on higher ground. Three stairs lead to the loungers, set on grass, as well as the spa with inifity edge. Ample patio, barbeque, dining, and bar areas were placed to the left and right of the pool, and formal features, such as boxwood parterre gardens, stone piers, and ornaments, give the pool the sophisticated look the homeowners requested.
Play the angles
When the owners of a modern Croton-on-Hudson home with a breathtaking mountaintop view asked Johnsen Landscapes & Pools in Bedford Hills to build them a swimming pool, Jan Johnsen had her work cut out for her. Like much of northern Westchester, the yard wasn’t even, requiring blasting and filling to level it. The homeowners loved the look of an infinity edge, but knew that it would prevent them from being able to walk around the entire pool. Johnsen’s solution? Fake it. The look of an infinity edge was achieved by creating a steep slope on one side (the “infinity edge” side) and planting trees several feet below the pool’s level—giving the illusion that the pool goes on and on and on.