Each week Mansion Global tackles an interior design topic with an elite group of designers from around the world who work on luxury properties. This week we look at how to design the area around your pool.
The nature of a pool is a tranquil escape in and of itself. But with some artful landscaping, designated areas for entertaining, and carefully placed design elements, it can become a true backyard oasis.
“When done right, a pool is so much more than a functional element,” said Fernando Wong, founder of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami. “A pool can be a powerful focal point—a bridge between the horizon and the terrace or your line of sight. I’m also very mindful of colors and reflection to showcase a pool as a work of art,” he said.
“Just as homeowners think about curb appeal and the first impression guests will have when they enter a home, I give a lot of thought to how people will enter the backyard,” Mr. Wong said. “It can be something as dramatic as a path flanked with trees that open up to a larger space, or some gorgeous pavers that help guide the way,” he said.
To help you hone in on the look and feel, follow these expert tips.
Encourage flow throughout
“When I design an outdoor space, I try to keep a few things in mind: seamlessly blending the flow between inside and out and creating cohesion using materials. Floor-to-ceiling glass pocket doors, for example, can quickly bring the two spaces together and help with the flow. My other favorite way to create visual cohesion is with materials, especially flooring—because when you run it from the indoors out, the eye reads the two spaces as one. I love using Dekton, an ultra-compact surfacing material that can be used indoors and out—for flooring, countertops, facades and anything in between. It can capture the look of a dramatic marble with the durability required for an outdoor space.
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"An outdoor living room area, a fireplace or a fire pit area, an outdoor dining room area, and a bar area are some of the most requested spaces. Keep an eye on the scale of the furniture, the color palette, and the materials to help create unity. Good lighting throughout will ensure the areas are functional and visually connected as well as welcoming. Inside and out lighting design helps create a mood while you grill, entertain, or just chill after the sun goes down.
"The other essential area around a pool is an outdoor kitchen. While you want to eliminate trips to and from your outdoor kitchen and main kitchen, I also advise keeping it accessible. When the space allows, I love to add a pass-through window with a stretch of countertop so that dishes and cocktails can be easily transferred from one space to the other.
-Phoenix-based architect and designer Daniel Germani of Daniel Germani Designs
Design distinctive spaces
"Using different flooring and materials can help distinguish various areas of the backyard and pool. For example, you might have a herringbone wood sun deck, a black-and-white marble entertaining area, and matching marble pool tiles to delineate spaces and add visual interest.
"In cases where the same material is used, furniture can be added to make a clear distinction of a dining area, a sun lounging area, and a more open space for entertaining. It’s very important to create distinct areas in an exterior setting that are also cohesive, aesthetically.”
-Amsterdam-based designer Saar Zafrir
Consider the overall look and feel of the landscape
“Whether you prefer a more rustic, tropical, or classic English feel, for example, there are ways to create each. Using native plants can create a rustic vibe, which can be enhanced with complementary furniture. I love using palms with fan-shaped fronds to create a Mediterranean ambiance. For a more tropical outdoor space, Coconut Palms or ‘feather shaped’ palm fronds create gorgeous canopies.
"English gardens are rooted in strong lines, structure, and architecture—it’s all about the iconography of the lawn, walkways, English borders, and perimeter hedges to protect the more delicate flowers inside the landscape beds.
-Fernando Wong, founder of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design in Miami.
Courtesy of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design
Pick plants strategically
"We use native plants that will thrive in the site’s conditions and add to the character of the space to make it look like all the elements at play—the pool, the surrounding landscape—have always been there.
"For certain pools, maintaining a sunny spot for lounging is desirable. For others, a shady retreat can serve as a vantage point to appreciate the surrounding landscape. The scale of plantings utilized will influence the effectiveness of these areas.
"Pollinators such as butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees are part of the ecosystem. We aspire to coexist with these natural creatures without sacrificing human comfort.With proper planning, pollinators animate the garden and can be welcome visitors.
"If you’re considering plantings in containers, maintenance, irrigation, water requirements, toxicity, along with seed and fruit dispersal, should be considered. The plants should be contextually appropriate and complement the architecture while remaining integral to the larger landscape. Fragrance, texture, color, and leaf shape, can add drama to a space.
"Generally, ideas come from nature and celebrating the natural characteristics of different plant species. With planting, we believe more is more. We like choosing design where plants are often massed together with vibrant colors, the way they often occur in nature, or set them apart like treasured objects.”
-Miami-based landscape architect Raymond Jungles, founder of Raymond Jungles Inc.
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