Home Waters: Three Southern California Waterscapes07-03-12 | News

Home Waters:
Three Southern California Waterscapes

Alison Terry, Landscape Architect

The centerpiece for this Redondo Beach, Calif. home is a lap/play pool with waterfalls along the longer axis of the backyard, with an adjacent spa. The pool’s raised bond beam features ‘Chardonnay’ natural stone veneers. The pool and spa are decorated with ceramic tiles to add Mediterranean accents.

A Mediterranean Outlook – Redondo Beach, Calif.
A remodel of the outdoor spaces gave this Redondo Beach, California, home a fresh appeal with 1920s Spanish and Mediterranean flair. The centerpiece is a lap/play pool with waterfalls and an ozone spa in
the backyard.

The first of many design and construction challenges was figuring out how to maximize the size of the pool to make it useable, while keeping it in scale with the backyard space and the other architectural elements.

The clients' son runs track, so the middle of the pool was installed at a proper depth for water training, while the two opposite ends are between 3½ and 4½-feet deep. Meeting the six-foot safe pool code was a challenge due to the irregularly stepped property line walls.
Several existing retaining walls on the property were accommodated within the redesign, and the owners also wanted a dining and cooking area large enough for sizeable groups. The dining area, fireplace and kitchen were installed over the five-month backyard renovation, and the overall project ended up taking seven months due to weather delays. The seating area expanded into the walkway leading to the dog run/side yard to meet the design requirements.

The grade of the home rises over 20 feet from the street to the back of the property. It was necessary to excavate the pool by hand. The pool and spa are surfaced with dark gray plaster. The spa, which has an ozone water purification system, is surrounded with ‘Sweetwater’ tumbled flagstone.


All of the plants in the backyard are new additions, except for a guava tree in the back corner and the bougainvillea.

Tropical trees were given preference, because the owner is from the Philippines and wanted a reminder of home. A Mediterranean plant palette was selected for the front yard to balance out the water use.


A wood lattice pergola with lighting and heaters covers the patio’s outdoor living amenities. ‘Odyssey’-line brass fixtures provide the uplighting, which complement the LED pool lights.

The existing retaining walls in the front yard were improperly built, so all the dirt in the planters was removed while the walls were repaired and waterproofed, using BT waterproofing, a wall drain, and a subdrain. Now the owners can enjoy a revamped front entry that is as visually pleasing as it is structurally sound.

Outdoor Entertainers – Laguna Hills, Calif.

A patio cover with standing seam roof covers a dining area, concrete-capped barbecue counter, and seating bar.


A Laguna Hills family decided to add a pool in their backyard for their daughter and her friends, as well as outdoor space for live music and entertaining, all in a tight rectangular space severely constrained by a steep hill. The design challenges began with the owners' desire for a pool that could be used for active play, not just as a lap or soaking pool, despite a shortage of flat usable land behind the house.


A custom spill bowl and a masonry sofa with a wood backrest are positioned near the spa, which has a backdrop screening of papyus. The waterslide is surface mounted for easy removal if and when the family outgrows it. Low-voltage lighting fixtures (FX Luminaire) highlight the landscaping.

The pool area was excavated about three feet to create space and brought up to the toe of the slope, just before the adjacent Homeowners Association (HOA) property began. During the installation, the HOA raised concerns about reflectivity from the standing seam metal roof, but a matte finish alleviated their anxiety.


The pool’s raised bond beam was designed to support the surcharged slope, and a low Keystone retaining wall was added for the upward angle of the hill.


Privacy was important, so large columnar Podocarpus trees were planted to provide screening. One lone fig tree was saved and potted from the original backyard foliage, as the homeowners opted instead for a mixture of succulents and Mediterranean-adapted tropical plants (which require less water than typical tropicals), and hypoallergenic rushes were used in lieu of grass to circumvent family allergies. Space was added on the side yard for the
owners' beloved fruit trees, including fig, apple and persimmon.


The toe of the slope was excavated about three feet to create space for the pool, waterfall, raised bond beam, stainless steel spillways and waterslide. Copper green, teal, and aqua tiles were laid in a Corbusier pattern to fashion a fresh and modern look.


Creating enough hardscape area for the various uses without covering the entire backyard in solid concrete was a daunting design challenge. To wipe away the image of the original backyard's cracked patio, old patio cover and grass enclosed by a wrought-iron fence, planting pockets were fit in wherever possible. The owners, who were also musicians, wanted an area where bands could set up and play.

Beach-Adjacent Home Redondo Beach, Calif.


At this home near the beach, a custom spill bowl (Stone Forest) anchors the infinitive edge of the granite-surfaced spa and water feature. The raised bond beam is faced with a travertine, split-face veneer.

The outdoor renovation of this (nearly) beachfront residence focused on extending the interior living space into the narrow backyard. Every square inch of space comes at a premium near the ocean, so this yard was built for relaxing in the infinity edge spa, swimming in the large perimeter overflow, dining, and active play in the lower ping-pong area. Classic neutral travertine paving and smooth stucco allow for pots and plants to produce pops of color.

A fire pit is centered off the family room's French doors, inviting guests outdoors to the L-shaped seating area under the Swan Hill olive tree. Another sitting area is at the spill basin level of the infinity edge spa, where a glass fence and olive tree softens ocean breezes coming off the shoreline two blocks away. Three separate stereo speaker zones were added so different groups can entertain simultaneously. The reflective surfaces in the backyard bounced the sound of water falling into the spill basin throughout the space, dictating a reworking of the perimeter overflow channel around the spa. The initial granite slabs also had to be reaffixed to the infinity edge due to adhesive failure. Room for the extra operating equipment necessary to run the ozone spa was found under a stairwell.

Retaining walls were installed to support the property line footings, and were waterproofed against the house to raise the grade. A Mediterranean plant palette was selected for low water use, color, scent, and to complement the architectural style. A 72'' box olive, 48'' box olive (from Swan Hill), and a 36'' Arbutus 'Marina' were brought in by crane.

The $250,000 project took about two-dozen workers three months to complete, to meet a deadline for a high school graduation party. An outdoor shower was also installed for post-surfing rinse-offs.