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Creating the Ultimate Backyard Retreat - Part I

The design process and luxury pool elements

By Barry Justus

Photos courtesy Poolscape Inc.

Many homeowners consider a backyard pool the ultimate in at-home luxury. Advances in design and technology have resulted in the ability to create amazing backyard retreats, of which the pool is only one component. The goal of any competent designer should be to have people walk out into the space and comment on the entire design, not just the pool—especially when you are looking to create a truly impactful and lavish backyard.

Whether your personal taste is organic and natural or sleek and contemporary, a talented team of designers, architects and tradesman can now give you the ultimate backyard pool and surroundings. There are endless design combinations that can include all of the latest bells and whistles available.

The design process

An overall design concept, including the pool, spa, water features and landscaping, must be completed before any work starts. The rule is to design first, then build—never the other way around. When looking to create a complex 'ultimate backyard,' you also need to be prepared to invest in a talented and qualified design team, as this will ultimately save you money and aggravation by minimizing changes and errors during the construction phase. A good design team will ascertain your wants and needs through interviews, home visits and questionnaires, taking into account your personal taste, your home's architecture, the intended use of the outdoor environment, site conditions, zoning, bylaws, soil conditions, access and environmental concerns.

Three-dimensional (3-D) design technology will allow you to visualize all of the details of your project—and, more importantly, make design changes before the shovel hits the ground. Look for a design team that uses a number of tools, including perspective drawings, hand renderings, 3-D modelling and detailed construction plans to accurately price, and ultimately build, your project. Engineered plans and soil tests will ensure the project's sustainability in the long term. A very thorough design with full project specifications can then be put out to tender. Remember that in design, less is often more. It can be tempting for designers and builders to offer every conceivable feature for your project. A more suitable, esthetically pleasing and balanced approach will result in a more subdued, architecturally pleasing finished product.

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