Learning by example
By Jason Jayne
Discussing these options is easy—picturing them can be a bit more difficult. The following five projects provide some examples of privacy being created under various circumstances. Look for challenges you can relate to in your backyard and take note of the possible solutions.
Project 1: A small space, with privacy issues
This new home was constructed in a small clearing on the edge of an escarpment with some majestic views. However, the only location for a pool was between the parking area and the front door.
A combination of mature evergreens and a well-placed pool cabana were not only appropriate for this setting but also succeeded in creating the necessary visual buffers from the “public” areas of the home and the “by invitation only” entertaining spot for the family. Although these two very differing zones are only meters apart, they both feel completely separate from each other.
Project 2: Too many neighbours
This home was in an open-field housing development, with a backyard visible by seven different neighbours. Now, there is not only privacy on all sides of the pool terrace, but the homeowners can also be totally secluded by escaping to the hidden grotto area behind the waterfalls.
The adjacent decks establish convenient family dining areas, while lattice screens create intimacy for those who want to escape to the old-fashioned, cedar hot tub. The combination of landscape elements like the cabana with outdoor shower and a change area for bathers, gazebo, custom fencing and well-placed plant materials blend together so any one element does not dominate or distract from the solitude.
Project 3: A crowded corner lot
This European-style stone house was openly exposed on a corner lot, but needed to entertain many people at once in what felt like a northern cottage setting. By relying heavily on extensive grade modulations with coniferous trees and native plant materials, in combination with natural stone and wrought iron fencing and several structures, even adjacent neighbours have no visual access to any part of the backyard.
An extensive remote-controlled water feature, with several rivers and waterfalls, sets the mood as the guests are entertained in the cabana or gazebo, or served homemade pizza from the underground wood-fired oven, located in a grotto with a sheer water cascade or the adjacent café area. By creating several destinations, even this small property feels as though you’re miles away from civilization.
Project 4: A noisy, windy hilltop
This century-old redbrick farmhouse, located on an open, windy hill, lacked privacy from adjacent farmers’ fields and was visible from and within down-wind earshot of a main highway. A relaxing after-hours oasis for this business couple was established with a small 3.6- x 7.3-m (12- x 24-ft) fibreglass plunge pool, with a ‘sun shelf’ to lounge and custom, remote-controlled swim jets for exercising.
Sheltered from the winter winds, a nearby ‘self-cleaning’ hot tub and poolside fire pit add romance, while a cabana entertaining area with custom natural stone barbecue island and quiet glassed-in tea house create a destination for relaxation. For authentic and appropriate design continuity, random natural stone, with period correct ‘sandbagged’ mortar joints, was used as the finish for the cabana, to match the foundation of the nearby century-old barn. Existing old-growth walnut and maple trees were protected and added to during construction to make use of their cooling shade. Custom-forged, wrought-iron fencing and large spruce and pine completed the project, serving as wind and sound buffers while creating privacy.
Project 5: A new home in an open field
This new three-storey home seemed imposing above this open and flat yard surrounded by open fields. Due to these conditions, prevailing winds were also an issue, as was a nearby upwind highway, the noise from which spoiled the quiet country setting. Extensive berm and swale modifications were made to the existing grades, which were then planted with mature coniferous trees on different levels, which encircled most of the fibreglass pool terrace around to the newly installed cedar cabana (complete with wet bar and outdoor shower on the far side of the pool). This allowed for a notable wind break and added privacy.
This now-contained area creates a cozy backyard setting in which the homeowners can move around and explore the mid-level dining deck, lower cantilevered hot tub area or poolside fire pit. A play structure and well-drained sandy beach installed only a metre or two from the edge of the pool ensures the homeowners’ young children are happy, while adult guests explore waterfalls and streams or lounge by the koi pond. A generous lounging area and multilevel terraces can easily entertain several families at once. The highway noise is replaced by the sound of falling water, which reflects back to the home and bedroom windows.
Make your dreams come true
As you dream of your perfect oasis, it is important to focus not on only installing a great pool or water feature, but also on creating a place that offers seclusion and privacy. Thankfully, it is no longer commonplace for a pool to be imprisoned in 1 m (3 ft) of concrete and chain-link fence; a pool and its surroundings can be equally spectacular.
With the right mindset and the help of skilled professionals, you can decide what to include in your project and how to implement it to create a secluded environment that enchants your family and guests for years to come.
Jason Jayne, is the business manager at Tumber & Associates, a landscape design and build firm specializing in mature, native landscapes. He has been with the company for more than 10 years and regularly contributes articles and photography to many industry and consumer outlets. For more information, visit www.tumber.ca.