A variety of elements create a sophisticated urban backyard

by Sally Bouorm | January 1, 2011 10:24 am

Designers at Oriole Landscaping worked closely with the owners of this moderate residential corner lot in Toronto to create a sophisticated, refined space.

By Sabrina Goettler

A moderately sized residential corner lot in the heart of one of Toronto’s tree-covered communities was the setting for Oriole Landscaping to transform a challenging space into multifaceted outdoor retreat. The clients were lovely, open to ideas and ready to push the envelope, as they wanted something that was unique, yet sophisticated and refined. They had been thinking of the project for some time; however, no design had propelled them forward into construction.
The collaboration between Oriole and these clients remains strong to this day, with regular updates on their landscape being shared with Oriole’s team. A truly spectacular space was formed from a great relationship between the clients, the designer and the project team that installed the landscape.

Creating the design

Elements in this space were to include a pool, hot tub, dining and cooking areas, lounge space and gardens that would function well for casual family get-togethers and small corporate events.

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Before the redesign, the client’s existing yard had a wide variety of well-loved plants. The goal of the new construction was to create a space with colourful, textured garden areas.

The existing space had a wide variety of plants, all of which the client loved. The goal of the new construction was to create a space that had fantastic garden areas, full of rich colours and textures. Traditionally, gardens focus on flowers; in this case, however, that was not the goal. The space was to be defined through strong lines in the hardscape areas, which would then be softened through masses or waves of plantings that incorporated interest through their form and foliage.
The added colour and visual interest created by the flowers was to be secondary to the plants themselves. Plants selected for foliage and shape are a constant presence during the growing season, some remain the entire year. When selected properly, these plants harmonize with the hardscape features, creating a seamless and unified environment upon which additional layers of interest can be added, without interference or conflict.

A challenging space

During the initial stages of the project, it was clear many constraints existed on site that would have to be dealt with in order to incorporate all of the client’s wishes for their backyard. For instance, there were several large trees, all of which were healthy. The city’s forestry department had regulations for paving and grading within each of these trees’ large tree protection zones. The property itself sloped towards the home at the end of the existing patio area; obtaining permission to alter grades would not be possible.

The answer was to gradually step the features that were to be placed along the boundaries of the protected areas. Locations for walkways, patios, plantings and the pool would be created by rectilinear patterning, which allowed each area to transition smoothly into spaces that were able to be developed (beyond tree protection zones).
In addition, every available square foot of useable space was incorporated to maximize the yard area. The strong lines developed for the space would easily be softened with the lush gardens that were being planned.

Grappling with grading

Grading was also a challenge; features had to be oriented to meet existing heights at the base of each of the trees and along the property lines. The pool and hot tub was situated to allow for the pool coping to be one step above the grade of the patio, while the majority of the pool nestled into the site’s existing grade. Galvanized metal edging, which was placed up-ground of the pool’s oversized coping, was chosen to retain the rear property line. This created a walkway and planting feature, with plants cascading along the edge of the metal, softening and spilling onto the coping.

The new, dark grey pool and hot tub were constructed in co-ordination with Betz Pools Ltd., and nestled into the surrounding lush landscape.

In addition, the pool’s length was visually elongated by the linear pieces of stone set perpendicular to the coping, creating drama by interjecting strong lines into the lush, layered foliage. Due to the stepped nature of the space, water and drainage of the main patio area was dealt with through a series of area drains, allowing water to be directed to the lowest areas of the site.

The pool and hot tub were constructed in co-ordination with Betz Pools Ltd., of Stouffville, Ont. The concrete pool, finished with dark grey marbelite, creates a striking green-blue colour that is aesthetically appealing and enjoyed by the client both day and night. A double skimmer was incorporated to account for leaf collection from the large number of canopy trees nearby. Additionally, coping was made wide, to allow for plant maintenance and ensure people could easily walk around the pool.
The hot tub has a dark grey slate tiled spillway that connects it to the pool area. Inboard stairs allow for access to the pool area from the planted stepping stone surround of the pool. Stepping stones surround the pool, creating a walkway to the equipment area and a lounge space that houses an oversized chaise.

A versatile screen

Horizontal cedar screening was also added to serve three functions: providing a backdrop for the pool, concealing the pool equipment and showcasing the planting along the rear property line. To add interest, square cedar horizontals were chosen, as opposed to the traditional rectangular pieces. Pool equipment is housed to the rear of the screening; an access door, created in the same horizontal screening and laying flush so it is only seen when opened, provides entry to the pump area.

Horizontal cedar screening serves as a backdrop for the pool, while concealing pool equipment and showcasing plantings along the rear property line.

The water feature chosen to centre on the back entrance of the house is a focal point of the landscape, which can be enjoyed from the kitchen and dining areas of the home. A glimpse can also be seen when walking down the central hallway of the residence, pulling the viewer towards the backyard.

Planting beds were defined with Indiana limestone on edge to match the pool coping, retain the gardens and allow walkways and patio spaces to be created. The main patio area includes a lounge space and dining area, as well as an outdoor cooking station complete with a custom-formed and polished concrete countertop and sunken wine cooler/ice chest. This feature has become a favourite for the clients, being used daily as weather allows.

An award-winning effort

The project turned out to be a wonderful collaboration between the clients and Oriole, garnering praise from friends, family and industry peers. Most notably, in 2010, the project was honoured with a Landscape Ontario (LO) an Award of Excellence for residential construction, along with the LO’s Casey Van Maris Award, which is presented for the most innovative and unique design and construction project as judged among all entries. The company is proud to have been a part of this project and looks forward to seeing it mature in the coming years.


Goettler_HeadshotSabrina Goettler is the senior designer and project manager for Oriole Landscaping Ltd., in Toronto. A graduate in horticulture and landscape design from University of Guelph and Ryerson University and avid supporter of the green industry, Sabrina sits on the Toronto Chapter board of directors for Landscape Ontario, offering her time organizing events for both members and the general public.

  1. [Image]: http://psm.poolspas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/4_edited-1.jpg
  2. [Image]: http://www.poolspas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/10.16.07-003.jpg
  3. [Image]: http://www.poolspas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/9.jpg
  4. [Image]: http://www.poolspas.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/DSC_0165.jpg

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