By Jennifer Gannon
“I want you to create an award-winning backyard that makes people say ‘wow’ when they see it.” It was these words, from one busy executive, which outlined the scope of the project Scott McCuaig of Eden Tree Design Inc., a landscape architectural firm in Toronto, was about to take on. Knowing this client and his family travel the globe and stay at top-notch resorts, McCuaig’s vision for this client’s property had to be beautiful, transforming it into the ultimate backyard oasis. That said, the client also briefed McCuaig with respect to his wishlist before he finalized the purchase of the property so the project could be fast-tracked as soon as the family took possession.
The design included a pool, hot tub, water feature, outdoor cabana/bar, barbecue, fire feature, and shower facilities with planting and architecture to ensure the backyard looked stunning year-round. Further, by adding a green roof over the cabana, it ensured the view from the client’s master suite, in addition to the terrace on the second floor, was just as spectacular as the sightlines from the generous upper and lower patios down below.
Elegant and thoughtful details such as frosted glass panels in the garden, illuminated with strip lights seem to glow, allowing the property to be as warmly appointed and highly functional by night as it is by day.
The client wanted quality finishes and all the bells and whistles. The space was an otherwise clean palette just awaiting the brush of the designer to bring it all to life. As such, McCuaig’s 3D renderings of the project, which included all of the above elements, helped the client visualize the design concept, taking them through the space.
A well-thought out design
In a typical urban backyard in north Toronto, the layout for every square millimetre had to be carefully planned and well-appointed to ensure this family of five, who frequently entertains, would get maximum use. As a result, the outdoor space was seamlessly integrated with the luxurious finishes of the home’s interior design. Large sliding doors in the kitchen and great room ensured the outdoor kitchen and dining area would be put to use and, when the weather allows, they can be opened to let the fresh breeze from the garden into the home.
The outdoor Zen-inspired cabana is the hub of the backyard. Flanking one end of the pool, it features a large skylight that allows sunlight to fill the space. The structure provides privacy for an outdoor shower on one end and a full covered bar area on the other.
Claude Spethman, a carpenter who is a skilled millworker and artist, handcrafted this feature in ipe, as per McCuaig’s design. The same rich-stained wood was used to create a privacy screen with ornate metalwork around the outdoor kitchen/built-in grill (located on the upper patio, just beyond the sliding doors), which is a cantilever design finished with an elegant white porcelain tile.
McCuaig used ipe to compliment and balance the stark contrast of the black and white porcelain tile used around the pool, hot tub, barbecue, and fire feature. Large, full-bodied sintered stone slab tiles finished in a corten colour provide a non-combustible material around the fire feature and barbecue grill.
The Eramosa limestone from Wiarton, Ont., looks beautiful as a wet and dry patio as the material has a distinct appearance due to lively fleuri patterns and heavy veining. Concrete stepping-stones repeat linear patterns in the front and backyard landscape, with a modern mix of faux grass in between. The design is contemporary and elegant, combining low-maintenance with high style.
This client was meticulous and insisted on a tidy jobsite and immediate restoration of the shared access allowed by an accommodating neighbour to the west. For city projects, where space can be limited, having sufficient access helps make an installation run more smoothly and expedites the work required by all trades involved.