September 14, 2017
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.
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.
For this project, the excavator and skid steer had a 2.1-m (7-ft) wide access route between the houses, which is rare as 1.2 m (4 ft) are typically the norm in dense urban areas like this. Filter cloth and a double layer of 19-mm (3/4-in.) plywood was used to protect the existing interlock and flagstone pathways. The accommodating neighbour allowed four panels of their wood fence to be removed, along with a raised timber planter to provide a clear path into the backyard. These conditions existed for a little more than two months, afterwards the planter and fence were restored to as-new condition.
Co-operation amongst the different trades—from the pool builder, irrigation and landscape lighting supplier (Rain Gods), and green roof specialist (Sky Space) to the electrician, plumbers, carpenter, stonemason, tile setters, and landscaper (Pro-Land Landscape)—was essential to the project’s success.
The outdoor furniture, designed and manufactured in Montreal, was handpicked from a local showroom. The furniture for the lounge area is made of a marine-grade light grey vinyl material with weatherproof foam, while a modern dining table and chairs complete the space. Additional seating for larger gatherings is integrated throughout the backyard, including space on the raised elevation of the hot tub.
The 4- x 11-m (13- x 37-ft) custom-concrete pool, installed by BonaVista Ltd., in Markham, Ont., has a 1-m (3.6-ft) shallow end and a 2.4-m (8.6-ft) deep end. A 457-mm (18-in.) deep shelf, in addition to six piers for the stepping-stones, is located along the wall in the deep end. Underwater lights are incorporated into both ends of the pool to provide illumination at night. The pool’s equipment pad comprises a 635-mm (25-in.) diameter sand filter, an energy-efficient pump, 400,000 British thermal unit (Btu) natural gas heater, and a salt chlorine generation system. Other features include an automatic water filler and pool cleaner.
The raised, attached concrete hot tub is 3.3 m2 (36 sf) and shares the mechanical equipment from the pool. It can be operated year-round via remote control. Kitty-corner to the hot tub is a 3.6-m (12-ft) long elevated wall, which is 762-mm (30-in.) high and features a 1.8-m (6-ft) sheer decent.
The waterline tile and exterior of the hot tub are finished in a bold, matte black ceramic tile with a black granite bullnose coping that creates an eye-catching artistic contrast with the white tile used for the raised water feature, floating outdoor kitchenette, and bar top.
McCuaig specified the black waterline tile on the interior perimeter with a charcoal marbelite.
|Feature-packed small backyard oasis|
The client spared no expense and asked for the finest quality of all elements. With a generous budget, a talented team of passionate trades, and a designer who recommended beautifully balanced elements complimented by warm, rich finishes, this project not only provided the client with an outdoor experience similar to an exotic resort, but also earned BonaVista Pools Ltd., a 2017 Landscape Ontario Award of Excellence in the ‘Construction—water features’ category.
Jennifer Gannon is a second-generation business owner who operates BonaVista LeisureScapes, an outdoor living store in Toronto. She studied English at the University of Western Ontario and has been with BonaVista for more than 15 years before and after a career as an account director at two Canadian advertising agencies. The company is a family-owned and operated business with more than 45 years of experience in custom concrete water projects, backyard spas, and water features. She can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
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