Bethesda, Maryland Residence

When we first encountered the this Bethesda, Maryland backyard it already contained a non-functioning swimming pool that hadn’t been used in years, an oversized deck that dominated the small space, and overgrown plantings that crowded whatever remained. The entire area was poorly drained and a wet, moldy basement was the result. Perhaps then, it was fitting that the poorly maintained irrigation and lighting systems were inadequate, and the main access was by a swampy grass path and through a tumble-down gate.

To transform this non-functioning landscape into a pleasing outdoor living area we accomplished a variety of goals. To increase both the usable and apparent size of the back yard we removed the deck, and replaced it with a large and spacious pool deck. An elegant transition from the house to the pool was accomplished with sets of wide steps and landings that allowed views from inside the house of the entire pool area and the landscape beyond. All were constructed with Techo-Bloc Mini-Creta wall block and Elena pavers in a custom blend of colors. This area was now so open and spacious that it allowed us to define a number of outdoor rooms, including an outdoor kitchen, built from stone, which included a gas grill, bar sink and lighted countertop and bar top.

To preserve the sense of privacy, we retained, but pruned, all the established trees with the exception of some unkempt Arborvitaes, which we replaced with fastigate European Hornbeams. The numerous azaleas were reused in background locations, while more interesting plants filled the prominent beds. An all-season tableau was created along the back of the pool with plants and a self-contained fountain vase.

While the pool was structurally sound, the plumbing needed to be replaced. New pipes and pumps were installed to make all the sheer decent waterfalls function correctly, as well as properly filter the pool. We also replaced all the coping with new thermal-edged bull-nosed flagstone. In addition, the irrigation and outdoor lighting systems were completely redesigned and replaced.

To invite guests into this new landscape, we installed a sinuous paver walk with a matching garden wall along the side of the house. Simple but colorful plantings border this new entrance, which is completed by a custom forged wrought iron gate, inspired by the architecture of Charleston, SC.

The Hoffman residence had been professionally landscaped several different times over a number of years, but ultimately each had deeply disappointed the client. He felt that none had achieved his goals. Therefore, in addition to solving the design problems, we had to establish a working relationship that would develop trust.

The issue of drainage was a delicate one as the client preferred that the grades at the existing fence gates on either side of the house not be altered, and that the finished surface not be sloped or stepped. While the pool deck was kept flat and nearly level to accommodate the client, the surface run-off was removed by a series of custom grates, led out through sub-surface drains, and day-lighted to a side yard. The construction of the steps and landings along the back of the house kept water away from the foundation. To eliminate the unwanted run-off from the rear of the yard which often carried debris into the pool, we installed a French drain dressed with Delaware gravel around the back of the pool.

In addition to these major challenges, Mr. Hoffman had a small wish. He possessed a large collection of garden art that he wanted displayed appropriately. We worked hard to incorporate these into the landscape in an organic way, ultimately finding homes for all pieces.

Hoffman planting pool patio 09