Dive In! A compact city backyard is transformed into an all-season retreat

It’s an exquisitely designed backyard hideaway, perfectly planned to encompass everything a busy family of four could want. When Carol and Rob Clement moved with their two teens from a country property in Cumberland to a suburban lot in Orleans, they were happy to renounce all that yardwork for a compact, low-maintenance backyard. What they weren’t ready to give up was a feeling of privacy, of being able to get away from it all when they stepped out the back door. And so, even before the house was built, Rob had mapped out every detail of their 40-by-50-foot back lot. “I actually planned the pool before I planned the house,” he says with a laugh.

The Clements drew up a detailed plan for the entire backyard before the house was built. The space for the saltwater pool was excavated at the same time as the basement. Photography: Gordon King

The pool is contemporary in appearance, surrounded by neutral stone cut in a random rectangular pattern that complements the modern spirit of the house. The handsome water feature at one end evolved as the Clements oversaw the construction process. “Coming from the country, we were used to it being very quiet,” explains Rob. “We were extra aware of the sounds of people and cars.”

The cedar shed hides the mechanics for the pool while acting as a privacy wall and a sound buffer. The decorative cedar walls behind the waterfall match the shed while providing extra privacy. Photography: Gordon King

The soft gurgling of the waterfall cancels out neighbourhood noise while serving the dual purpose of being a perfect jumping rock for the Clement kids and their friends. Added privacy is provided courtesy of three complementary design features — a stained cedar shed conceals the mechanics for the pool and acts as a privacy wall and a sound buffer. The matching cedar walls behind the waterfall and hot tub also foster a sense of solitude.

The waterfall at one end of the pool serves a dual purpose: it muffles neighbourhood noise and is a jumping rock for the owners’ children. Photography: Gordon King

Everything is designed with minimal upkeep in mind, says Rob. The saltwater pool is simple to maintain, and all the decks and walkouts are built of composite wood. The patio furniture can stay out regardless of the weather, and even the greenery is chosen for its hardiness — shrubs and native perennials add a touch of green but don’t need much weeding or any watering. “We’re out here using the backyard and pool almost every day of the week from May to October, so it’s nice that it’s pure pleasure, not work.”

Surprisingly, the most brilliant feature of this retreat is neither the pool nor the hot tub. “It’s the OLS that makes it,” says Carol, referring to the “outdoor living space,” a four-season room that extends from the corner of the house. It is used as an open-air poolside shelter and bar hub in summer and a cozy sunroom in winter. Here, the Clements kick back and relax with friends, the drinks and snacks close at hand. “It’s great to have everyone congregate here rather than in the kitchen,” says Carol. On cool evenings, the heated slate floors and fireplace keep things cozy. There’s even a TV, which swings out from the wall so they can watch a movie or a baseball game from the comfort of the hot tub.

The family calls this four-season room the OLS, short for “outdoor living space.” Slate floors and outdoor furniture ensure it can be enjoyed rain or shine. Photography: Gordon King

The Clements laugh when asked whether they have to draw up a schedule with their teens so that the parents have a turn in this backyard oasis. “It’s definitely a teen paradise,” says Carol. “It has shown up in a lot of Instagram photos.” But she says it’s nice to have a home base that appeals to the whole family. “There’s enough space for everybody, and it keeps the kids around.” You certainly can’t beat the location.

Heated floors and a fireplace keep the outdoor bar area cozy, even on cool summer nights. The TV pulls out from the wall and can be angled to allow the family to enjoy a baseball game or a movie from the comfort of the hot tub. Photography: Gordon King