The Ultimate Courtyard
It’s all about looking inward at this tony modern house, designed with the sunny courtyard as the centrepiece. Here, all main-floor living spaces are connected to the courtyard both visually (floor-to-ceiling windows form a U around a spacious patio) and physically (sliding doors open out from each room). “The vision for the courtyard and pool was a starting point before the house was even built,” explains design-builder Roberto Campagna of Roca Homes. He teamed up with lead architect Barry Hobin to create a backyard space that is unadorned but luxurious. A natural-limestone patio surrounds an angular concrete pool presided over by a serene Buddha. An outdoor shower, perfect for a quick post-swim rinse, is tucked away at one end of the pool. At the other, a two-sided fireplace provides visual separation from the barbecue area. When asked to articulate just how special the project is, Campagna says simply, “This is my favourite pool in the entire city.”
How do you refresh a tired 1970s pool that has seen better days? With a little bit of California dreaming, according to landscape architect John Szczepaniak. He was called in to modernize the classic free-form pool and its surroundings before a family backyard wedding, and the resulting transformation is nothing short of miraculous. Inspired by the curvy pools made popular by Californian landscape architect Thomas Church, Szczepaniak updated the tiling and added stairs, a lounge seat along one wall, and a spa tub. Once the cedar decking, shady sun canopies, and pretty poolside furniture were installed, the little-used backyard became the family’s new gathering spot — a secret resort to be enjoyed by family and friends.
Above the Ottawa River
The site is one that designers dream about — an expansive former cottage property with panoramic views across the Ottawa River. Still, even paradise has its limitations. With the new house designed in an L-shape to make the most of views down the river and with strict environmental rules stipulating that the pool be set back at least 30 metres from the shoreline, landscape architect Gerry Larocque had his work cut out for him. He rose to the challenge, designing a long, slim pool that tucks neatly into the modestly sized backyard patio, the concrete construction ensuring that it blends in with the surrounding stonework. A “cocktail ledge” along one side of the pool encourages the owners and their friends to enjoy the view. Hardy native plants along the retaining wall fit with the surroundings and don’t have to be watered. This is what cottage living should be!
Relaxing on the Rideau
When you have a magnificent view, make the most of it. Here, the land slopes gently from the house to the Rideau River, offering spectacular sightlines across the back garden and over the water. By framing the pool with low-lying plants, landscape architect Jerol Wheeler of Kallala Design ensured that the unobstructed view remains that way all summer long. At the riverside end of the pool, a comfortable gazebo looks down over the shallow section, the perfect spot for a parent to relax while watching kids at play.