Story Of A Landscape: Pool, Outdoor Kitchen Replace Muddy Backyard


For many people, having a 3,400-square-foot home backing on a golf course would be a dream come true. However, for one couple on Scott Hinson’s lawn maintenance list, it wasn’t enough.

Fortunately, Hinson, the owner of Low Country Landscaping Inc., in Wilmington, North Carolina, was able to come to their rescue in a big way.

Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

“They were trying to figure out whether they should go ahead and move and build a bigger house with everything they wanted, or stay right where they are, which is a fantastic spot,” he explains.

The problem: the couple has two young children, and nice half-acre site that it is, the backyard soil made the space a muddy and unusable mess whenever it rained. Hinson describes it as a “gumbo clay” and says from time to time he’d been suggesting they consider a pool in the backyard.

Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

Ultimately, the clients made the decision to stay put. At the same time, they told Hinson to go ahead and come up with something for the backyard that would make the kids want to bring their friends over.

Not surprisingly, a pool led the list of amenities Hinson designed. The 38-foot by 18-foot pool, which was built by subcontractor Shoreline Pool Builders of Wilmington, has an 8-foot circular hot tub at one end with what Hinson describes as “one of the neatest spillovers we’ve ever done.”

“It’s not quite 180 degrees,” Hinson says. “But, there’s a lot of spillover and it takes a lot of hydrology to make that thing work.”

For the pool decking, as well as the rest of the project — including the patios and firepit — Hinson opted to use a travertine product because of its ability to stay cool underfoot.

Pool and lounge chairs
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

“We love travertine, and as many times as we can, we recommend it,” Hinson says. “This project is a silver 24-inch by 24-inch premium select grade of travertine with minimal pitting. It will get warm, but it never gets too hot to walk on.”

Away from the pool is a fire pit with a built-in curved seating bench, also in travertine. Hinson says the fire pit and particularly the seating, is his favorite feature of the job, for a couple important reasons.

One is the angle of the bench, which is designed to recreate the angle of an Adirondack chair.

Stone seating and fire pit
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

“It’s the most comfortable seating arrangement I can imagine,” Hinson says. “You’d think sitting on a stone bench wouldn’t be that comfortable, but you can prop your feet on the fire pit, and it seems to wrap around you.”

And, by veneering it in the same travertine cut to 12-inch by 24-inch tiles, Hinson says it will absorb enough heat during the day to carry its warmth into the chill of the evening.

“There’s almost a therapeutic effect to it,” he says.

Tile details
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

The fire pit itself is veneered in 2-inch by 6-inch black marble strips installed vertically. The look is one that Hinson feels makes a particularly nice statement and is carried into the kitchen pavilion where the bar and columns are veneered in the same material.

The kitchen pavilion offers easy access to the hot tub and pool while providing a year-round outdoor room for lounging and dining, complete with a fireplace and large TV screen. The kitchen area features a grill, refrigerator, ice maker and sink.

Outdoor kitchen
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

Hinson says one of the more important aspects of the building is what’s behind the kitchen.

“We have a great little powder room bathroom, a dressing area, storage and an outdoor shower,” he says. “If you’re having people over, you generally don’t want them coming in and tracking water on your hardwood floors.”

The outdoor shower has louvred panels and the travertine is carried into the bathroom and changing area. Hinson believes the bathroom, shower and changing area are critical components to jobs of this nature.

Outdoor shower
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

The whole thing ties into the house with an expanded multi-level patio off the back of the house — also in travertine.

“There was a tiny little patio up there and we expanded it in stadium levels so there’s more usable space, as well,” Hinson says. “There used to be room for maybe two or three folks, but we’ve expanded that to where you can easily get 15 people up there mingling without any particular issues.”

Lighting for the project is quite extensive, all of it low-voltage LEDs. Hinson says while the project is impressive by daylight, lit at night, “It’s ten times better; it’s amazing at nighttime.”

Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

Hinson typically uses products from Vista Professional Outdoor Lighting, and this one is no exception. The project utilizes a mix of path lighting and up-lights to accent trees and various aspects of the building, all controlled by the clients’ smartphones.

A combination of grading, drainage for the site and the poor soil quality were the biggest challenges on the project, Hinson says.

“We started construction the first of January, so it was a little rainy and the soil just held the water,” he says. “It was nearly impossible to work. I buried a Bobcat one day up to the bottom of the cab and really wondered how I was going to get it out.”

Stepping stones
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

Removing that material and replacing it with better soils made a tremendous difference, he adds. Still, the project required several drainage channels, including camouflaged drain boxes, and covering and directing every gutter off the back to the house to the street.

“There’s a lot of pipe in there to make sure everything drains properly,” Hinson says. “Those are aspects of a job you can’t overlook, or you can sabotage the whole process.”

The entire project took three-and-a-half months to complete, and Hinson says most of the time he had a crew of 12 on the site.

Pool and patio
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.

Not surprisingly, both Hinson and the clients are thrilled at how the project came together.

“It’s just beautiful,” he concludes. “And, the interesting thing is that from the front of the house you would never expect what you’re seeing in the back. If you had never been invited there, you’d never know it was back there.”

Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.
Photo: Low Country Landscaping Inc.