Story Of A Landscape: Hardscape Palette Sets Southwest Tone For New England Property


Occasionally, landscape companies get strange requests. Case in point: the Pasqualonis, who wanted their backyard in South Windsor Connecticut to look like a little slice… of Texas.

Fortunately, they knew exactly who to turn to. Besides being right up the road from the offices of Bahler Brothers, Inc., project designer Ryan King says they knew the company’s reputation for doing high-quality work on big projects.

As for the Texas motif, King says the family really loved its home in Texas, from the way it was laid out to the landscaping.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

“They wanted to replicate a similar style landscape up here,” he says. “When they walked outside, they wanted to feel as if they were at their home in Texas. As much as possible, they wanted the whole design to replicate their home there.”

Although King says they weren’t willing to send him to Texas for a site inspection, they did provide him with myriad photos, as well as some sketches and online photos of different elements they wanted incorporated in their New England design.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

As for the site itself, King describes it as “not too big,” although it is large enough to support a 40-foot linear rectangular pool with a raised spa in the deep end and a spillway, a fire pit, outdoor kitchen and bocce court contained in slightly more than 3,000 square feet of pavers. Still, he says privacy was an issue.

“They had neighbors pretty close by,” he says. “We had to take privacy into consideration. We needed to disguise it, so they weren’t in the neighbors’ backyard, too, because the houses aren’t that far from each other.”

The actual pool installation was handled by Aqua Pool and Patio of East Windsor, Connecticut, which Bahler Brothers uses as a sub for all its gunite pools, King says. A second story deck which became the covering from the outdoor kitchen and dining area was also subcontracted out.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

“There’s a walk-out basement that’s finished,” King explains. “They walk out into a pretty large kitchen. There’s a 15-foot bar where people can sit, or you can set things up buffet style. Then, the actual kitchen area is separate for the cooking. There’s a lot of room for entertaining large parties.

The covered area also has additional space for a table or lounge chairs.

Surrounding the pool is a concrete paver patio, done in Techo-Bloc’s Travertina, with accents of another Techo-Bloc product called Borealis, which replicates the look of a hardwood floor.

“The Travertina has more of a tropical or southern feel to it, to match the Texas feel they were looking for,” says King. “It’s not the bluestone or slate paver you’d typically see in New England.”

Besides providing accents around the pool, the two pavers share space in the covered outdoor kitchen, and the Borealis is featured heavily in the project’s firepit area. The designer says the clients chose the pavers from the Bahler Brothers’ showroom.

The firepit is King’s favorite part of the project and the element of which he is most proud, and it’s certainly not a run-of-the-mill installation.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

“It’s a pretty intricate design,” he says. “Rather than just a standard seating wall, they wanted a seating wall/bench around the outside of it. It’s a stone structure but it has a back they can lean against. There’s a lot of craftsmanship in it.”

Made of concrete block and a Techo-Bloc wall product called Brandon, it offers similar color tones to the Travertina and Borealis. King also estimates it can seat as many as 20 people.

“It was a challenge coming up with the design, and it’s a definite focal point,” he says. “And, being a circular space, the crew had to pay attention to detail to make it a perfect circle because when you’re sitting on the second-story deck you can see how it all lays out.”

Completing the hardscape is a bocce court that runs parallel to the pool and utilizes the Borealis product for the sidewalls.

“Whether people are playing bocce, swimming in the pool, sitting by the fire or around the outdoor kitchen, all the spaces are within close proximity to each other,” he says.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

Lighting for the project was designed to highlight specific plants, as well as featuring path lights around the pool, and under-cap lighting in the walls, including the firepit seating wall and the bar. Both the lights and the spa are controlled through the clients’ phone.

Landscaping on the lot was done in phases. King explains that the clients had another landscape company do annual maintenance for them, and that company had put in an Arborvitae hedge between the neighboring property and the backyard for privacy.

“We did the landscaping around the pool inside the (wrought-iron) fence,” he says. “That was all ornamental plants that bloom from late spring into early fall. Our main goal was to use plants that would be blooming during the summer months when the family is using the pool.”

To further enhance the Southwest feel, the open areas inside the fence were done in decorative stone, rather than mulch. The landscape isn’t irrigated, and the pool equipment is installed off the far end of the pool patio and screened with plantings.

Photo: Bahler Brothers, Inc.

The designer says the project – excluding the pool and deck – took about eight weeks utilizing an average crew of four. It was recognized in October at Hardscape North America as the winner in the Concrete Paver – Residential – More than 3,000 sf category.

King describes the property’s drainage as the biggest challenge to the job, and rather critical because of the extensive use of hardscape.

“We needed to make sure — since the lot is flat — that we pitched the water in the appropriate places,” King says. “We needed to get it away from the house and away from the pool. We incorporated some area drains throughout the patio and along one side of the pool with the larger seating area, we utilized stepping stones to provide more drainage.”

And, for him, it proved to be a learning experience, as well.

“It’s a matter of coordination with the different subcontractors,” he says. “That can really make projects go smoothly and stay on schedule. This had a whole handful of contractors, including the pool company, the carpenter for the deck, gas and electric, and when everything is in line and organized, things go smoothly with minimal headaches.”