Backyard Upgrade With a Pool

Landscape designer John Cowen transform a basic backyard into a relaxing retreat for homeowners who wanted a place to get away from their busy lives in New York City.

Traditional Backyard With Swimming Pool and Lounge Chairs

Backyard Oasis With Swimming Pool and Lawn Chairs

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From: John Cowen

See how landscape designer John Cowen created a tranquil retreat for a city-dwelling family in need of some peace and quiet.

Describe the homeowner's wish list.

The clients live and work in New York City and wanted an escape from busy city life and its demands. They wanted a quiet sanctuary in which they could relax by a pool, enjoy a barbeque with friends or have a Sunday brunch on the pool patio.

A Basic Backyard Gets a Posh Pool Makeover

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Relaxing Retreat

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John Cowen

Before: Restrictive Property

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John Cowen

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After: Backyard Oasis

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John Cowen

Streamlined Design

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John Cowen

Classic Path

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John Cowen

Form and Function

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Beautiful Border

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John Cowen

What was the biggest issue the design addressed?

This Bridgehampton, N.Y., property was a renovation of an existing landscape. The existing rear yard landscape consisted of an arbor with a seat flanked by some tall Arborvitaes and lawn. The design objective from the John Cowen Landscape Associates Ltd. point of view was to fit the pool (and the client’s not totally realistic wishes) into the given space, maintain the right sense of proportion with the overall space and abide by the local property setback restrictions and homeowner association restrictions.

Describe an obstacle in the space.

It’s a small piece of property with a property setback that considerably reduced the total area of the rear yard that we could plan for the pool’s location.

How did the end result match your original vision?

When designing the rear yard, we tried a number of different shapes and layouts for the pool before recognizing that the one we chose could achieve all of the requirements.

What lessons did you learn from this project?

The local pool laws regulate that we had to enclose the pool with a 4’ high fence. For cost reasons, we chose a 4’ high wire fence and a wooden gate made of white painted wood to allow access into the homeowner association’s shared land behind and to the side of the client’s property. The fence has been largely screened by plantings, which also add seasonal color and interest to the pool scene in the rear yard.

What are the hidden gems that make a big difference?

Gray marble dust offers a medium blue look to the pool. Gray tile for the top 6 inches of the pool and thermal bluestone paving offer a simple and clean look. The bluestones that are set on the side of the pool away from the house had to be stepping stones set into the grass because of the property setback regulations. Plantings were chosen to offer screening of the pool fence and also to add summer color (the main period of time when the client’s use their second home).

John Cowen


John Cowen Landscape

johncowenlandscape.com/ ASLA 44 Tyndall Road Sag Harbor, NY 11963 631-725-3410