Backyard Beautiful: An Oasis to Envy

With the right combination of landscaping, hardscaping and water attractions, any yard can become a private oasis.

Taking advantage of this yard’s slope toward the river, designers at Arvidson Pools and Spas built multiple layers of gathering spaces into this revised backyard. Now, people can gather around the home’s upper deck, the pool deck, or the fire pit and enjoy the view wherever they lounge.

Property No. 1: The River View

When a family in St. Charles gave Arvidson Pools and Spas the go-ahead on a $100,000 backyard makeover, third-generation president Dennis Marunde and his team weren’t worried.

Headquartered in Crystal Lake, with locations in St. Charles and Palatine, Arvidson has produced hundreds of luxurious pools, spas and backyard oases throughout the past 60 years, which is why they were named one of the top 50 pool builders in the nation last year by Pool and Spa News.

This St. Charles family wanted a pool that would enhance their entire backyard living experience, which featured an elevated yard behind the house that sloped toward the Fox River and leveled off, says Marunde.

“We immediately saw the potential for a series of beautiful, multi-level gathering places, which gradually taper down to the lawn that leads to the Fox River,” says Marunde.

At the forefront of the design was the desire to see a clear view of the river at all times – easier said than done, says Marunde.

The family’s existing septic field needed to first be relocated in order to position the pool exactly where it would give the family the best view.
The pool itself was a customized package. The rectangular shape accommodated an easy-to-operate automatic cover, “a common feature on many of our pools, which delivers important benefits to pool owners in our region of the country,” Marunde says.

It featured a custom tanning ledge that allowed the Arvidson team to utilize a hybrid pool of plaster and vinyl liner.

“This is pretty unique to other builders who may not have the expertise to provide this type of custom feature,” Marunde says.

The decks were comprised of stamped concrete, giving them the look of individual pavers at a lower price point.

Several additional components were customized specifically for the family: a fire pit, a separate hot tub for year-round use, designer security fencing and professional landscaping.

“The bushes were strategically placed to provide some separation between the fire pit/conversation area and the pool,” Marunde says. “Other than that, they wanted to keep it open – this, again, to allow for the open view of the river below.”

Despite the customization and septic relocation, construction was completed in less than five weeks, Marunde says, noting it took several weeks to navigate zoning and permitting requirements before work even started.

“After 60 years of designing pools, there’s little we haven’t seen or done,” Marunde says. “While this job was uniquely its own, this design stands on the shoulders of many other projects where we have utilized similar features.”

“The final design was a happy collaboration that thrilled everyone involved,” he says.

Designed to accommodate multiple gathering spaces, this expansive pool includes a built-in slide (seen above), zero-depth entry with room for lap swimming, a year-round hot tub (facing page, bottom left), a natural stone tanning deck, and a grotto hidden behind a waterfall (bottom right).

Property No. 2: The ‘Wow’ Factor

Kyle Ritchey wasn’t given many specifics when he was asked to design a backyard pool and entertainment space for a family in unincorporated Kane County last year.

The family simply wanted it to feel natural and fun, with lots of noise and action going on.

In a word, they wanted “wow.”

And that’s what Ritchey, a designer for Barrington Pools, provided.

He designed a resort-like pool nearly 80 feet long showcasing a main water feature the owners quickly dubbed “Thunder Mountain.” Water flows over the entire face of the natural stone behemoth, which spans 50 feet and has space for swimmers to relax underneath the grotto. It also includes a custom, 18-foot-long tube slide embedded in the stone.

One side of the pool features a zero-depth, beach entry tanning ledge covered in individual pieces of flagstone. It’s spanned by a custom stone table set near a 12-person, year-round spa that spills over into the pool.

At the opposite end, a secondary stone water feature flows near a diving board that’s built into natural stone, and a second tanning ledge topped in natural stone is in the deep end as well.

“This is a pool where you can be on one side and relax in the spa or have a drink at the table, and at the other end, people are hucking flips, and nobody is in each other’s way,” Ritchey says.

That was one of the most important design elements of the project: scaling it correctly, Ritchey says.

“The property is 7 acres and the backyard is big, so the pool had to be big,” he says. “Anything undersized would feel that much smaller. This is certainly a big focal piece, the centerpiece, coming off the back of the house.”

The way it’s designed, this pool offers numerous ways to enjoy the space.
“With a project this size, it’s important there are places to gather, whether it’s you and your significant other or 50 people,” he says. “This is a space that accommodates all of those things. There are bar stools over at the spillover wall so you can talk to folks at the fire pit. And then you can swim a really good lap in front of the water feature.”

Additional features include five fire boulders – three perched on the water feature, and another two satellite boulders perched around the deep end of the pool in planting beds – that light up at night to provide a completely different dynamic.

There’s even an ice cooler embedded into the patio space for popsicles and refreshments, Ritchey says. As a bonus, the pool is completely controlled by a smartphone app.

Such a massive project – it cost nearly $500,000 – took time to complete. It was more than nine months before everything was ready, Ritchey says. The main water feature alone took more than two months to build. But the wait was worth it.

“It was everything they wanted it to be,” Ritchey says. “When they entertain, it’s a lot of ‘wow’ coming off the back of their house. They wanted ‘wow.’”