Designer’s Notebook: Artful Combination

Criner Remodeling creates a unique, useful outdoor space by building a pool house and solving shading concerns on the back patio.

authors Robert Criner, CAPS, CGP, GMR | October 14, 2020

We were inside the custom home of the client looking out the back wall of glass at a saltwater pool and patio that could rival a five-star resort. As I stood there wondering what she could possibly want remodeled, she said, “Yeah, it’s terrible.”

Stifling my own reaction, I asked, “What is not working for you about this space?” She led us out onto the back porch, and we were met with the blinding July sun that was magnified by the reflection from the marble pavers and sparkling water. Beautiful as it was, there was just no refuge and, because of that, the pool and patio were rarely used.

The original concept for the property included a note on the site plan for a cabana or pool house, but the idea never made it to the design stage. This was the mistake she was looking for us to remedy.

Her requirements for the project included an outdoor kitchen, a flexible indoor space, and a bathroom for swimmers; but she mainly wanted those items artfully combined in such a way that she could sit by the pool with her family and friends and enjoy the investment she already made in the property. And, “oh by the way,” it needed to look like it was always there.

She had a couple of ideas about placement on the property, so we modeled the existing patio, pool, hot tub and house in Chief Architect. Dialing in the latitude and longitude, we used the sun angle and shadow tools to show the best placement on the property to maximize shade for the existing composition.

Jumping ahead: Once we had the final design, it was fun to be able to say to the client, “Next year when you have your July 4th party, this is where the shade will be at 4:00 p.m. approximately.”

Back to the design process: We used the computer model to maximize the shade and to blend the design of the pool house into the existing elements. An extended roofline became the ideal place to add the outdoor kitchen and entertaining area. We used an accordion-style Marvin window that opens completely to one side to create an opening that blends the indoor space of the pool house with the exterior space of the outdoor kitchen.

Some of the details of the existing house were easy to match, like the cedar shake siding and trim details; however, the existing house features tall gambrel rooflines. The house sits on a peninsula with a commanding view of a tidal creek. We were content to partially obstruct the view on the first floor because the pool house had to be somewhere in the line of sight to be useful.

However, we did not want to obstruct the view for the second, third or fourth floor crow’s nest. The existing house uses low, curved roofs as a secondary design element, so we picked up that detail and used it as our primary element. This allowed for maximum roof area and minimum roof height while still being sensitive to the existing design—and preserving the view from the upper floors.

There was more to the design process but, suffice it to say, the plan was finalized, and the construction challenges commenced. Before we started this project, the homeowner informed us that the proposed site of the pool house was built up with fill dirt from the front yard where they put in a storm water retention pond.

So, we took core soil samples, and the soil was tested to make sure that it was solid enough to build the structure. It was not. When the results came in, it was clear there was a lot more work to be done.

The continuous footers had to be dug 6 feet down to reach the bearable soil. This would have been easy enough with a backhoe, but there was a rat’s nest of existing utility lines serving the pool, including electrical lines and pump lines. Because of this, much of the digging had to be done by hand.

Setting the 50-foot custom, curved laminated beams that carried the roof proved challenging. We spent hours discussing how they would be delivered, carried around the house and ultimately set in place. As we were enjoying a round of high-fives after a successful delivery, we got the call from the delivery truck that he was stuck at the head of the driveway to the property blocking traffic. It was one of those days that makes you question why you are in this business in the first place.

In conclusion, by solving the shading concerns in the back patio, a truly unique and useful space has been created. The curved roof of the pool house gives an updated and modern accent to this more traditional home without making it look like a separate element. The matching cedar shake siding and matching patio stones allow this project to blend with the existing structures, as though it had been there from the original construction of the home.

The homeowners could not have been more thrilled. They loved the integration of the new structure with the old and the overall look and feel. The new grill by Lynx was an awesome addition to their outdoor experience, and it is used regularly now. An automated retractable screen system by Rainier was installed so, when it gets buggy, they can still utilize the space.

The pool house and outdoor living space was the final piece of an existing puzzle, but it was the piece that made the backyard habitable, enjoyable and complete. QR

Robert Criner

Criner Remodeling began in 1977 and offers kitchen remodeling, bath remodeling, sunrooms and additions to the areas of Yorktown, York County, Hampton and Newport News, Virginia.

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