Landscaping + Outdoor Living: Case Study

Backyard Bonanza: With clever planning, landscape architect Brian Hahn creates a lush oasis in Alexandria

The owner of an unremarkable tract home in Alexandria had an ambitious wish list for his triangular, quarter-acre lot—including a 50-foot-long lap pool, a separate spa for year-round use, an outdoor shower structure, a fire pit patio, a deck, a screened porch, a grilling station and abundant plantings. He hired Brian Hahn of Botanical Decorators to tackle the project, which was made more challenging by a steeply sloped backyard and problematic easements.

Hahn designed a 50-by-10-foot pool, siting it at a 45-degree angle from the house to meet the easement requirements. The angled pool helped orient views away from the rear neighbor’s house and toward an adjacent park; it also made the yard feel bigger and added visual interest to the landscape. “Everything then followed the angle, including the screened porch and the roof deck above it,” explains Hahn. In addition, he created a large, triangular bed between the house and hardscape where lush plantings now soften the home’s faux brick foundation.

Hahn designed terraced outdoor rooms to accommodate the sloped yard, delineating each with plantings. The grilling station, outside the screened porch, features a built-in grill, five-foot countertop and fridge. The adjoining fire pit patio is made of Pennsylvania flagstone and mini cobbles.

Near the pool, an attractive shower enclosure is made of weather-resistant cellular PVC composite painted to look like wood. The spa nestles in a private spot beside it; a dedicated operating system makes it functional year-round, even when the pool is closed. The travertine pool surround keeps the surface cool underfoot, while cedar fieldstone retaining walls add visual warmth throughout.

Landscape Architecture: Brian Hahn, Botanical Decorators, Olney, Maryland. 

Brian Hahn’s Trade Secrets:

  • When orienting a pool or sitting area, it’s very important to work with and emphasize whatever views exist. Capturing the best views on the property, then framing them with trees such as evergreens, creates a sense of elevation.
  • We like to design at 45-degree angles off the house because it makes a property feel larger and adds visual interest.
  • When planting, I try to work with a terraced look, establishing “structure” plants first, then shrubs like boxwoods. These are the anchors for the space. Perennials and ground cover are filler, providing color and softness.
  • The most successful projects are the best maintained ones. People often get their projects installed but overlook maintenance, which should take place monthly throughout the season.