Rooms We Love: Outdoor Room

Jay Graham incorporates classical elements in an elegant, welcoming poolside retreat

When clients in the Northern Virginia suburbs asked Jay Graham to landscape their small, undeveloped property, they opted for a swimming pool with a sheltered seating area beside it. To complement the traditional house with its stone façade, Graham conceived a plan for a pool bordered by a stately stone structure. “The owners have a view of it from the house, so we wanted it to be pleasing to the eye,” he explains. “We decided to create a classical structure that would be architecturally correct.”

In the completed project, stone columns supporting a cedar pergola are classically proportioned, narrowing gently towards the top in an architectural device that harkens back to Greek and Roman times. They sit directly on the Pennsylvania bluestone coping that surrounds the adjacent pool. At the far end, a fountain empties into a concrete urn—meant to evoke an ancient olive oil jar—by Lunaform. Between stone pilasters in the wall, stucco panels frame decorative limestone openings while shade-loving plants line the wall at its base.

Graham met the grading challenges on the property with three levels of terracing; about half the height of the pergola’s back wall doubles as a retaining wall. The pergola is sited to provide views of the ground as it falls away below the pool; one of its walls also conceals a neighboring house. “It was a tight solution for an urban garden,” Graham comments.

A strategic lighting plan by Bethesda-based Outdoor Illumination serves the pergola’s interior. It also lights the area behind the wall so that in the evening, the decorative limestone openings glow.

Landscape Architecture: Jay Graham, FASLA, Moody Graham, Washington, DC. Landscape Contractor: Rob Tilson, Tilson Group, Fairfax, Virginia. Photography: Allen Russ.