A lush hillside complements the streamlined lap pool on this McLean, Virginia, property.
The lap pool is positioned at a diagonal from the house.
A lily pad-strewn pond flanks the pool.
The lap pool stretches back towards the secluded woods.
A waterfall is set between two rock formations beside a foot bridge.

The Great Outdoors Zen Sanctuary

McHale Landscape Design seamlessly marries landscape and location

An involved client and a contoured site that was a “landscape architect’s dream” were the inspirations for landscape designer Phil Kelly of McHale to create a “California-style” garden and pool in sync with his client’s contemporary-style home. 

A streamlined lap pool fit perfectly into the hillside. “We didn’t have to force anything,” Kelly says. A tapestry of foliage provides textural interest on the gently sloping hill and a waterfall springs from between two large rock formations, creating a peaceful Zen-like sound. Below, an îpe bridge seems to float over the pond, leading visitors through the garden. Black Mexican beach pebbles provide a striking contrast between the lawn and the pond. 

Kelly says the homeowner hand-selected each boulder on the property. “It was all about the shape, the energy, the symbolism you get from the boulders,” he explains. “Our job was to place them back into the earth where they really look like they originated.” 

About 100 large rocks were used throughout the project, many still covered in lichen and moss from the Pennsylvania farms where they were found. From winter jasmine to a grove of cherry trees or wildflowers, a number of specimen plants woven into the tranquil setting offer dramatic, all-season color and foliage. Clumps of bamboo have been carefully placed to provide privacy; their roots are contained so they won’t become invasive.

Karen Watkins is a freelance writer based in Bethesda, Maryland.

GRAND AWARD, Outdoor Living Area. LANDSCAPE DESIGN: PHIL KELLY, McHale Landscape Design Inc., Upper Marlboro, Maryland. PHOTOGRAPHY: ERIN BROOKE BOGAN, BOB NAROD.