Clear and simple: A modern house requires a modern landscape. However, creating the exterior plan for this Bethesda residence was anything but. Mark Voelkel of Rolling Acres Landscape worked closely with the homeowners, architects and builders to come up with a functional, contemporary design that would complement the house. Like the inside, says Voelkel, “The outside should be very functional and at the same time clean and minimalistic.”
The site’s 11-foot drop from back to front presented a challenge. The owners wanted a swimming pool with a terrace, a fire-pit and a spa. While the pool location was not an issue, the spa was a different story. “We went through many revisions of the drawings,” Voelkel recalls. They finally designed it with a vanishing edge and sited it next to an open-air pavilion with retractable screens. From here, homeowners and guests can view the water spilling into a long, narrow basin. A raised edge around the swimming pool serves as a seat wall, while water jets in the deep end allow bathers to swim against a strong current.
In keeping with the contemporary aesthetic, Voelkel installed a minimalist plant palette of ornamental grasses and specimen evergreens. Tanyosho and Thunderhead pines provide year-round interest, while Japanese maples with beautiful red fall color stand out against a stucco-and-stone retaining wall. Two cut-leaf ‘Orangeola’ Japanese maples flank the gateway to the fire pit.
Jane Berger is a journalist and landscape designer based in Washington, DC.
GRAND AWARD: Outdoor Living Area (Design/Build). LANDSCAPE DESIGN: MARK VOELKEL, APLD, Rolling Acres Landscape/Nursery, Brinklow, Maryland. ARCHITECTURE: MARK GIARRAPUTO and MARTIN LOCRAFT, Studio Z Design Concepts, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland. BUILDER: Sandy Spring Builders, LLC, Bethesda, Maryland.