Spare and Simple

Clean lines and a restrained plant palette distinguish a resort-like backyard retreat

Spare and SimpleAfter remodeling their historic DC residence, the owners were ready to address its run-down, quarter-acre yard. They hired Colao + Peter Outdoor Environments to create a landscape that would complement the home’s aesthetic while conveying a fresh, modern vibe.

“They wanted a pool with a resort-like atmosphere,” recounts landscape architect James R. Peter. “Privacy was the main goal—and everything had to be approved by the Historical Society.”

Before work began, the home’s ragged backyard opened up to a municipal baseball field. Colao + Peter craned in 20-foot-high Green Giant arborvitae and Southern magnolia along the border for privacy, then screened the rest of the yard with fastigiata hornbeam and tree form Burford holly.

A new 16-by-40-foot pool occupies center stage, while an adjacent spa is shielded from neighbors by a stone wall and shaded by a cantilevered cedar pergola. Copper scuppers spill water into both pool and spa. A gentle slope elevates the pool 18 inches above ground on one side, where Colao + Peter installed a fire pit and seating area.

Carderock-stone walls are capped with thermal bluestone, which also paves the patio. Combining only Limelight and oakleaf hydrangea and red hardy hibiscus, the effect is spare and elegant. Teak furniture from Barlow Tyrie completes the look.


Award: Grand Award, Outdoor Living Area. Landscape Architecture & Contracting: James R. Peter, RLA, ASLA, Colao + Peter Outdoor Environments, Fairfax, Virginia. Photography: François Verhoeven.