Pennsylvania flagstone borders a pool softened by flowers and lush shrubbery.
An integrated spa spills water gently into the pool.
A wood-frame garage has been converted into a pool house with an outdoor changing area.
A circular stone fire pit beckons visitors.
Pennsylvania flagstone borders a pool softened by flowers and lush shrubbery.
An integrated spa spills water gently into the pool.
A wood-frame garage has been converted into a pool house with an outdoor changing area.
A circular stone fire pit beckons visitors.

Savvy Solution

D.A. Dunlevy turns a challenging lot into an inviting, private retreat

When landscape architect Blake Dunlevy of D.A. Dunlevy first encountered a client’s backyard in Kensington’s historic district, he had to look beyond a water-logged slope where groundcover struggled to survive. The client had mandated a pool on a level side lot, but Dunlevy saw opportunities in the slope: With courageous use of cut-and-fill excavation, he addressed runoff—and was able to add an understated pool and plantings worthy of a Heritage award. “Now the client has an asset rather than a liability,” he observes.

The slope dipped 30 inches to the property line. By constructing a 36-inch-tall retaining wall at the boundary and filling it tightly with excavated soil, Dunlevy gained the right elevation for the rectangular pool with space for a spa that spills into it and a circular stone fire pit. Arborvitae and cryptomeria provide privacy. A historic wood-frame garage at one end of the pool dictated the design of an attached outdoor changing area while providing space for equipment.

The pool is bounded by a thermal Pennsylvania flagstone terrace to match an existing upper patio. A meandering path is enlivened with camellia and a Japanese maple. Out of sight but not out of mind is a large dry well topped with a bed of river stones, which manages runoff to adjacent properties. Says Dunlevy, “I always try to be as neighborly as possible. It costs a little more, but it will pay off in the end.” And that flat side lot? It became a baseball diamond.

Award: Heritage for Outdoor Living Area/Design-Build. Landscape Architecture & Maintenance: Blake Dunlevy, D.A. Dunlevy, Poolesville, Maryland. Photography: Mason Summers.