An aqua PebbleSheen finish plays up the reflections of the trees on the pool.
A new stairway leads to the backyard lawn, pool and fire pit.
An accent wall of Western Maryland stone anchors the spa, which doubles as a fountain when not in use.
A waterfall edge, softened by masses of astilbe, animates the slope down to the stream.
A new stairway leads to the backyard lawn, pool and fire pit.
An accent wall of Western Maryland stone anchors the spa, which doubles as a fountain when not in use.
A waterfall edge, softened by masses of astilbe, animates the slope down to the stream.

Green Scene

A clever plan transforms a useless slope into a chic outdoor party space

After settling into their new McLean residence, a couple decided to address its steep, practically nonexistent backyard. The issue: The terrain began its descent toward pristine woodland only a few feet from the home’s rear façade.

“There was no play space for their two young daughters,” recalls landscape architect Joseph Richardson, who was initially asked to build out a modest lawn. From there, he says, the owners’ plans mushroomed.

Richardson wound up overhauling the entire property, building up the backyard with massive retaining walls in a feat of engineering. The makeover forged a better connection between the front and back yards with a stairway swathed in Big Blue liriope. It also created a lawn for the kids and unfurled an expansive terrace that houses a dramatic, infinity-edge pool and a freestanding spa/water feature.

Now that the project is complete, reflects Richardson, “the pool offers a spectacular view of the natural area.” The terrace blends seamlessly into the landscape. “Full-range flagstone paving shows variations in color and texture,” he continues, “and helps soften the space.” As do native waxmyrtle, Annabell hydrangea and manicured boxwood hedges.

Along the property line, a wall of Western Maryland stone buttresses the spa, fed by water flowing through brass scuppers. A fire pit by Hart Concrete Design tempts guests to linger year-round. A staircase leads the owners past the pool’s waterfall edge and down the slope to a stream and a wooded trail—the perfect extension of their own natural idyll.

Landscape Architecture: Joseph Richardson, PLA, ASLA, Joseph Richardson Landscape Architecture, Washington, DC. Landscape Contractor: Black Pearl Management, Leesburg, Virginia. Pool Contractor: Jose Pimenta Construction, Rockville, Maryland.