We don’t expect all of our readers to be Renaissance men. Yes, it’s good to be able to offer multiple services, but how many concrete contractors can serve as architect, landscape designer, general contractor, and concrete contractor? And find time to write 10 books on designing and building outdoor fireplaces, kitchens, and poolscapes?
These three elements converge in contractor Scott Cohen’s Westlake Village, Calif., backyard renovation. Three thousand square feet formerly occupied by a concrete patio and some grass now contains a vanishing-edge swimming pool with built-in cocktail table, kitchen, and seating space. Shrubs and flowers line steps and a pathway that lead to a lake where the yard ends.
Except for travertine tile flooring, all features are made from concrete. Cohen considers himself an artist as well as a tradesman, and proves it with cast-in-place and polished concrete counter, coping, and cocktail table with embedded recycled glass and seashells. At night, fiberoptic cables embedded in the concrete and glass chunks glow.
Sometimes, timing really is everything
Like many residential clients, the owner had a vision but no idea how to execute it.
“I wanted to maximize my view, starting with getting rid of the white wrought iron fencing that obscured the small ribbon of lake my house sits on,” she writes on the website of the company Cohen launched in 1989, Green Scene Landscaping & Swimming Pools in Chatsworth, Calif. The design-build landscape design and construction firm specializes in resort-style swimming pools and spas, fireplaces and fire pits, and outdoor kitchens. “I’d fallen in love with bifolding glass doors, so they were a given. But they’d bring the backyard inside, and guess what? My backyard kinda sucked. A slab of cement and some grass. Ugh.”
At this point, a primitive form of marketing intervened: a Green Scene flyer sent via the U.S. Postal Service.
The client was sure her “miniscule” backyard would preclude many of the features – pool, spa, maybe a fountain – she was considering.
“I don’t have one of those sprawling Southern California backyards,” she says. “Surely, turning my humble little space into what I was describing would be impossible, right?”
When he visited the site, Cohen walked her through the process of describing her “dream” backyard. A week later, he showed her a colored rendering that included everything she wanted. She signed the contract that day.
Visual trickery widens the view
“The challenge was fitting the client's dream backyard into a relatively small space while capitalizing on the views and building with materials that have timeless durability,” says Cohen.
The solution’s centerpiece is a vanishing-edge pool. Also referred to as a disappearing-edge, infinity-edge, negative-edge, or zero-edge pool, water flows over one or more edges to produce the visual effect of water with no boundary. To enhance livability, the pool’s surrounded with seating space and an outdoor kitchen with barbeque grill.
“I’d be lying if I said the road from that point forward was smooth and even,” says the client. “Hardly. Homeowner association permits, city/county permits, extra engineering, blah blah blah…it seemed never-ending. But I rarely had to deal with any of it. Scott and his staff represented my interests during all facets of the process.”