A Saltwater Oasis

Woods and wetlands enclose this family’s hidden paradise, with plenty of space to play sports, swim, and relax

Photos courtesy Mom’s Design Build

While the yard presented potential spatial challenges at first, Mom’s Design Build was able to use simple, clean lines and strong angles to delineate different areas that still feel open and connected to nature.
While the yard presented potential spatial challenges at first, Mom’s Design Build was able to use simple, clean lines and strong angles to delineate areas that still feel open and connected to nature.

Maximizing Minnesota’s short summer months is challenging when a third of the home property is a wetland that can’t be built on, when the backyard is hilly and wooded, and especially when the family wants a place for their two preteen kids to play—without neglecting a serene outdoor area for the adults to enjoy.

“The property was extremely challenging to work with because of the lay of the land and its grade, along with the scope of what we were hoping for,” explain the homeowners. The Deephaven family’s vision included not only a pool, a patio overlooking the wetlands, and spaces for entertainment such as dining, seating, and lounging, but also an area where the kids could play sports. “We wanted something with clean lines, with a contemporary look and feel,” they say, “along with plants that wouldn’t look out of place in the wooded setting.”

To integrate the screened-in porch into the new backyard design, Mom's Design Build made sure the new walkways worked well with the structure's warm accents and gray trim.
To integrate the screened-in porch into the new backyard design, Mom’s Design Build made sure the new walkways worked well with the structure’s warm accents and gray trim.

Shakopee-based remodeler and landscaping designer Mom’s Design Build was up to the challenge, and its senior designer, Heather Sweeney, worked with the engineers to make it all happen. “This was an exciting project because it forced us to work within a number of constraints and the existing landscape,” says Sweeney, whose team accomplished all of the couple’s requests by thoughtfully layering functions throughout the backyard while incorporating an existing screened-in porch and adhering to city limitations for wall heights.

Plantings of shade-loving yew trees, three white weeping spruce, and mounds of yarrow, sedum, and hydrangeas emerge from the woods to line the tops of the concrete walls. Topped with bluestone, the walls are also clad in corten steel plates, which are integrated with the pool footings to support a bluestone slab with a water feature over the saltwater pool. “We wanted something less aesthetically obtrusive than a typical diving board that would blend into the wooded site,” the homeowners say.

A bluestone slab complete with a miniature waterfall feature doubles as a jump-off point for the kids, adding a fun element to the pool area without sacrificing aesthetic.
A bluestone slab complete with a miniature waterfall feature doubles as a jump-off point for the kids, adding a fun element to the pool area without sacrificing aesthetic.

“It’s become the kids’ favorite feature. They love jumping off of it and swimming
underneath the waterfall, and we love how peaceful and soothing it sounds. It’s definitely a fun perk.”

This year, while quarantining under the state’s stay-at-home order, the homeowners decided to open the backyard early. “On April 23, the pool was ready and the kids hopped right in,” they say. “It’s nice and warm, and as long as the weather is in the 60s, we take full advantage of it. Or at least the kids do.”

The pool has an ipe auto cover on the shallow end, which is located next to a grassy area (synthetic, as the family didn’t want grass clippings in the pool) with pavers, plantings of allium, and lounge chairs. The opposite end of the pool includes a swim-up bar with seating on the opposite side. Below the bar area, on the lowest level, is a dining table and grill area overlooking the wetland. “Our outdoor room is unique in that you don’t often see pools in the middle of a wooded area up against the wetlands,” say the homeowners. “This is such a great place to have dinner and end the day.”

Lighted stairs lead down to the swim-up bar, dining table, and grill area, all of which overlook the surrounding wetlands.
Lighted stairs lead down to the swim-up bar, dining table, and grill area, all of which overlook the surrounding wetlands.

In the heat of the summer, the couple’s daughter will swim long into the evening while their son loves to play lacrosse and soccer with friends in the side yard that Mom’s Design Build also revamped. And everyone loves lounging in the ipe daybed, with cushions covered in Sunbrella fabric. “The daybed gets used by all of the family, including Scout, the golden retriever,” say the homeowners.

After the kids are in bed, the couple often retreats to their outdoor room, where the water feature, pool, and steps are subtly lit for a calming ambience. “It’s a perfect setting in which to enjoy quiet time together, without a symphony of joyous screams and yells,” they say. “We wanted an outdoor space where, no matter how busy we were, we could retreat to in order to decompress. We’re homebodies by nature, and love spending time with the kids. Now we have the perfect place in which to maximize our short summer months.”

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