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Florida Landscaping

Key West Hideaway

A Northeastern family gets a winter retreat complete with a pool and tropical garden

  • This pool and garden were designed to feel like a clearing in the woods with a pond.
  • From the house, only glimpses of the pool are visible.
  • Lush tropical plants grow densely around the pool, adding to the feeling of seclusion.
  • The portion of the pool nearest to the master suite features a shallow shelf for lounging.
  • In the distance a hammock and outdoor shower make good use of large palms.
  • The shower's copper piping was attached directly to an existing Coconut Palm.
  • The pool features high quality materials, including Miami Oolite paving stones and Coral Stone coping.
  • This is how the property looked before the addition of the home, pool and garden.
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Project Highlights:

  • Location: Key West
  • Property size: 100' x 100' (1/4 acre)
  • Budget: 100k

When Craig Reynolds first saw this property, there was little more than a trailer and a for sale sign. His clients had recently purchased the property with plans to build a vacation home that would serve as a winter getaway from their busy lives in the Northeast. They hired Reynolds on a recommendation from Thomas E. Pope, the architect that was designing their new home. The house was to be one story and have a casual-cottage style with wood lap siding in keeping with the island's vernacular.

Reynolds took hold of the opportunity to be part of the team that would be creating a home focused on indoor-outdoor living. "Outdoor living is what people come to Key West for," he says, "this couple requested a garden-centric home with a pool, deep porches and plenty of sunshine." Reynolds and the architect determined that they would place the home far forward in the front left corner of the property to leave as much space in the rear for a pool and garden. Additionally, the architect included a gathering porch and outdoor kitchen between the home's master suite and guest wing.

Before construction could begin on this project, the wet, weedy property had to be modified. "It was low and needed to be raised 2' for flood and insurance elevation reasons," recalls Reynolds. This elevation change also reduced the number of steps that would be needed to connect the back of the house with the pool deck and garden. With the property prepped, work could begin on Reynolds vision for the garden. "I got my inspiration from the notion of a clearing in the woods with a pond. A place where you could enter and feel the sky all the way down to the water while being surrounded with plants," he explains.

Swimming Pool DetailsThe pool is the focal point of this tropical garden. While simple in design, it features high quality materials that give it a luxurious appearance. The interior of the pool is finished with French Grey Diamond-Brite, a plaster containing natural quartz, that helps to create the vivid water color that is characteristic of the tropics. Along the waterline, 4" x 4" Ming-Green marble tiles add a refined touch of color and pattern. The coping surrounding the perimeter of the pool is Cut Coral Stone from the Caribbean that measures 2" x 8" x 16". The color variations make it appear textural, but it has been smoothed so that bathers won't scrape their skin or snag their suits. Finally, the paving that makes up the pool deck is large slabs of Miami Oolite stone. "I selected Oolite for its size, texture and local identity," says Reynolds. Each stone measures approximately 4" thick x 24" x 36" - larger stones means fewer joints, which is what Reynolds wanted.

The owners use the pool for all sorts of activities. Their five year old son can often be seen splashing in the water or pushing a toy dump truck around its deck. While the father, a member of a polar bear club, uses the pool's chiller to set the water to 65 degrees. The mother enjoys relaxing with a good book on a lounge partially submerged on the shallow shelf near the master bedroom. Accompanying the pool is an outdoor shower that the family can use to rinse off before or after a swim. The copper pipe and rain head were attached to the trunk of an existing Coconut Palm. Reynolds describes it as a simple, farmhouse-style element.

Pool-Friendly PlantsAnother concern Reynolds had was ensuring that the plants near the pool would not shed leaves or other debris into the water. "Nearly 30 palms were brought into the rear garden," he states, "they are good near the pool because of their relative cleanliness." On the back side of the pool a bed of Ficus Green Island was planted for its dark green foliage and resistance to shedding leaves. Other plants used near the pool include Lantana and Thatch Palms.

Plant SelectionsSince this was to be a vacation home at which the owners would spend only a few months each winter, two of Reynolds' primary concerns were maintenance and off-season interest. He selected plants and materials that were both hardy and low-maintenance, so that his clients wouldn't have any concerns when away. "I specified plants that flower in the winter, as opposed to the traditional summer color most people want," says Reynolds. For example, citrus trees along the side of the home bloom in late winter and provide a lovely fragrance. Additionally, zoysia grass was planted between paving stones around the pool because it is slow growing, making it low-maintenance.

For this family, Reynolds succeeded in providing a space for outdoor living that is both beautiful and functional. Each year his clients use the house, garden and pool as a getaway for decompressing from their daily lives. It is exactly what they were looking for when they first bought the property.

Craig Reynolds Landscape Architecture
Key West, FL

Contributing Author:

Sarah Hutchinson, contributing writer for Landscaping Network

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