Despite the recession, The Green Scene built some beautiful projects in 2009. Publishers were hit as hard as construction, so the number of articles and photographs magazines were accepting was drastically reduced from the past few years.
Pool and Spa News talks to Scott Cohen 12/30/09
What great design concept are you working on? "We just finished a renovation with a beautiful all-tile, perimeter-overflow spa and four hammered copper fire-and-water scuppers on the backside of the contemporary pool."
How did it come about? "When I first met the client, her backyard was in the middle of a remodel. She had fired the original contractors. She was just replacing the coping, tile, plaster finish and decking. I don't like finishing projects that were started by somebody else - it's too much risk. Plus, the pool wasn't at the same caliber as the home. I said, 'We could finish this, but it doesn't seem like the kind of pool that ought to be in this yard.' So we designed a whole new pool.
"The spa is finished in a black iridescent glass tile. It looks black from one direction then, when the sunlight hits it, it seems like 100 different colors. "She has copper throughout her property - on her fireplace mantles, for instance - so we installed copper scuppers for the fire-and-water features. We put black glass in the pot to match the spa tile and added a little crushed mirror to pick up the glow from the flame. "Because of the scupper's proximity on the back side of the pool, there was no way to access them easily. You'd have to walk on the coping, because there is a planter behind it. So we put automatic starters on them. We also looped the plumbing on the fire-and-water features so the flow to all four is equal."
I want to thank you, Scott, for listening and addressing all of my concerns. Once we met, I knew Green Scene was the right choice.
As you know, following a bad experience with a contractor that I had hired to resurface and update our original pool and patio, I was paralyzed for a year not knowing where to turn to hire a new contractor that could and would be willing to tackle the mess that the previous contractor had left. Our pool was empty with loose chips, uneven brick coping, dug up trenches, and piles of dirt where the concrete patio had been torn up and drains had been left exposed and non-functional.
I watched a few episodes of HGTV's Get Out, Way Out! where I saw you transform barren backyards into beautiful resorts. I was embarrassed to show you the mess at our home, but after our first meeting I knew I had found the right person for the job.
Your kind and comforting demeanor inspired trust and confidence that you and The Green Scene could transform our unsightly nightmare into a beautiful backyard comparable to the ones seen on the show.
We were in good hands with Eric Scharon, our project foreman. He is friendly, most resourceful, knowledgeable, attentive, and hardworking. He made the job run smoothly. He addressed any questions or concerns immediately.
I am so impressed with your crew and apologize if I forget anybody. Our masons, Ray, Reuben, Sylvester, and Mathias were here daily at the crack of dawn and silently worked as we slept. Their work was professional and very meticulous. They really took pride in their endeavor. Chris and Pierre, the electricians, were extremely competent and helpful. Mario did a beautiful job with the stunning tile you selected. Felipe and Erlin did a wonderful job at landscaping. Your recommended pool service, Rich Gallo and Jericho are excellent and highly skilled in maintenance and knowledge of equipment. I am also very pleased with the crew that did the pool's pebble sheen surface, the guys that resurfaced our tennis court, and also the fence guys. What a marvelous group of people!
It was always very pleasant to call the office and speak to your wife, Lisa, or any one of your staff, Marie, Charles, Jason, or Jose. They were courteous, extremely professional, and on top of all permits, orders, and schedules. Your billing was detailed and easy to understand. I always felt at ease calling your office for assistance. It was always easy to reach you as well, and I looked forward to our onsite meetings where you would enthusiastically display new materials and ideas.
All together, The Green Scene is exceptional. Everyone is highly experienced, courteous, friendly, and take much pride in their work. Thank you for the stunning pool and spa, the spectacular copper fire bowls with water cascades, the exceptional outdoor fireplace with television, the fountain, and the great choice of pavers, tiles, and landscaping.
In my wildest dreams I had never pictured such an extraordinary piece of art. Scott, you turned my backyard into a gorgeous, tranquil, resort-style private oasis. I am amazed at your imagination and execution.
Thank you, Scott and The Green Scene. We love it!
The D'Elia family
This gorgeous tropical style swimming pool includes a spa that cascades into the swimming pool, a faux wood concrete bridge that crosses over the waterslide, a climbing wall, beach entry, an outdoor kitchen, an outdoor bar with cast in place concrete countertop with embedded glass and fiber optic lighting, and a nearby fire pit filled with colored glass, surrounded by a seat bench, and a bocce ball court.
This home was featured in Concrete Decor Magazine, Concrete Network.com, and WaterShapes July/August 2010, Spaces Magazine, March/April 2010, Landscape Contractor October 2010, Great Backyards 2011, and Concrete Decor Feb./March 2011.
Scott Cohen won 1st place in the Countertops category for this outdoor bar & firepit at the Decorative Concrete Council Awards for Countertops from the American Society of Concrete Contractors at the World of Concrete show in Las Vegas.
Backyard Facelift by Amy Helmes
At a time when plummeting housing prices need a boost, making outdoor upgrades can be a wise investment for improving your home's value. The good news: Breathing new life into Your backyard doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing prospect. Many poolscapes can be made over with a few careful, cost-effective upgrades.
Other renovation projects, such as the one shown here, call for a more extensive transformation. The addition of new features, new equipment, and new materials can turn a neglected poolscape into the place to be seen all season long.
If you're ready to dive in, the following backyard redesigns illustrate how to make a big splash.
From Ordinary to Opulent
Construction Time: 7 months
Turning a 1980s-looking retreat into a thoroughly modern urban oasis doesn't come cheap.
Premium materials and a no-expense-spared approach resulted in this swank, award-winning design by Scott Cohen, president of The Green Scene.
"Originally, the pool almost had a 'Star Wars' feel to it," Cohen says. The owners had strong feelings about the look they were after, which was a very cool, contemporary design."
Keeping the pool's original footprint intact, Cohen dressed it up with a sleek black slate wall from which a stainless-steel spillway drops a smooth sheet of water.
A second rippling waterfall dances over an embankment into the pool. New square pavers bridge the flowing water as if magically suspended. "Who doesn't want to walk across water?" Cohen asks. "It's definitely an upgraded look."
Next to the pool's thick slate coping, dark iridescent tiles reflect off the water line. In the far-left corner of the yard, a low oblique fire pit adds extra nighttime drama.
Even the landscaping has a contemporary asthetic. "I used a lot of grasses — blue fescues, dwarf flax, papyrus and horsetail — lots of plants with textural quality," Cohen explains. "
One element of surprise is the fireplace wall in the new, raised outdoor-living area. It's painted a vivid tuscan red, which adds a modern, dynamic contrast to the dark, masculine colors of the pool. "That splash of color really works," Cohen says.
The homeowners also sought to upgrade their outdoor kitchen. The original grill and standalone countertop were dated and not user-friendly. "Your back was completely turned to your guests," explains Cohen, who is also the author of Scott Cohen's Outdoor Kitchen Design Workbook. "We designed a new kitchen that includes a built-in ice chest and beverage center, storage drawers, a smoker box, and a rotisserie." Tying it all together: The stainless-steel tile backsplash mirrors the subtle stainless-steel details in the pool and fireplace areas.
The April 8, 2009 HGTV Ideas newsletter, which features our Bates-Ricardi pond with a stamped concrete patio and faux wood bridge, is linked to video excerpts from the Johnston and Kirschner Get Out, Way Out! backyard remodel projects.
This charming back yard features a fire pit conversation area and pond with a concrete bridge that is stamped and stained to look like stone.
This home was featured in Garden Center Magazine, the HGTV Ideas newsletter, and on the cover of Great Backyards 2011.
Vanishing Act by Marcia Passos Duffy
Vanishing edge pools are an optical illusion where the edge of the pool seems to disappear in the horizon. The pools were made popular in 1971 by the James Bond film "Diamonds are Forever."
If a client wants the visual impact of a vanishing edge pool as a design element in the landscape, but doesn't care about actually swimming in it, a better option might be a vanishing edge pond.
That was the recommendation of Scott Cohen to his San Fernando Valley client who wanted the illusion of a water feature blending into the view of the valley below the property, but not the expense of building and maintaining a pool.
"The client had a magnificent view, but didn't want a large swimming pool, just a small hydrotherapy spa," said Cohen, a landscape garden artisan and owner of The Green Scene, which provides outdoor design consultations for clients throughout Southern California. While Cohen had designed many vanishing edge (or infinity) pools for clients, he had never created a vanishing edge pond.
"A vanishing edge pool would have been very expensive to build on that lot," said Cohen. The cost for the infinity look on the steep landscape would have added $200,000 over and above the standard cost of a regular pool, bringing the price tag to $350,000.
Cohen thought the pond solution was a good alternative that could be built for under $20,000. “I actually had never heard of a vanishing edge pond before I created this one for my client,” said Cohen.
Vanishing Edge Mechanics
Many of the same mechanical principals for an infinity pool apply to a vanishing edge pond, said Cohen. One similarity is the creation of a weir, or wall, that creates the illusion of a vanishing edge.
The weir's spillway is slightly lower than the rest of the water feature so gravity pulls the water down into a collection basin, where it can then be recirculated. These simple water mechanics become more complex when constructing a pool, noted Cohen. People jumping into or just swimming in the pool create waves that make this simple design more challenging, adding to the cost. "Calculating the hydraulics for a vanishing edge pond is easier than a pool; you don't have to take into account bather surcharge," he said playfully.
However, the similarities between the two end with the water mechanics. Building a pond is a fraction of the cost because of the lack of steel sides, plaster, tiles, pool pumps and heaters. "When building a pool you are creating an environment where you don't want anything to grow." said Cohen. In a pond, you want an environment where things do grow, and even thrive.
With the pond, you are creating an opportunity to plant a new garden; it is a showcase to install water lilies and flowering, naturalistic plants." In essence, a vanishing edge pond is just like creating an ordinary pond, with the addition of the spillover weir. "With the pond, you are creating an opportunity to plant a new garden; it is a showcase to install water lilies and flowering naturalistic plants." "A vanishing edge pond is just a few thousand dollars more than a standard pond. Anyone who has experience building a pond can pull this together," said Cohen. For his client, Cohen went a step further by constructing a bridge between the pond and the hydrotherapy spa so that the bodies of water looked connected, but remained separate. The water spillover gave the effect (and sounds) of a waterfall, and a smaller pond below the larger pond acted as a catch basin. Biological pumps recirculated the water back up into the larger pond. The cost for the total project, including the spa, pond, bridge and other landscaping elements, came to $160,000.
Pond construction A simple masonry wall was built; to keep the edge level, workers set a course of cinder blocks on concrete footing. This was then capped with stone. "The weir has to be perfectly level," noted Cohen. A polishing tool used for granite countertops was used to make the stone that capped the weir perfectly smooth. "The smoother the spillway, the better visual effect of water; it almost looks like glass," he said. When selecting a recirculating pump, Cohen says that landscape designers should account for overflow in the event of heavy rains. "You don't want to send water down a slope to a neighboring property." The vanishing edge pond had a 4-foot drop to the outside edge, which went into a collection basin 2.5 feet deep and 2.5 feet wide.
The bridge was created out of cast concrete and stamped to resemble wood. Under the bridge, an 8-foot-wide spillway further creates the illusion that the pond and hydrotherapy spa are from the same body of water. The larger pond has two biological filters and two pumps: one pump circulates the upper pond, and the other creates the infinity effect and returns water from the lower pond. Cohen used all Aquascape (www.aquascapeinc.com ) supplies for the pond portion of the project.
No fish were harmed ...
While creating the vanishing edge pond was a straightforward project, Cohen faced his major problem once the project was completed. "The little goldfish we placed in the pond would slip over the side and end up in the basin," he said. They quickly realized that only larger fish, such as koi, are suited for living in a vanishing edge pond. "We did save all the little goldfish," said Cohen with a chuckle, and added that workers installed netting that remained in place until the fish got too large to slip over the edge. You must also consider the depth of the vanishing edge pond, or any pond, when adding fish. Too shallow in a hot climate and fish will not survive in the warm water, but too deep and you may be violating state regulations.
In California, for example, a pond deeper than 18 inches is classified as a "pool", and the property must be fenced in or enclosed for safety reasons.
Since the water's reflective quality mirrors the horizon beyond the pond, it is important, Cohen said, that what is reflected in the pond is beautiful and worth reflecting. "You don't want the pond to be under a power line," he said. The pond doesn't have to be on a cliff overlooking a dramatic valley scape to have a magical quality, said Cohen. The reflection can consist of an attractive tree or shrubbery, or even a fire element, such as a fire pit. Landscape designers should note what exactly will be reflected when positioning the vanishing edge pond. Cohen recommends that the spillover face east or west. "That way you can get sunrises or sunsets over the pond," he said. The end result of a well-designed, well-positioned vanishing edge pond can be a stunning design element to a landscape, said Cohen. "It is a very versatile option. You can put a rectangular one in a formal garden or create medallion shapes for an Eastern-influenced landscape," said Cohen. "You are only limited by your creativity." Cohen has created two vanishing edge ponds for clients. After one of the ponds was featured on HGTV, his business-with 12 construction crews and 55 workers on staff-has received several inquiries to build more. "The vanishing edge pond differentiates us from others in the industry," said Cohen. "It is a niche, but it is a terrific opportunity to capture a greater market share."