Better by the Bay: Outdoor Entertaining on Cape Cod

June 7, 2017

A new swimming pool, enhanced by views of the water beyond, forms the centerpiece of a backyard entertaining area designed for maximum summer fun.

Text by Regina Cole     Photography by Richard Mandelkorn

The homeowners approached Sudbury Design Group with a straightforward request: turn an old, little-used lap pool behind their house on Cape Cod into an outdoor entertainment area focused around a new swimming pool, one whose infinity edge melts into the waters of the bay beyond. “They wanted the elements that many families today want in their landscapes: a bar, an outdoor kitchen, a fireplace, and a hot tub,” Michael Coutu, president of the firm, recalls. “And they wanted a pool with maximum space for a young family.”

The lawn behind the one-and-a-half-story house slopes down to the banks of a small bay. Any construction project would involve conservation restrictions that could prove tricky in terms of both scope and placement. Fortunately, Coutu has plenty of experience navigating such regulations. “Permitting is a big part of terracing and building in an area close to the water,” he says. “We are expert at it; a lot of our projects are in environmentally sensitive or geographically challenging locations.”

His design called for centering the new pool on the existing covered terrace and its twin projecting pavilions. The new, buff-colored granite that forms the terrace floor extends around the ends of the pool. A collection of comfy chaises and a diving platform composed of a stacked pair of large granite rocks occupy one end, while the other end features a seating area focused on a commanding granite fireplace.

The pavilion nearest the fireplace holds a kitchen and bar. A nearby dining table stands at the ready for entertaining. The second pavilion offers a more casual dining area, and in between sits a living room appropriately outfitted with weatherproof wicker –furniture upholstered in duck with contrasting welting. From this vantage, the eye is drawn to the shimmering edge of the pool and to the bay beyond.

Each element was carefully thought out for maximum function in a limited area. The granite pavers, for example, were chosen not only for their warm natural color and non-slip surface, but also for their tendency to remain cool underfoot on the hottest days. Bluestone coping creates a pretty contrast as it edges the pool and crowns the tops of fieldstone pillars. The pillars, which frame the water view, also anchor the wall that forms the infinity edge. “The regulations that require that a pool be fenced are happily met with our design,” Coutu explains, noting that the infinity edge forms part of the pool’s fencing. Picket fencing runs behind the fireplace, while the fence on the pool’s opposite side makes use of glass panels for an open feel.

That the swimming pool echoes the blue-green hue of the bay is no accident, either. “We made sure we came up with a plaster color that goes with the bay,” Coutu says.

The terrace opens to the southwest, which promises great sunset views, but also invites a good deal of late-afternoon glare. A series of striped awnings offers a time-honored solution, though these are raised and lowered via a high-tech remote control.

The lighting plan, which Sudbury Design Group also devised and installed, emphasizes downlighting so the family can enjoy the space at night without sacrificing a glimpse of the evening sky. Coutu says his company strives to avoid light pollution when designing outdoor illumination. “It’s just good design practice,” he says.

Plantings consist of Cape Cod favorites such as hydrangea and spirea that can stand up to salty breezes. The walkway from the pool to the parking area is flanked by handsome white tree hydrangeas, while rugosa roses bloom along the picket fence. Colorful annuals fill planters, including the long white-painted planter that hugs the edge of the second-story master bedroom deck.

“That planter is especially pleasing in the way the flowers spill out over the edge of the roof and highlight the architecture of the house,” Coutu says.

Lest any heavy lifting intrude on the blissful summer days promised by a backyard designed for relaxation and play, Coutu specified that this planter—indeed all of the garden elements—be irrigated. Like the awnings, the planters bring old-fashioned charm without any of the work. Shade is provided, plants thrive, and the living is easy.


This article originally appeared in the 2017 issue of New England Home Cape & Islands with the headline Better by the Bay.

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