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Landscape Design Richmond: Pool Deck and Modern Outdoor Kitchen

Updated: Feb 15, 2023

Introducing The Space

The path to a dream outdoor living space is not always linear. In this Richmond, VA landscape design challenge, the homeowners approached Water and Earth with a bit of prior design history. Their backyard living space, which included a large ADU/garage, was in need of a modern update.


The clients had approached another design company who had delivered a rendering including most of the items on their wishlist. However, they weren’t feeling as excited as they’d hoped about the overall design. They wanted to see what our designers had in mind for their outdoor living space.


After talking with the clients and reviewing the previous design renders, a list of must-haves took shape. Our clients wanted a pool and spa, covered living space, and a functional outdoor kitchen. They also wanted to ensure that the final space had a balance of functional hardscaping and green space. Finally, it was essential that the ADU feel purposefully linked and incorporated into the final design.


Keeping all of this in mind, we hit the drawing boards and came back with two initial 2D designs.


2D Designs

From the beginning, we knew that a major part of ensuring that the homeowner’s were happy with the design was making sure that the ADU structure did not become an afterthought. Even in these initial design concepts, you can see how elements such as the kitchen and covered living space have been pushed away from the house, and linked more concretely to the auxiliary structure.


We love leading with 2D designs for multiple reasons, but mainly for their ability to convey potential without stunting the imagination of the homeowners. In this case, we wanted to show our clients everything that was possible in their outdoor space, while leaving room for adjustments based on their concerns or comments.


Concept A

Concept A

The first design, Concept A, shows the first reimagining of this Richmond, VA backyard. Stepping out of their backdoors, the homeowners walk out onto a split-level deck. The lower level is flush with the new overflow spa, which seamlessly runs into the new, rectangular pool stretching across the right side of the yard.


At the far end of the pool is a new sun shelf, leaving space for in-pool furniture. Sun shelves or tanning shelves like these are great for relaxing, or creating a seamless shallow end for pools or pets to splash around in the heat.


Segmenting the pool and the left side of the yard is a long run of concrete steppers that lead you from the deck off the back of the home, all the way along the pool and around the back of the ADU. The pool is on the right, while the left side of the pathways runs along the new, pergola-covered outdoor kitchen.


Centralizing this feature makes sure that all structures in the space feel connected and integral, and also ensures that friends and family members do not feel crowded against the back of the home.


Balancing this new hardscaping and functional space is an open lawn providing plenty of room for kids and pets to spread their legs. Around the entire perimeter of the yard is new landscaping, including trees and a long feature wall.


Concept B


Concept B

For our second design, we decided to keep the general layout much the same as Concept A while expanding on previous elements. The homeowners still step out of their back doors onto a deck. However, instead of two smaller levels, this deck is one larger, raised tier providing plenty of room for chairs or a table.


From the deck, our client’s can step down into the new perimeter overflow spa, or walk directly into their linear pool. The shape and design of the pool and spa themselves are largely the same as in Concept A. However, key features have been changed. At the far end of the pool, the tanning ledge has transformed into an elevated tanning deck.


This deck spans the far corner of the property in a large L shape, covered in the corner by a large shade umbrella. The foot of the pool is finished with a water feature wall and fire pit. The positioning of the fire pit provides space for those on the deck to gather around the fire, talk to swimmers, or warm up after a chilly dip in the pool.


To the left of the pool, the long walkway has been covered with large, slatted pergola. The outdoor kitchen from Concept A has remained in the same place off of the AD, creating a natural anchor point for the extending pergola.


Where steppers wrapped around the back of the ADU in the previous design, new landscaping has been rendered in this concept. Homeowners can step off their pool side pathway and into their large yard space.

3D Renderings

After reviewing both concepts, the homeowners were excited to see the broader, more central use of space. While they appreciated both designs, they preferred the layout and versatility of Concept B. After being given the go-ahead, we proceeded to 3D renderings of this design.


An aerial view of the space, rendered in 3D. The new decks, extended pergola, and swimming pool are all laid out.

3D renderings are one of the most exciting steps in the design process. This is when homeowners get to see their hypothetical dream backyard begin to take on real life. From materiality, to color, to seeing how each feature fits in the space, we value 3D for every detail it can provide clients to help them get excited about the potential of their space.


A view from the new outdoor kitchen over the swimming pool and perimeter overflow spa.

These renderings were especially helpful in bringing the proposed layout of the space to life. The clients were able to look at how each space interacted with each other. They could see what the view would be for guests looking out over the bar. They could see how the new deck at the foot of the pool allowed guests to have a view of the entire space, including both the pool and the yard behind.


Looking from the new deck back towards the space. From here, the entire living space is easily in view, making it one of the best seats in the house.

By bringing the kitchen away from the house and further into the space, not only does it feel more central to the living area, but it helps to incorporate the large ADU into the space as well. The extended pergola and support beams are anchored to its roof. In this way, the new space can’t exist without the support of the existing features. We are always aiming to be intentional with design, and layouts like these really exemplify our mission.


Final Renderings


The first round of renderings were extremely exciting for our clients. Not only did they get to see their new space from all vantage points, but their previously 2D, black and white vision of the space was colored in. Now not only could they visualize how they would move through space, but they had a better idea of our ideas regarding materiality as well. Once these colors and materials are finally brought to life, homeowners are now able to give constructive feedback.

Lighter wood is rendered for the deck adjacent to the house and at the foot of the pool. The pergola slats have been lightened as well.

In this design challenge, the clients expressed that they would prefer a lighter finish to the wood in the space. This meant lightening up not only the deck, but the overhead slats of the pergola as well.


Looking over the deck towards the home–the new wood brightens the space.

This choice to brighten the wood ended up brightening the overall feel of the backyard. The previously darker, grayer tones were modern, but were not completely aligned with the client’s aesthetic preferences. This new rendering brightened the space, added contrast, and was more consistent with what the homeowners had in mind.


Also obvious in the above renderings are more organic details like landscaping, fire, and water features. The initial firepit and water feature wall from the 2D design have been modified. The firepit is now set at a right angle, while multiple bubbling jets line the ledge of the tanning deck.


After seeing all of these renderings together, the clients were over the moon about the new design. While the first iterations of their dream space had left them wanting more, these new renderings had unlocked the true potential of their backyard.


Not only were all the features functional and centralized, but even the smallest details had now sprung to life. Multiple decks provide ample seating. A modern fire pit creates warmth, movement, and separation of space. The covered outdoor kitchen throws shade and provides an ideal view of the central pool.


No matter where you are in the yard, the new design offers you an ideal vantage point. We believe a dream outdoor living space is one with no bad angles. In this Richmond, VA landscape design, every seat has become the best seat in the house.


Explore More Richmond, VA Landscape Design on Our Blog


Don’t wait for inspiration to strike. Find more design walkthroughs like this one, get your questions answered, and learn more about our design process on our blog. For day to day updates on our current project, follow us on Instagram!

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