Natural pools are common, and popular, in many European countries, but are fairly rare in the U.S., and particularly in California. Whether due to lack of familiarity or restrictive building codes, natural pools offer many advantages over traditional pools: no steel reinforced gunite shell equals lower carbon footprint, and natural filtration via living bacteria means no chemicals needed to maintain water clarity and purity. Our hardy, outdoorsy clients (they road bike all over Northern California, and ski in to their Sierra yurt in the winter time) were undaunted by the lack of a heater, and all-in on the idea of swimming in their own ‘pond’.
Though this property is close to downtown Napa, it feels very ‘country’. To access the property, visitors cross a year-round creek that forms the western and southern boundaries. Mature Valley Oaks form the horizon and punctuate the landscape. There is sufficient space to accommodate vineyard, extensive production gardens, and multiple outbuildings, while leaving plenty of breathing space around the new home. Because the new architecture was very contemporary, we designed the pool to transition gracefully from the more architectural western end with rectilinear coping, concrete terrace and seatwall, and cantilevered wood deck, to the more naturalistic east end with organic edge layout and shallow water plants. The clients had salvaged vintage granite blocks from a dismantled railroad bridge on a family property in Calistoga after the wildfires. They were repurposed here to serve as the water source and splash block, and as perches for visitors, both human and wildlife. The very day the water plants went in and the pool was filled, the clients saw an immediate surge in bird activity, dragonflies, butterflies and more.
Supporting the outdoor living theme, the covered outdoor grilling and dining terrace reaches out to a seatwall that acts as footrest for enjoying the southern view across the pool and California native Bentgrass meadow leading toward the distant Oaks. A rustic bocce court and smokeless fire pit area sit in a mostly-native landscape of Blue Gramma Grass, Purple Needle Grass, California Fuchsia and Manzanitas. Flanking the entry walk on the shady northern side of the house, Japanese Maples, Daphne, and Fringe Flower punctuate beds of ‘Chisai’ California Meadow Sedge, while a Box Leaf Azara tree wiggles its way up through an opening in the cantilevered roof.
Architecture: Sage Architecture
Construction: Puente Construction
Landscape Installation: Roy’s Landscape
Pool Installation: Total Habitat
Photography: Eileen Roche Photography