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Published August 23rd, 2017
Create an outdoor oasis with smaller pools and backyard living spaces
This small pool with an integrated spa utilizes maximum space. Photo Andy Scheck

When Scott and Stephanie Barmmer moved into their Broadview Terrace home over a decade ago, their backyard requirements were minimal landscaping, play areas for their three young children and a fence for the steep slope. Now that they have three teenagers, the couple wanted to upgrade the yard into another living area, so it would be an inviting gathering spot for their children and their friends.
"We wanted to build a space that was an extension of the house," said Scott Barmmer.
In 2007, they hired Orinda's Garden Lights Landscape and Pool Development to complete their simple backyard project. Then this past spring, Garden Lights returned to add a vineyard on the slope, high-quality artificial sod, an outdoor kitchen, fire pit and a modern swimming pool.
Even though the Barmmers just have a 21-by-15 foot pool, it reflects many of the recent swimming pool trends in Lamorinda. The Barmmer's home is no exception to the incredible views that are almost the norm in Lamorinda homes and Garden Lights owner and designer Stephen Lambert wanted the vanishing edge pool to be an ideal place to take in the spectacular view of Mt. Diablo there.
"Their backyard project is like adding three more rooms to the home. People are trying to live outdoors more now," Lambert said.
According to Lambert, the Barmmer's project bucks the notion that you can't place a pool in a smaller yard. He said there is definitely a trend to build smaller pools in yards that aren't spacious and he has designed three smaller pools in Lamorinda alone this year.
"It (the pool) is big enough that the kids can jump into it feet first," said Barmmer.
Lambert calls the smaller pools "spools." He noted that it is important that a pool not overwhelm the yard and "spools" are ideal for not being too immense.
"Homeowners are thinking about design and flow," Lambert said. "It is important to look at it as a holistic thing."
The Broadview Terrace home's new pool features glass tiles with accents of abalone shells in the design scheme. Hiring a pool designer like Lambert can make choices such as selecting a color scheme much simpler by providing a limited number of options based on their knowledge of the homeowner's personality and taste.
"Pools today are not like the pools of the past," Lambert said. "Hiring a designer is the way to go. Pool builders don't have the training for the overall design and look of a project."
For years, Garden Lights was designing pools but not building them. To date, they have managed about 30 pool projects in Lamorinda including their newest one in Orinda's Lost Valley with a natural shape, water feature and glass tile.
In recent years, Lambert has been seeing a desire for larger hot tubs and saltwater pools, which he noted offer several benefits.
"They are better for your skin and it is a giant water softener," he said.
Another extension of modern pool design is an outdoor kitchen to complement the entertaining vibe of pools. The Barmmer's kitchen has a mini-refrigerator, cooling drawers, an ice maker and a large grill.
"It brings people together to gather," Barmmer said. "That was what we wanted."
For more information on Garden Lights, email office@gardenlightslandscape.com or call (925) 254-4797 or check out www.gardenlightslandscape.com.

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