Living the Dream



When fantasies can come true at home, why go out?

“It was always a dream of mine as a kid to have a pool,” says Garrick Hollander, a bankruptcy lawyer and Newport Coast father of two. Today he can luxuriate in his very own 40-foot, knife-edge, saltwater pool with custom spa—that, and so much more. The family’s other backyard amenities include: an outdoor room with a cantilevered fireplace and flat-screen TV; a built-in barbecue and custom dining bar with a second flat screen; comfy, bed-size lounges by the pool; and built-in seating for 12 with a fire trough nestled into a hillside with canyon and ocean views.

The kingdom is controlled by a HomeLogic Automation universal remote that adjusts lights, music, spa temperature, and TVs. You get the picture.

“When we bought the house five years ago, the back yard looked like a mini-Versailles, with a formal rose garden, topiary, and lots of statues and fountains,” wife Shelley, a personal trainer and fitness boot-camp instructor, says with a laugh. “It definitely wasn’t our taste,” adds Garrick, who removed the accoutrements before the family moved in, substituting a simple swath of grass for daughters Brooklyn, 8, and Ivy, 6.

The Hollanders spent four years saving for and imagining their back yard—one that would cost them in the six figures. Then they called designer-builder John Shippy of Geoscape Landscape Construction in Rancho Santa Margarita.

“Each person’s dream yard is individual,” says Shippy. “For the Hollanders, it was a low-maintenance yard with a relaxing spa vibe and a South Beach palette of white, sand, and aqua hues. They wanted it to be sophisticated—like resorts such as the W Hotels and the Setai in Miami where they had stayed—but also friendly and welcoming for their daughters to play.”

To that end, Shippy placed the pool perpendicular to the house. This created a dramatic view line, and freed up space on either side for alfresco entertaining. He placed the bar and barbecue area on one side of the pool, and created the outdoor room, complete with sofa, club chairs, TV and fireplace, on the other. Imported travertine marble, cut like a random-plank wood floor, offers a handsome, skid-resistant surface. The neoclassical columns were replaced with a dramatic split-level seating area and gas fire pit with a backdrop of sculptural, drought-tolerant plants, including cordylines and echeverias.

In keeping with the couple’s wish for an ecofriendly, low-maintenance yard, Shippy also installed state-of-the-art artificial turf that could pass as the real thing.

As you might imagine, weekends usually are booked at the Hollander home. Parties are small and intimate, a few close friends and their children invited to enjoy the yard’s many pleasures.

Last Super Bowl Sunday, for example, while TVs were tuned to the game, the kids surfed the pool on blue floats, and Archie, the family’s goldendoodle, snoozed on the ersatz grass. At halftime, adults headed for a soak in the custom 10-foot-square spa that seats eight to 10. They listened to the Ruby Friedman Orchestra’s “Shooting Star,” and took turns in the hydro tube’s eight powerful calf-to-neck jets.

“Our goal was to have a back yard where everyone wants to hang out,” says Garrick. There’s only one problem with his dream yard: “It’s completely spoiled us for going anywhere else.”

Barbara Thornburg’s most recent piece for Orange Coast was her travel story on Baja’s wine country [May 2011].

Have Your Plants and Enjoy Them, Too
You can’t have a dream back yard without plants. Shrubs and trees that soften walls and pavement add color and life. Here’s how to get lots of beauty with little care.


1. Think low-maintenance, says John Shippy of the Rancho Santa Margarita company Geoscape Landscape Construction, responsible for the pool and landscaping of the Hollander back yard on the preceding pages. Choose succulents and other plants that need little water, feeding, or pruning to thrive. You’ll be environmentally responsible and have more hours to enjoy your yard.


2. Narrow your plant palette to a few varieties and use them

en masse for easier tending and maximum pizazz. Establish visual themes by repeating your chosen few in different spots, a trick that pulls together a garden’s far-flung parts.


3. Avoid small pots that can look fussy, leave water stains on pavement, and demand hand-watering and feeding. Shippy planted mostly in garden beds, reserving a handful of oversized (3-by-2-foot) pots for large shrubs he wanted to show off. But even with these containers, he removed the bottoms so he could irrigate them automatically from below.


4. Use plantings to break up the hard, static surfaces of walls and paving. “Living elements add lushness and movement,” he says. “Yes, you want all your indoor comforts to enjoy around the pool, but you still need to feel the magic of being outside.”


5. Splurge on a couple of great plants to set the tone. To complement the property’s Mediterranean-modern architecture, Shippy selected a few mature, field-grown olive trees from the Napa Valley. Their shimmering leaves and gnarled trunks add the look of time to the new garden. The trees are sprayed annually to keep them from fruiting.


6. Incorporate “borrowed landscape,” such as trees growing next door, into your garden’s composition—a visual ploy that can make it appear larger. At the Hollander house, Shippy “borrowed” a neighbor’s palm trees, which rise majestically above a garden wall, by up-lighting them dramatically from his client’s side. — Susan Heeger



When to call in the pros … and not just a pretty face
The pool boy—bulging biceps, tight trunks, come-hither smile—has become the stuff of legends. That is to say, grossly exaggerated and so far removed from his origins as to be rendered mythical. The truth is, keeping your pool in tip-top condition can be complicated. You’ll need more than just a manhunk. Here, from those in the know, are tips from the experts. —Beth A. Clayton

Three reasons to hire pool maintenance: if you travel a lot, are afraid of all things technical and electrical, or if you move into a house with an existing pool and you don’t know if it’s had good maintenance.

Maintaining your pool? It can be tricky because you can’t always see the problems. A glass of water and a glass of white vinegar may look the same, but chemically, they’re completely different.

If someone tells you they can build a pool for less than $45,000 to $55,000, be skeptical.

Want a cool body of water in the summer, a warm one in winter? Put in a spool: part spa, part pool.

A variable-speed pool pump is like a Toyota Prius: It’ll pay for itself. At half speed, it takes longer to do the job, but uses only an eighth of the energy.

As cute as they are, kids do two things in pools: splash, and, well, you know. If you’re planning a big party, make sure the pool is literally spotless.

Pool no-no No. 1: Don’t plant eucalyptus and jacaranda trees nearby. They have oils that upset the water’s chemical balance. Chlorine oxidizes, so the more foliage that falls into the pool, the more the chlorine attacks.

Pool no-no No. 2: Avoid ficus, coral, alder trees, or anything with an invasive root system. The roots can damage the plumbing lines or the shell of the pool.

Want to build a pool and add a spa later? Go for both now and save a lot in the long run.

Be careful with the chemicals. Combine the wrong ones and you’ll create mustard gas.

Think a saltwater pool will save you money? You still have to add salt to the pool, and the salt cell needs to be cleaned every few months.

With a little knowledge, plus the help of reliable experts, most homeowners can handle 90 percent of pool problems themselves.

If you want to drain and refill your pool, definitely call someone. Without the weight of the water, the pool can come out of the foundation. “Pool popping” is not your friend.

Pool maintenance professionals are like doctors: It’s better to see one when you’re healthy.


Keep it simple. Complicated pools are more expensive to maintain. Do you really need a 10-foot sheer descent waterfall? Maybe not.



O.C. Barbecue Sauces We Like Best
by Chris Christensen

Good balance of tomato, vinegar, and spices, and a perfect complement to smoky meats such as brisket and pork shoulder. This was the most homemade-tasting of all. Try the dry rub, too.

Beach Pit BBQ
This zingy Golden Mustard sauce was a surprise hit with Orange Coast staffers when it beat out Beach Pit’s regular and spicy varieties. We imagined it on grilled dogs and sausages, stirred into baked-beans, potato and macaroni salads.

Blake’s Place
Complex, smoky, not too sweet, and with just the right amount of heat, this zingy blend of tomato and spices tied with Memphis as one staffer’s No. 1 pick. Note: It makes a mean pulled-beef brisket sammie.

Beachwood BBQ
Surprise! We selected the Sweet variety from among Beachwood’s four choices. As one taster put it, “it has a nice, subtle sweetness” that’s a great match for baby-back ribs. Spicy, Mustard, and Vinegar available, too.

This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Orange Coast magazine.

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