Once upon a time, there was a sweet Krisel-designed, Alexander-built 1957 midcentury house in Palm Springs that needed some TLC. It was purchased by a Bay Area couple as their retirement home. The couple had the interior renovation well under control, but the backyard had both clients and the contractor stumped. That's when they called us.

The backyard had lots of potential but several key challenges. Two sides of the property were significantly higher than the house itself, which caused the house to flood during rainstorms. The pool was a large, curvilinear shape that made designing the hardscape layout a bit of a challenge. It should be noted that rectangular pools and straight lines are all the rage these days, and this pool was certainly not that. To make matters more complicated, the pool encroaches very close to the house -- especially to a guesthouse casita that is accessible only from the outside (pictured above.)

The clients had three major goals when they called me:

  • capture the view over the house with a raised BBQ island

  • address the grading issues without creating trip hazards

  • maximize both functional hardscape areas and softscape for their dog, Fiona

First things first: my team set about documenting the entire site. I often find that architect's plans of existing properties do not accurately locate the pool. "Permit sets" created by architects, draftsmen, or engineers are largely focused on the building structure and (understandably) are focused on the details that city inspectors tend to scrutinize. As such, the exact pool placement, existing landscape such as palm trees or citrus trees, and other key features are often drawn inaccurately or left out entirely.

Such was the case here. The permit drawings which had been created (before CKI was hired) had not accurately located the pool and it was incorrect by several feet. My Dream Team caught this error. While the existing permit plans w