Bathed in Luxury

A custom-designed oasis makes a splash for homeowners with outdoor living in mind.

Text: Lucyann Boston
Photos: Greg Rannells
June 2009

“The family can stay home and feel as if they are on a vacation. We tried to create a setting for a ‘staycation'.”
– Artistic Group, Inc.


Vibrant azaleas add pops of color throughout the rock garden and well-planned landscape. Sod was used to give the lawn an instant look of summer.

Carole and Greg Tobin weren’t kidding when they decided everything they needed should be located on the main level of their new, multi-level St. Louis metro area home. That requirement applied to the swimming pool and garden, as well, and meant changing the topography of the dramatically sloped, two-and-a-half-acre, heavily wooded lot.

To make it all happen, they called on Artistic Group, Inc., a full-service design and landscaping firm with offices in St. Louis and Edwardsville, Illinois.

The construction of a 300-foot retaining wall and backfilling of a 100- by 150-foot area to create level land adjacent to the home was only the first step in the project. Once that was complete, the plan for the pool and garden needed to encompass a wide variety of family activities while being relatively low-maintenance. Both Carole and Greg are busy professionals, and they wanted their time at home to be as fun-filled and carefree as possible.

The landscape designer for the Artistic Group envisioned a park-like setting, with grass and mature trees comprising most of the two-and-a-half acres. Her sketched plan for the landscape around the pool and front of the home included grasses, flowering trees and shrubs that would peak in different seasons to provide colorful interest year round.

To create that beautiful picture, it took quite a measure of hard work. One thousand feet of fencing, for example, was needed to enclose the immense lot. Approximately 60 to 70 scraggly shrubs and trees needed to be removed so that the 100 or more remaining mature sweet gums, pin oaks, maples and walnuts could stand out and dominate the landscape. New plants surrounding the pool – including azaleas, hollies, boxwoods, lilacs, burning bushes, ‘Sunspot' euonymous, evergreens and fountain grasses – were generally dwarf varieties. “We didn't need to create a tall hedge,” notes a representative from the Artistic Group, who translated the design into reality. “The pool is already secluded by a natural hedge of mature trees, and we wanted people at the pool to be able to enjoy the feeling of being in a park.”

Smooth river rock on commercial fiber matting covers planting beds and reduces weeding. Mulched bermed areas are a canvas for an array of plantings.

The pool itself is a custom-designed free-form gunite pool, and to be multipurpose, it includes an 18-inch-deep area for sunning, a 3-foot-deep area for games like water volleyball, and a deep end with a diving board. Adjacent to the pool, a circular stone-faced spa allows water to cascade into the pool with the feel of a mini waterfall. The water spaces have separate pumps and heaters so that the spa can be used during the winter when the pool is closed. Both contain salt water rather than chlorinated water – easier on skin and hair – and additives are organic rather than chemical.

Surrounding the pool, lounge chairs and spectacular custom-built redwood cabana beds – modeled after beds Carole saw in Mexico -– are swathed in earth-tone and animal print fabrics. The pool deck is composed of more than 10,000 Belgard Mega-Bergerac pavers with the look of European stone, adding to the earth-friendly ambience of the outdoor space. Custom brickwork outlines the spaces reserved for the cabana beds to set them apart from the other seating areas.

“The goal was to create the ambience of a beautiful resort, just a step or two away from the backdoor of the Tobins' residence. They can stay home and feel as if they are on a vacation,” notes the representative from the Artistic Group. “We tried to create a setting for a ‘staycation.'”

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Bathed in Luxury

“The family can stay home and feel as if they are on a vacation. We tried to create a setting for a ‘staycation'.”
– Artistic Group, Inc.


Vibrant azaleas add pops of color throughout the rock garden and well-planned landscape. Sod was used to give the lawn an instant look of summer.

Carole and Greg Tobin weren’t kidding when they decided everything they needed should be located on the main level of their new, multi-level St. Louis metro area home. That requirement applied to the swimming pool and garden, as well, and meant changing the topography of the dramatically sloped, two-and-a-half-acre, heavily wooded lot.

To make it all happen, they called on Artistic Group, Inc., a full-service design and landscaping firm with offices in St. Louis and Edwardsville, Illinois.

The construction of a 300-foot retaining wall and backfilling of a 100- by 150-foot area to create level land adjacent to the home was only the first step in the project. Once that was complete, the plan for the pool and garden needed to encompass a wide variety of family activities while being relatively low-maintenance. Both Carole and Greg are busy professionals, and they wanted their time at home to be as fun-filled and carefree as possible.

The landscape designer for the Artistic Group envisioned a park-like setting, with grass and mature trees comprising most of the two-and-a-half acres. Her sketched plan for the landscape around the pool and front of the home included grasses, flowering trees and shrubs that would peak in different seasons to provide colorful interest year round.

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