The first-growth trees surrounding Moss Ledge—a Berkshire Mountains summer house built in the 1920s—had all been harvested by the end of World War I. Today, second-growth pines, maples, and oaks are thriving, and the newest owners of Moss Ledge want to keep it that way.
When it came time to landscape behind the L-shaped house, the owners turned to Brooklyn-based O’Neill Rose Architects and asked for a garden and pool that could be integrated into the woodlands. The architects set out to “make the pool feel like it was a natural part of the garden, and that the garden in turn was a part of the larger natural setting,” said Devin O’Neill.
The architects carefully blurred the boundaries from one “zone” to the next—from pool and patio to garden and woods—with the help of hardscape materials and plants. “The cultivated flowers give way to native mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes,” said O’Neill, “which soften the edge of the woodlands beyond. The effect is a lush, gentle setting.”
Photography by Michael Moran, except where noted, and courtesy of O’Neill Rose Architects.
Above: The architects chose a location for the pool where it would be least disruptive to the trees; the clients were very insistent on that point. Plus, said O’Neill, “those two tall pines [at the head of the pool] were such a dramatic vertical element that we wanted to make sure to celebrate them, and to make sure the pool made sense in relation to them.” In the end, the team had to cut down two trees to make room for the pool, and relocated a third to another location on the property.
Above: Bluestone pavers surround the pool; the sun lounges are from Kingsley-Bate.
The owners are avid gardeners who live in New York and spend weekends and holidays at Moss Ledge in western Massachusetts. Plantings include hostas, rhododendrons, mountain laurel, and a cut-leaf Japanese maple.
Above: A former tractor garage off the side of the house is now a mudroom entrance. In the winter months, its potbelly stove warms snow-dampened boots and gloves, and in the summer it’s where beach towels, swim suits, and pool toys are found. Said O’Neill, “It’s a nice cool and shady place to sit and watch the swimmers, or just to contemplate the garden and forest beyond.” Its original bead board paneling and wood cabinetry is intact.
Above: When the pool displaced a small flower garden, the team relocated the plants throughout the property; shown here are day lilies, bellflowers, astilbe, and balloon flowers.
Above: The architects planted a mix of Irish moss and thyme between the bluestone pavers. The pool is made of gunite and painted dark gray.
Above: The heated saltwater pool “is used as soon as possible in the spring, and until as late as possible in the fall,” said O’Neill. Beyond the pool, the door (at far left) leads to the mudroom/storage area. Around the corner, the large pairs of carriage doors are remnants from its days as a tractor garage.
Above: Black Mexican river rocks are interspersed between pavers and mossy plantings. Photograph by O’Neill Rose Architects.
Above: “The formal geometry of the bluestone pavers is softened by the Irish moss and thyme,” said O’Neill, “and interweaves with the garden at its edges…allowing the garden to assert its presence.” Photograph by O’Neill Rose Architects.
Above: The site plan shows the proximity between pool and woods.
For more from O’Neill Rose, see Swimming Pool of the Week: Beautiful Views in the Berkshires and A Brownstone for the 21st Century.
Finally, get more ideas on how to integrate a swimming pool into your landscape or exterior home project with our Hardscaping 101: Swimming Pools guide.