Launch Slideshow

Water World

Water World

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Water elicits a variety of responses from people and, except in cases like Noah's, most of them are enthusiastic. For homeowners, water features are soothing, serene, cooling, and refreshing additions to outdoor spaces. These projects highlight water features that bridge indoor rooms and outdoor ones. According to Seattle architect Craig Mason, “Water features provide an element of nature that can be brought inside through sight, sound, and even smell.”

Reflective Study

“It was the most challenging feature of the entire house,” says architect and owner Craig Mason of the reflecting pool that abuts a study/nap niche off of the living room, “but it's also the one thing that everyone comments on.” Mason made sure the pool lined up squarely with a cedar-framed view of Puget Sound so that to someone lying on the fold-down guest bed the pool appears to merge directly with the Sound below. Dark blue, 1-by-1-inch tiles ensure that the 8-foot-wide by 15-foot-long by 18-inch-deep pool is highly reflective. The southeast exposure captures sunlight that dances on the water all day. The home's corrugated steel walls enhance the light reflection and create playful patterns that move across the living room from morning to late afternoon. The hard part entailed getting the water to spill through an end spout at a rate that would create the sound Mason wanted to trickle through the house, yet maintain the meditative calm of a glassy surface. “There are formulas and calculations that I didn't know,” admits Mason. “You have to get the right depth and volume of water to flow over the weir to generate the desired effect, but also to not burn out the pump or kill your electric bill.” With the help of builder Mike Fisher and a lot of trial and error, he was able to achieve that effect. Builder: Mike Fisher Construction, Bainbridge Island, Wash.; Architect: Craig Mason, Seattle; Photographer: Chris J. Roberts.

Inward Focus

A steep and somewhat treacherous mountainside site led architects Steven House and Amena Hajjar to develop a courtyard plan that wraps a serene, Japanese-inspired garden. During the day, the house reaches out to stunning views of Mount Tamalpais, just north of San Francisco, but at night activities turn inward to the courtyard. The owners wanted the sound of water to draw people into the space. The sound of the rushing water echoes off the three walls enclosing the courtyard, evoking a “Zen feeling that's not overpowering,” Hajjar explains. A concrete extension of the dining room window sill, the 7-by-5-foot fountain occupies center stage in the courtyard and can be seen from the great room, the daughters' bedroom, and a hilltop spa opposite, as well as from the dining room. “I wanted the waterfall itself to be a visual plane—to make a statement that's as strong as the building,” Hajjar says. Builder: Innovation Builders, Emeryville, Calif.; Architect: House + House, San Francisco; Fountain consultant: David Goeppe, San Francisco; Landscape designer: Christine Swanson, Berkeley, Calif.; Photographer: David Duncan Livingston.

Spring Fever

They say it's all about location, so when faced with a Texas hilltop site that had already been cleared on the gently sloping westward side but tumbled steeply down over rock outcroppings and bubbling springs on the north and east faces, naturally architects Michael Imber and Mac White chose the rocks and water. White, who acted as project manager, explains, “What really engaged us about the site were these two draws that trickled out of the rocks, so we designed the house to tie into them.” The idea of water begins at the entrance. A steel and fir bridge turns a corner just before the front door and passes over the first of three pools that abut the home's limestone walls. A rain chain above the door fills the shallow pool. The water picks up again just outside the master bedroom, which was situated nearest the two natural springs to take advantage of their playful sound. Steps lead from the bedroom's terrace down to a splash pool that spills into a holding tank that in turn feeds one of the existing waterways. The second spring has been manipulated to create a waterfall just below the living room terrace. “We wanted to connect strongly to the water,” says White, “because just the sound of it throughout the house has a psychologically cooling effect.” Builder: Bill Dunn, Wimberley, Texas; Architect: Michael G. Imber, Architects, San Antonio, Texas; Photographer: Paul Bardagjy.