Backyard Oasis

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This pool deck received some much-needed TLC and beautiful landscaping

Story By Michelle Mastro    |    Photography by Matt Kocourek

Summertime is the best time for sunbathing close to the water’s edge. But how can you enjoy your pool and pool deck when both require never-ending touchups? Mike and Joan Lambert faced this conundrum as their existing pool deck slowly but steadily deteriorated. Originally, the couple had big plans for their pool and surrounding spaces, but the day the concrete was poured, it rained, and through some magical imbalance of too much H20, their dream of a backyard oasis felt more like a mirage. 

“This is what led to all the problems. It became a maintenance nightmare,” Mike explains. “Over time, we saw that the pool deck had a lot of spalling, the breaking up of concrete into smaller pieces, and chipping, and we had to redo the surface over and over again. Eventually, we decided to just redo the pool deck entirely and put in new pavers,” says Mike. The pair hired Chris Feldkamp of Land Design Group to recreate the pool deck, while downsizing the space to fit the couple’s new minimalist aesthetic.

Less can be more, and that certainly is true when it comes to hard surfaces slathered in heat conductive concrete. “They had issues with spalling early on, with the top layers of the concrete coming apart. The initial concrete pour was later covered with cool decking, a spray-on that does what it says — it is supposed to help keep the deck cooler — but even this started spalling. The pool deck really did have some problems,” Feldkamp says. 

On top of all the technical issues, the previous pool deck took up a colossal amount of space. “So we shrunk it down to a size more usable for their needs,” he continues, “and we softened everything by having less hard space and more patches of grass” that punctuate the pool area with beautiful green spaces. 

The Lamberts wanted a useable amount of area against the pool. The chaise lounge chairs had sat 80 feet away, hindering easy access to the pool. “You couldn’t put enough furniture on the existing pool deck to make it look good,” says Feldkamp. “The size of the deck really made everything feel and look unproportionate.” 

Hence the makeover that really translated to a paring down. “We decided over time that the pool deck was overdone, and we wanted it to feel a little cozier. For example, we wanted the chairs to feel a part of the pool and less separated. Meanwhile, the grass island really softened all that hardscape. We can now throw down a big blanket and have a picnic there if we chose,” says Mike.

In terms of other vegetation, Feldkamp tried to render a traditional look to coordinate better with the exterior of the house. He planted hydrangeas, boxwood, columnar trees, along with classic florals to complement the space’s aspens and Japanese maple. All the flowerbeds were updated.

“Chris is an artist,” Mike says. “He has incredible artistic vision, and he’s really great at adapting to the environment. He sees adversity as an opportunity, so we allowed him to take over the landscape because he’s so good.”

“We wanted a lot of perennials, which we really like,” adds Joan. “We wanted to emphasize plants native to Kansas, or at least, those that do well in the Kansas climate, while lending themselves easily to a cutting garden.” The pair enjoy freshly cut flowers in the home, and Feldkamp was careful to select florals that the butterflies liked. “We also updated the landscape lighting, so the space could shine beautifully at night too. I think lighting just makes a space more usable.”

Indeed, the pair uses the pool as often as possible. “In the Midwest, you really have to determine up front that you are going to get the pool heated. We use the pool and pool deck six months out of the year. We close it as late as Halloween and open it up in early spring.” Even though the amount of deck concrete was diminished, the quantity of the pool is still as ample as ever at 30,000 gallons of water and standing ten feet deep on the side with the newly incorporated diving board.

“We like to refer to this home as our lake house,” laughs Mike, “because although we don’t have a lake home, our pool is so big.” With minimalist hard spaces to boot, it is no wonder the couple takes every opportunity to enjoy their backyard oasis. 


  • Landscape Designer & Construction: Land Design Group 
  • Pool Remodel (replastering/painting): Swim Things
  • Concrete Repair: Modern Concrete

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