An Outdoor Space that Restores the Soul

06 Jun 2021

Landscape Inspires Water, Structural and Entertainment Features


Imagine two hectic lives with infinite stress and work pressures from owning and managing a business. How can a working couple transform their home environment albeit comfortable on an 11-acre farm into a tranquil scene where they can truly relax?

The key word is “environment.” Enter Glenn Bradley of Integrated Ecological Design in Southern Pines to create an outdoor space where the couple can exhale after each busy workday and calmly breathe with nature. Armed with civil engineering and landscape architecture degrees plus 50 years of experience as a landscape architect, he brings the needed genius and understanding to design a project that is fully compatible with the environment.

The centerpiece of the project is an 18-by-36-foot walk-in pool connected to an adjacent spa by a waterfall. Together they create the sights and sounds needed to calm frayed nerves and restore the soul. This relaxing water scene is overlooked not only by tall longleaf pines with a history of their own but by an entertainment area framed by a wood structure that shares this history.

Bradley’s extensive talent is more than the ability to create an environmentally friendly design. It includes extensive local connections to form the teams to bring the design to fruition, such as a very talented craftsman and the most knowledgeable builder.

“I’m just a carpenter,” modestly proclaims Adam Bates of Old Town Timberworks. Yet stand in front of the pool and gaze upward at the pavilion he built out of fully cured local heart pine. Then walk closer to examine the details as he explains why this structure marvels even him.

“The joinery is built so that it holds itself. Everything is downforce tension. There are no nails,” he explains as he points to upper beams and scarf joints where two timber pieces are interlocked to form a continuous piece.  

“Look how it holds together. With this amount of detail, we had to have dry timber to avoid any warp in the structure,” he adds. “I used timber that I had been drying in a barn for over six years.”

As to their value, he emphasizes: “Most trees were 150 years old plus.”

To prove his point, he walks to the beam that floats over the fireplace and points at an end.

“How many years do you see?” he asks. “The growth ring is so tight. It’s tighter than a stack of notebook paper.”

When you learn that an inch of heart pine requires 30 years of growth, the timber structure becomes as amazing as the pool that first captures your attention. How the pavilion blends with the adjacent tree line is awe-inspiring.

Bates’ love of timber connects him to his great-grandfather who had a sawmill, cleared all the land around Lakeview, and hauled timber by wagon to projects throughout the Sandhills over a century ago. (Incidentally his great-grandmother, a Blue, once lived in the historic Shaw house in Southern Pines.)

Bradley, who has worked with Bates for 15 years on similar projects, explains, “We wanted this project to fit in with the landscape, to be a part of it.”

He points to a sole, towering oak tree on one side of the entertainment area that with a row of longleaf pines are in the background around an adjacent pasture.

“The oak tree anchors it all. Its size and shape relate to the framing. There are so many different levels to consider in a landscape from small trees and shrubs to the tree line formed by large trees. We had to coordinate the details of this project to work within the landscape. There are a lot of things you don’t realize here that make it work,” he says.

The finished project is easy to appreciate. The difficulty of the task for the other teams that executed Bradley’s design is less transparent.

“The whole project was built on a slope that we had to move, and natural springs in the hill had to be diverted,” he explains.

Fortunately for Bradley, he has worked with John Wiedmer of Jay-Kar Contracting for more than 10 years (plus they play basketball together!). Respected for his building and remodeling expertise in the equine community, Wiedmer was the solution to bring this project to life.

The springs were not the only water challenge. During the construction phase, heavy rains were a constant problem. “We couldn’t pour concrete … like forever,” Wiedmer reflects as he smiles about the challenge met and overcome. Sometimes even seven days were required to dry out concrete that had been poured.

Complementing this effort was the installation of the water and pool features by Ricky Britt of Spa and Pool World in Fayetteville. Eight feet deep at its lowest end, the pool has a “zero entry” (no steps), the latest trend in design, that descends to the bottom at the shallow end. Why? The resident dog, a water-loving boxer, enjoys sharing the pool with the owners but doesn’t want to jump in.

Elsewhere other finishing touches come into play. Bricks around the pool area were selected to match the bricks on the house. Pavers at the pool entrance and in the entertainment space were cut from bluestone found only in northeastern Pennsylvania. Fieldstones harvested from Tennessee hills are stacked in a modified ashlar pattern on the fireplace to showcase the broad faces of “shiners” more prominently.

Because the farm was part of the initial Boyd Tract of longleaf pines, the project’s blend with the environment is inspiring. “All the design features work within the longleaf pine ecosystem that the farm is part of,” says Bradley, a former board member of Weymouth Center where he still contributes to landscape restoration.

This new outdoor space spells serenity every time someone enters. The wood timbers above the pool? “They’ll just get prettier with age,” says Bates.

Local Resources
Integrated Ecological Design
Glenn Bradley, LE
Southern Pines
910-315-4466 •

Old Town Timberworks, LLC
Adam Bates
West End

Jay-Kar Contracting
John Wiedmer
Southern Pines
910-693-0011 •

Spa and Pool World
Ricky Britt
910-868-8319 •

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