written by Tanek Hood Reynolds landscaping
photos by Eric Hanse
Swimming pools, air conditioning condensers, and supplemental power generators—if not essential, are certainly a luxurious bonus to life on Long Beach Island. The equipment, however, can be large, noisy, and unsightly, creating an eyesore in the otherwise tranquil refuge envisioned by the homeowner. Given limited square footage available on the typical property lot, along with Township restrictions on the placement of utility equipment, the option to bury these services in a faraway corner is virtually non-existent. Nonetheless, creative screening options can be designed and installed that are not only space saving but attractive as well.
Mark Reynolds of Reynolds Landscaping has been tackling these design challenges for years and offers the following suggestions for transforming an otherwise industrial blemish into an aesthetic and complementary component in the landscape.
According to Reynolds, the most economical and environmentally-friendly approach to concealing equipment is a living plant screen of evergreen or densely compact plant material. Heavily branched privets, evergreen Skip Laurel, or tall, wispy Maiden grasses are ideal plant material that can be trained into a living, green “wall.” These species are excellent not only for their screening value but also for their ability to soften an otherwise hard, severe environment.
Screening corrals, Reynolds suggests, are another practical alternative for hiding pool and utility equipment. From simple vinyl structures mimicking fence details to custom designed and built cedar or Ipe wood fabrications, screening structures are not only functional but can also be an aesthetic accent to the overall architectural details of a residence. Reynolds has also experimented with reused, distressed materials in the design and construction of screening devices. For example, at one LBI lagoon-side residence, a cedar barn-style door mounted on exposed hinges was used to create a pool equipment screen. The result was a unique structure that blended efficient function with visual interest while, at the same time, requiring little additional space.
In an effort to economize space, Reynolds suggests that, in some LBI townships, structural equipment and functional necessities like outdoor showers can be combined or stacked on top of each other.
Locating an AC platform on the roof of an outdoor shower or stacking a storage generator on top of a pool equipment platform will not only reduce the space needed for these utilities but also free up valuable square footage for other building or renovation projects. With a little pre-planning, utility platforms, outdoor showers, and storage structures can be grouped together along the side property, freeing up the backyard for leisure, recreational, and entertainment pursuits.\
In conclusion, Reynolds asserts that functional utilities need not be an eyesore in the outdoor living environment. By thinking outside the box and incorporating innovative solutions with readily available materials and plants, equipment screening can be incorporated effortlessly into the overall outdoor living design. The results can be both aesthetic and complementary to the residence, its architecture, and its landscape.