For years, the grounds of at least one Chateau Country estate took a long summer slumber. It was once the season when the owners packed their bags for a season-long break in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where they’d often welcome relatives from Delaware.
When the grandchildren got a bit older, they gravitated toward their own social circle in the Brandywine Valley. If their grandparents wanted to spend time with them, they’d have to come up with something enticing. They opted for a swimming pool, which is now the glorious centerpiece of a family-friendly outdoor-entertaining mecca.
To come up with a plan that worked with the existing landscape, the couple turned to Wallace Landscape Associates’ Richard Lyon, who’s been designing and maintaining spring and fall tableaus on the 30-acre estate in Greenville for more than 10 years. “They’d never spent summers there before and wanted to make it special—a place where the grandchildren could come,” he says.
Lyon hails from New Zealand and has experienced stunning topography around the globe. He places northern Delaware’s Chateau Country at the top of his list of favorites. “It’s the most picturesque rural landscape in the world—rolling hills, sparkling streams, covered bridges and beautiful houses,” he says. “It’s a privilege to be invited into these very special properties.”
Chateau Country owes its lovely vistas to the Piedmont, that fertile crescent of land that covers a base of crystalline metamorphic and igneous rock formed 540 million years ago. The results are the rushing waters that powered 19th-century mills along the Brandywine River and the undulating hills that form natural amphitheaters like the Point-to-Point steeplechase racecourse at Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library.
The pool is designed to accommodate the recreational pursuits of multiple generations looking to relax on the sun shelf, play water volleyball, swim laps or read on poolside chaise longues.
Much of the land surrounding the existing manor house and terraces is devoted to paddocks, where Lyon planted sycamores years ago to provide shade for horses. His plan for the summer entertaining compound called for integrating a rectangular pool into a sloping hillside, with stone walls defining the part of the pool that extends below the slope. “When you’re designing a landscape, it’s a three-dimensional process,” he says. “By building it into the slope, it makes the pool much more dramatic, with a greater connection to the landscape.”
The location of the pool and its flanking patios also makes it accessible to animals on the property. It’s an idyllic and unique scenario, with horses grazing nearby and barn swallows flying overhead. Occasionally, a horse will saunter up to the pool for a sip of water.
The fieldstone walls that define the lower segment of the pool echo the stone on the three-story Georgian-style house, with black shutters and a cedar-shake roof. A large flagstone patio offers panoramic views of the countryside. The pool is sited near enough to the house to be convenient—bathrooms and changing space were added to the conservatory. Yet it’s out of sightlines of the main living spaces. “The pool isn’t visually intrusive,” the designer says. “For six months of the year, you aren’t looking at a pool cover.”
So as not to distract from the tranquility of the setting, plumbing and mechanicals are hidden behind walls. “When you’re in the pool, you don’t see the infrastructure that goes into making this space work,” Lyons says.
Occasionally, a horse will saunter up to the pool for a sip of water.
The heated pool is filled with saltwater, which offers the cleansing properties of chlorine without the chemical smell. It’s designed to accommodate the recreational pursuits of multiple generations looking to relax on the sun shelf, play water volleyball, swim laps or read on poolside chaise longues.
Lyon envisioned plantings that embrace the full exuberance of summer, providing a profusion of vivid colors—orange day lilies, blue hydrangea, pink abelia, red hibiscus, yellow rudbeckia. Because the estate is in a conserved area, deer are abundant, so there are lots of thorny roses. Native grasses provide texture and movement—and they aren’t fussy about being watered.