Ask an Expert: Lewis Marash, Out From The Blue

Out From the Blue

Monday, 30 May, 2016

Ask an Expert: Lewis Marash, Out From The Blue

Pool+Spa editor Alice Richard spoke to Lewis Marash, Senior Landscape Architect at Out From The Blue.

Pool+Spa: Lewis, tell us a bit about your background.

Lewis Marash: I’ve always been interested in architecture. I studied a Bachelor of Design (Landscape Architecture) at RMIT. In my first year, one of our guest lecturers was from Out From The Blue (OFTB). I was so impressed by their work that I thought I’d like to work there one day. When I graduated, I did some work on large-scale public spaces, but I found I missed the detail that’s involved in domestic projects. I started working for OFTB six years ago, and haven’t looked back.

P+S: What are some value-add elements that can be incorporated into the poolscape without overcapitalising on a property?

LM: I’m not sure that overcapitalisation is really a thing. It depends on the client’s priorities. If they’re hoping to make back what they spent when they sell, it may not pan out. We had one client who spent $580,000 on a backyard in Keilor. Now, I don’t know what property values are in that area, but I’m not sure he’d make the $580,000 back when he sells. But if you think of it as $580,000 over 20-odd years of family life, that’s a very different investment. Similarly, if a buyer falls in love with what the seller has done, they will pay extra to secure it — and you can’t put a value on that.

In Melbourne, where we have a far shorter swimming season than up north, a spa is a must. It significantly extends the swimming season because the owners will use a heated spa and then jump into the pool to cool off. In terms of maximising the use of a pool, a spa is a good way to go.

P+S: If a pool builder joins forces with a landscaper, how important is it to select the right person for the job?

LM: It’s vital — especially when it comes to ensuring compliance. Awarding the contract to landscapers who are experienced working with swimming pools is of utmost importance. If you get a landscaper or builder on board who isn’t a specialist pool builder and he’s doing something for the first time, you’re likely to end up with a non-compliant pool that you’ll have to come back to fix. The pool regulations code is quite complex and it’s not something you can get your head around straight away. You can get tripped up quite easily. As a designer, it’s a battle between designing something that looks great but that also meets regulation.

This is why it’s important to work with landscapers who understand pool fencing regulations. For instance, if a pool fence, on the title boundary, needs to be 1800 mm on the inside and a landscaper puts in a built-up garden bed next to it that raises the ground level, that can make a fence non-compliant.

When you align yourself with another operator, it reflects on you. Even though they’re the ones doing the work, you’ve recommended them and so it reflects badly on you if they don’t perform. So when you’re looking to engage with another professional, make sure they can deliver on time and on budget.

P+S: What are the current trends in pools and landscapes?

LM: Swimming pool features are becoming more high-end, so things like glass mosaics, internally lined if the pool’s in the ground. If the pool is out of ground, the visible external faces can be treated with feature tiles that haven’t necessarily been used on swimming pools in years gone by. So beautiful Italian porcelain tiles, for example, large format style. Slabs of tile that you would generally see in internal applications — as long as the material’s of an external grade — are being used to clad the outside of swimming pools. When clients are after an acrylic panel, it’s super important that it becomes the feature of the pool, and potentially the only feature. Really, I think a feature is a feature when it stands aside from everything else, so when something’s been designed poorly, there are too many features, and it’s distracting and over the top.

P+S: What’s been the biggest change in the last 10 years with regard to design and building trends?

LM: Backyards are now more architecturally designed; much more hardscape than softscape. As people get more and more time-poor they’re looking for what I think is almost an impossibility: a no-maintenance garden, or at least a low-maintenance garden. You can restrict the amount of maintenance by, obviously, providing more hardscapes than softscapes, so there’s less weeding, less pruning. The plants are then more systematically planted in areas to soften off the hardscape, in planter boxes, retained garden beds and things like that. But definitely the outdoor room is becoming something that Australians seek as an ideal for their own home. It’s pretty much part of every design brief that we work on these days. It’s few and far between that you’re being asked to design a true garden in the sense that it’s mainly plants and a small amount of hardscapes.

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