Ask an expert: Matt Leacy

Wednesday, 03 February, 2016

Ask an expert: Matt Leacy

Pool+Spa editor Dannielle Furness spoke with Matt Leacy, Director of Landart Landscapes.

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

Matt Leacy: I started my training in construction and design about 20 years ago and started Landart in the year 2000. Since then, we have gone on to provide a service for our clients that covers everything outside the house. Design, construction and the ongoing maintenance of pools and landscapes is what creates amazing spaces. You can't have a good design without the build or the maintenance that ensures it grows and matures in line with the design intent. A property needs to be considered holistically, even if you are just putting in a pool.

P+S: Do you work across residential and commercial environments? If so, what are the greatest differences between the two from a design perspective?

ML: We predominantly work in residential, though we do a bit in commercial — mainly hotels and bars. The main difference in this regard is considering how the space will be treated in the early hours of the morning and making sure it remains safe and looking good, no matter how under the weather the patrons might be!

P+S: At what part of the process should a pool builder make contact with a landscape designer, and when should the client be involved?

ML: The earlier the better. There will be many things that a designer will consider that the pool builder may not have taken the time to think about. A client should research the landscape designer they like and the pool builder they like and bring them together. Alternatively, they could look for a joint venture or a company that covers both.

P+S: What are the downsides of getting the timing wrong, and who is impacted — landscape designer, pool builder or homeowner?

ML: If a project isn't considered holistically, it will most likely cost the owner. Even if it doesn't cost them money, it will cost them in time and stress. Spend the time in the planning; get that right and the rest of the project will come together a lot smoother than one without good detail drawings.

P+S: What is the best way to ensure that three-way communication remains open, and what are the pitfalls of leaving the client out of the design process?

ML: Unless the client asks to be left out of the process, they should always be across what they are paying a large amount of money for. Surprises are never good on any project. A regular on-site meeting at least once a week — or more, depending on the size of the job — with all three parties is a good way to check timeframes, changes, details, etc.

P+S: We live in a time of increasing temperatures. What impact does this have on the design of a pool and surrounds?

ML: Choosing materials that don't get too hot underfoot or that have a harsh appearance helps to soften the space and create a more relaxing feel. Keeping lush gardens and some grass within the pool space makes it more inviting and cool.

P+S: How do design requirements change according to the needs of a client? Is there a big difference between a family-focused design and a space used for lap swimming, for example?

ML: In general, the requirements are different but the basic fundamentals are the same. A good balance between hard and soft areas, space to maintain and get around the pool — though this can be reduced if there are not going to be any kids running around. A comfortable seating/lounge area is always nice to have.

P+S: Is this even important, or can you adopt more of a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to planting?

ML: Definitely not. All landscapes, pools, clients and houses are different and unique in one way or another.

P+S: What are some of the value-added elements that can be incorporated into the design of a pool and surround areas without running the risk of overcapitalisation on a property?

ML: The main things is to get the detail right: the finishes (internal and external), the water level, etc. You can have a basic shape that, with the right finishes and detail, looks different to any other pool.

P+S: What has been the biggest change in the last 10 years with regard to design and building trends, as well as customer involvement/engagement?

ML: Clients are a lot more savvy now. They often understand the value of good design and planning and are happy to invest in this to ensure they get a premium end product. There are a lot more companies offering good design and build services for landscape and pools, which makes it a lot easier for people to not have to deal with too many parties. Building products have improved, which people will start to see the benefits of in the future. Pool filtration has come a long way. Also, there are a lot more options available now besides just salt or chlorine.

P+S: What do you see as the biggest challenge in the next 10 years, and what trends do you think will prevail?

ML: Pool fencing is an ongoing challenge. Councils keep moving the goalposts, making it harder and harder for anyone to be sure what they are installing today will be compliant tomorrow. I think the next 10 years will see further development in terms of natural pool filtration; I believe it is of interest to most people.

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