Renovation Article - Ashley J. Harper

Renovation Article

Magazine article about the renovation of a back yard area and special pool.



Spectacular Doesn't Have To Mean Modern... Or Even New!


An oasis in the heart of Texas, this patio and pool surround restoration project in Lampasas County is like no other! The idea was to recreate as closely as possible (with a few liberties taken here and there) what the space was like more than 150 years ago. You might think this would be a daunting task for a homeowner, but not for Pablo and Beverly Solomon — after all, they had already restored their entire circa 1856 stone ranch house! (See article on p. 28)


The trick to an historic renovation such as this, Pablo—an internationally recognized artist and designer —explains, is to use salvaged stone that shows some weathering. The salvaged stone for this project came from various demolished buildings in the area and from two local quarries—one for sandstone, the other for limestone.


The restoration of the courtyard was based entirely on the back wall in these pictures. It’s the only original part of the courtyard that had not fallen into disarray. On closer inspection, you can see two cedar poles on either side of the gate. That was once a double-sided wall and, in the 1850s, the poles were used to fortify the limestone in the way a modern builder would use rebar.


All of the stone used to rebuild the courtyard walls is limestone, a prevalent stone in central Texas. In fact, limestone is the base for the entire outdoor patio and pool area, with the exception of the courtyard floor, which is quarried sandstone. The sandstone has natural layers similar to flagstone, and Pablo split the pieces into three- to four-inch thick pavers to lay courtyard floor.


The blue Mexican-style gate, fashioned out of wood found on the property, connects the courtyard to the patio and pool area. All the stone work, walls, benches and sculptures are of limestone and were created by Pablo himself. The patio floor, some of which was levelled with a sand mix mortar, is also limestone.


Now, as anyone who has even attempted renovation knows, sometimes your spaces (indoors or out) give you surprises you might never have dreamed of!


Such was the case for the Solomons, who never anticipated that the removal of a dead pecan tree from their garden would result in yet another fascinating restoration project.


Hidden beneath the ill-fated tree was a filled-in, spring-fed cistern from the 1800s, used to store water and keep items cool. Once unearthed, Pablo realized the layered stucco floor was in excellent shape, so he painstakingly restored the walls and steps with locally salvaged limestone, knowing he had the makings of a small pool.


Once the walls and stairs were complete, he cut a hole in the floor and dropped in a large cattle trough, measuring 6' in diameter and 3' high. He then installed a pump to draw water from the spring, which had lost pressure over time due to a falling water table. The underground area is 8' x 12' and is 8' from floor to ground level. The water drops 6' into the pool.


Looks mighty inviting on a hot summer day!