Chris Strempek creates his own residential resort in Dallas, Texas
Owner of Complete Landsculpture, Chris Strempek has been in the landscaping business for 30 years. After completing hundreds of projects for clients all over Texas and Oklahoma, he was finally able to finish a project right in his own backyard.
His house, which he bought 22 years ago, was in need of a refresh. But because it was designed by Charles Stevens Dilbeck, a renowned Dallas architect, Strempek didn’t want to tear it down. So instead, he updated the residence and created a fabulous backyard oasis that ties into the original home and the surrounding landscape.
The half-million-dollar project, which includes a swimming pool, outdoor kitchen and cabana, has plenty of Texas pizazz.
“We wanted something beyond your typical swimming pool,” says Strempek. “My wife and I really wanted to experience a spa-like resort setting right at home and truly stimulate your senses with lots of water, whether you were immersed in the pool or sitting beside it.”
Strempek had a lot of land to work with—more than 2 acres—but the property sits about 50 feet up from the road, so grading was a challenge. Strempek worked with civil engineer Jerry Monk and constructed piers to support the 110,000-gallon swimming pool and deck on the sloped property.
“The end result really gives the pool a wonderful sunken effect, as if tucked into the landscape,” he says.
To complement the home’s exterior, Strempek selected creamy colors and indigenous materials like limestone.
“Not only are those more neutral colors more soft to the eye, they’re cooler,” he says. “That Texas sun can burn your feet if you use darker browns and grays.”
Strempek was also careful on the finished seal. He likes the look of the material being wet but notes that the shinier it is, the more hot and the more you see the wear and tear.
Around the pool, he used limestone coping and a rattlesnake veneer on the surrounding walls. He also substituted concrete for natural stone where he could, while still achieving the overall desired look. He estimates a savings of about $100,000 by using concrete since his total deck area is around 7,000 feet.
“Concrete gives people the most bang for their dollar,” he says. “And with scoring, you can give concrete lots of different textures and colors. I love stone, but it can separate and have issues with the joints later on.”
“The bridge over to the firepit area was made from concrete,” he continues. “It’s actually really narrow but we gave an illusion of more space using a curved balustrade. The firepit below is custom stainless steel, and when it’s turned on, even the surrounding stone warms up for a really nice feel.”
The state-of-the-art cabana was designed to enjoy, whether on a hot Texas summer day or a chilly winter night. Strempek installed Textron drop-down screens and an all-weather Canarm HVAC system for added comfort.
“We have heat strips in place for the winter, and for the summer, we are using a high-pressure air compression system,” says Stempek. “You can either turn it on to generate air like a ceiling fan, or the vents can pump out cool vapor.”
Stempek notes that his ceiling height of 11 feet is ideal for the flash evaporative cooling system. Lower ceilings can lead to dripping water rather than blowing cool air.
The cabana and swim-up bar were perfectly executed, but Stempek says designing a curved cabana with straight materials was a challenge.
“We love the radial of the cabana, but we really worked to make it fit within the space and line up the other elements of the pool,” he says.
Other systems and accessories he selected include a Sonos sound system, mosquito misters from Texas Mosquito Control, Polaris pool skimmers, a Jandy pool pump, Bull outdoor kitchen appliances and a Big Green Egg grill.
“We’ve really had terrific team members, from the masons to the craftsmen, engineers, gunite crew, excavators and electricians,” he says.
Strempek completed the project this summer, at a time when a backyard retreat was especially needed. Not only has he enjoyed the space on a personal level, it’s helped him professionally, too.
“It’s really interesting to build for yourself,” he says. “You understand the client experience, the emotions and the pain points. It’s been good to sit in that chair.”