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Moonlight Refuge

A Highland Park home becomes an oasis of tranquility and light.

Varying heights and materials create outdoor rooms.

Sometimes it takes a village, or, in this case, a grand team of contractors and one fearless leader to pore over the details and address the challenges inherent in transforming a tragic landscape into one of great beauty and function. North Shore landscape architect Michael Norpell gathered the talents of a pool specialist, concrete contractor, mason, automation expert and lighting designer to create an oasis of tranquility and interest surrounding a modern Highland Park home.

When Norpell first arrived on the scene, he knew he had to think outside the box, especially with respect to the existing pool. It was at one time partially enclosed, which reminded him of a “Holiday Inn indoor-outdoor pool.” And, due to a neighboring ravine, he had to stick with the footprint and somehow make it all work.

Although the new landscape renovation is spectacular any time of day, the transformation really is most dramatic after dusk. Starting at the front of the house, Night Light Inc. designers placed lighting to illuminate the trees as well as the stepper path leading to the door and two-story glass block wall just next to it. They also strategically installed what they call “moon lighting” throughout the property, which allows them to paint delicate shadows filtered through the trees, as if lit by moonlight, onto patios, walkways, decks and other hardscapes. This technique replaces the need for a clutter of path fixtures that all too often ends up looking like runway lights.

“People are amazed at how few fixtures it takes to create a soft ambience of understated elegance,” explains Dean MacMorris of Night Light. That said, though, “The results would not have been possible without the vision and constant involvement of a landscape architect,” he adds. “It takes a tremendous amount of work and scheduling.”

And work it does. A wooden bridge underlit with LED lights appears to float between two rectangular sections of the pool, masking what was previously an awkward connection. A custom spa, awash in warm light, accentuates the stone veneer and spillway that flows into the pool. Outdoor “rooms” were created through the use of varying heights and materials. The wood deck lounging areas, the pool deck and the landscape are also enhanced with the moon-lighting technique. Additional accent lights pull the whole space together.

“The most awesome thing about the project is the relaxing Zen feeling I get when looking out the windows of our home,” says homeowner Wendy Ellis. “I feel like I now have a modern California resort right in my backyard.”