Impressive Water Feature Brings Modern Zen to a Front Entryway

A water sculpture designed by Silent Rivers for a Johnston, Iowa home

It’s not every day that a client asks us to design a water feature for the entry to their home, so the excitement that comes with the request is quite high. Some of that excitement is because we don’t often get to do these kinds of projects, and we love the challenge of doing something new. To get it right, we know we’ll have to do our homework.


The Original Celestial Design

When our client asked us to do just such a project last winter, the wheels started turning immediately. The clients wanted a water feature to enhance their front yard and entry to the home, adding interest and character to that area. They had some ideas to share with us about the placement and style of the water feature – something unique and untraditional.

The client's original inspiration for a water fountain feature for their Johnston, Iowa home came from this photo taken while on vacation.

Our clients had seen this fountain while they were on vacation, liked its unique features and shared this photo with Silent Rivers designers.


Early rendering of the client's original inspiration for a water feature in their Johnston, Iowa home

This is an early rendering of the original water feature concept.

From this concept image, we were inspired by some of the celestial-like shapes in the bottom of the reflecting pool. Thoughts for our client’s water feature went toward how to personalize something similar for them. Our design began with a solar system represented on the bottom of a reflecting pool. Then each family member would be represented with a “tower” in the location of their ruling planet according to the zodiac, on the date and time of their birthday. Then we added equatorial lines (the path of that planet through the sky) forming more interest in the bottom of the pool.


We incorporated only two lights, one representing the sun and one representing Polaris, the North Star. By keeping the lighting minimal, the night sky would be reflected in the pool so the family members could locate their ruling planet by looking up or down.



Design Can be an Iterative and Collaborative Process

Sketch showing what people think the design process looks like and what it really looks likeBut, as mentioned before, the design process is not always perfectly linear. Many times ideas, products, or processes are refined until the design reflects the best possible solution.


When we met to review our initial concepts, our clients realized that they wanted more moving water than was originally planned. So, we assembled a design team including a fountain designer and a landscape designer.


This team adjusted the design to replace the “tower” features with jets of water and the reflecting pool evolved into a more playful splash-pad. The landscape layout for the front yard was also changed to reduce the amount of maintenance it would take to service the water feature and the plantings. Green Bean Landscapes ( used rock beds and drought-tolerant plants to reduce water usage and the need to mow a lawn. The new layout also created a more dynamic entry into the house by working with some of the existing architecture and improving the walkways.


Original front yard landscaping at a Johnston, Iowa home

The above photo shows the original front yard landscaping. The sculpture stayed, but almost everything else was replaced.


New front yard landscaping at a Johnston, Iowa home

The client’s new front yard landscaping leads the eye through three different focal points.

New walkways were arranged to complement a front window with an etched geometric design. These new walkways lead the eye to three different follies, or focal points. The first focal point is the original steel sculpture, the second is a new Japanese maple tree, and the third is the water feature.  A series of concrete rings also radiate out from each folly, similar to ripples in water.


Striking Simplicity Prevails in the Final Design

Before construction began, the water feature was redesigned one more time. The clients thought more about how they used the yard and property and realized that a splash-pad on the north side of the house would likely go unused most of the year. That, in combination with the investment costs of the equipment and required maintenance of the system, led us in a simpler direction.


In the final design that was built this fall, the pool returned to a simple basin – a place for the family to sit, relax and just get their feet wet. A walkway was extended across the surface of the water so stepping stones appear to float. And a bowl sits just under the surface of the water cradling a sphere, a much simpler celestial metaphor. The bowl fills with water that spills over the edge creating a relaxing sound of a waterfall.

Water feature with stepping stones and a water bowl fountain at a Johnston, Iowa home

In the end, our clients have a new front yard that welcomes visitors from a number of angles, and presents a playful, yet relaxing entry to their home.


It’s time to starting thinking about your spring projects! See more of our Landscape Projects and Decks and Patios.


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