Modern water features place the beauty and serenity
of nature precisely
where homeowners want them.
courtesy of Landcrafters, Inc.
Call it a natural evolution.
Homeowners have long relied on water
features to add beautiful, tranquil design elements to
their landscape. And local experts say that today’s
homeowners now gravitate toward more naturalistic
man-made features such as ponds and streams.
“Formal features are not as popular as
they used to be 20 or 30 years ago,” says Dean Pipito,
owner of the waterscape contracting company Aquatica in
Wales. Pipito founded the business in 2000 and says that
a good portion of Aquatica’s business consists of
remodeling and updating older water features.
Clean, minimalistic designs are also
trending, particularly among millennial homeowners.
Ornate, traditional fountains are steadily being
replaced with West-Coast-influenced designs like
Japanese-style, in-ground pools with steppers.
Consider your lifestyle
Some homeowners — especially working
professionals who do not have the time or desire to
maintain a larger body of water — are choosing to
include pondless features such as meandering streams and
bubbling rocks in their landscape design. Pipito
explains that attaching underground pipes to a water
reservoir creates hilltop streams. An incline is built
to mimic the flow and appearance of a natural stream
coming out of a hill.
“You still achieve the sight and sound of
the water feature, but [pondless elements] are a little
less maintenance,” says Jamon Peterson, owner of Extreme
Exteriors in Big Bend, which opened in 2001.
And unlike ponds and pools, streams pose
far less of a safety risk to young children.
Photo courtesy of Aquatica
Both Peterson and Pipito agree that many
homeowners prefer natural materials for their water
features, including native Wisconsin stones, Missouri
moss-weathered limestone, flagstone, Aqua Blue™ Boulders
and weathered tree stumps and driftwood. These materials
add an organic, rustic element to landscape design.
“We try to stick with as much natural
material as possible,” Peterson says.
Homeowners who invest in water features
rarely want to walk far to enjoy them, so impressive
water elements, including ponds, are now being built
right outside homeowners’ doors.
“In the last two years, people have been
spending much more money on highly integrated things,”
says David Guthery, sales manager and landscape designer
at LandCrafters in Wauwatosa, which formed in 1998.
Guthery explains that homeowners blend water features
like ponds into patios, decks and gardens, which makes
them easy to view from kitchen or living room windows
and provides a soothing outdoor atmosphere.
“You’re not going out to visit the pond —
it’s just part of your life, whether you’re eating a
meal or reading the paper,” Pipito explains. “You’re
getting that movement and sound in the landscape, and
you’re seeing that feature as much as possible.”
Guthery and Peterson note that ponds —
which attract diverse birds, insects and small animals —
are a favorite water feature among nature lovers and
retirees who enjoy the natural spectacle. “We get a lot
of people very interested in wildlife,” Guthery says.
Koi ponds in particular can enhance the
beauty of a backyard landscape, drawing frogs,
dragonflies and songbirds. Koi — omnivorous, brightly
colored varieties of carp — are low-maintenance, hardy
pets, notes Pipito.
“People don’t realize how awesome having
a koi pond can be,” he says. “It adds another layer of
enjoyment to a landscape.”
Aquatica even allows homeowners to select
their own koi fish via their online site thekoitank.com.
Aquatica then ships the fish directly to homeowners.
Since fish like koi produce urine and
waste, Guthery and Pipito recommend homeowners with
ponds contact experienced technicians familiar with
regulating PH balances to keep pond and stock healthy.
Pipito and Peterson add that recreational
ponds are also gaining momentum among homeowners. These
ponds are swimmable and natural looking — and less
costly than a typical swimming pool, which can run
upwards of $100,000 to install and maintain. However,
Pipito stresses that recreational ponds are not
inexpensive or low-maintenance. To ensure safe swimming,
things such as water clarity and proper filtration must
be taken into consideration.
“These systems are very pricey and have
to be designed carefully,” he notes. “There is
definitely a lot of [homeowner] education needed.”
Water features can vary greatly in price,
from about $750 for a small, recirculating fountain to
over six figures for an outdoor pool, says Guthery.
“Water can add a great deal of expense,”
he adds, noting that, in Wisconsin, seasonal maintenance
can be both time-consuming and costly. For example,
fountains have to be shut down during the winter and
require weekly maintenance the rest of the year. “It’s
not something you just put in and walk away from,”
Pools, however, can be self-regulated and
have automatic fill devices. “The bigger the body of
water, the better it takes care of itself,” Guthery
notes. Also, pools will not cool down or heat up as
quickly as smaller ponds.
Finally, Peterson notes that water
features can be custom-made to suit homeowners’ space
and desires — but he advises always trusting experienced
contractors and design professionals to get the job
“From a landscape design point of view,
the element of water is necessary,” Pipito agrees. “You
need something to bring the