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An At-Home Resort
By Carol McGarvey | Photography by Jack Coyier, Courtesy of Ted Lare Design + Build
home :: home & garden :: featured gardens

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Family from East Coast missed the ocean. Now they can enjoy the water in their backyard.

Through large windows, Heidi and Steve Snedegar of Urbandale now can look out over their stunning landscape project in the backyard. With gentle curves and various levels, the backyard undulates like rolling ocean waves. Spring can’t come fast enough to enjoy it more.

“That symbolism of water definitely was the plan,” says Ted Lare of Ted Lare Design + Build. “This project has so many bells and whistles. It just turned out beautifully.”

“I told Ted we wanted a resort feel to the space,” Heidi says. “We wanted to walk outside and be there.” They got it.

The couple and their two sons, now 23 and 19, moved to Urbandale five years ago from the East Coast. “We had always lived around the ocean, in spots such as Charleston, South Carolina; Portland, Maine; and Boston. While we absolutely love being in Iowa, we do miss living around water,” Heidi explains.

Private setting

Enter Ted Lare, who easily grasped the concept. “They told me what they were looking for, and we made it happen. Even in the middle of a neighborhood, it’s all very private and fun. For entertaining, there are four fire sources: two fire pits, a fireplace, and a fire bowl.”

A bank of pine trees already flanked the back of the property. Lare added a number of interestingly shaped trees around the perimeter, plus some weeping white spruce in the front yard landscape. The white spruce trees stay narrow but can grow pretty tall. They come from Washington State and are hard to get, he says. Ornamental grasses, ‘Karl Foerster’ and ‘Purple Maiden,’ bob and sway in the breeze from their strategic spots.

Heidi made a sketch of a free-form swimming pool, which Valley Pools created. Lare acted as general contractor and worked with the pool company and with Woodland Fair, the company that built the pool house.

“We imagined what this all could be and then watched it come to life,” Heidi says.

Two fire pits

Why two fire pits? The way it works out when there’s a crowd is that the men congregate around the elevated one with its white rocking chairs on one side of the pool, and the women gather on the one on the other side, complete with turquoise Adirondack chairs. It’s known as Heidi’s blue glass fire pit. Both areas are circular and sit at poolside.

River stones and lighting enhance the details, and a waterfall cascades over the stones near the blue glass fire pit. For safety, a custom-designed stainless-steel fence offers safety and an artful touch. Chaises and market umbrellas provide spots to relax.

The pool gently slopes from 3 to 8 feet deep. Subtle lighting lends a pleasing glow in the evening. Near the pool, also for night effect, is a fire bowl in a large urn for a dramatic touch. Many other pedestal-style urns are spaced around the setting and are filled with colorful annual flowers for pops of color. Yucca plants, reminiscent of South Carolina, grace a couple of the urns, too.

Another special spot is the area around the pool house, which holds pool equipment on the back side. Out front is a welcoming outdoor living spot. Steve, the family grillmeister and the chief sales officer of Dunes Point Capital, enjoys making burgers, chicken, and steaks. He also has a smoker. A gas grill and a bar area make a good spot for offering hospitality, and a large table and chairs provide sit-down space.


Last year Steve designed koozies that extolled the virtues of “grillin’ and chillin’ with the Sneds.” He gave them out to everyone who visited their home, and he’s working on this year’s design.

The Snedegars love to entertain, so they put the new area to work often. Their biggest event was a graduation party for their younger son and two friends. About 200 people partied in the yard.

Casual, comfy furniture in front of the fireplace makes a perfect spot for conversation, a nap, or a place to watch a game on the outdoor television mounted over the fireplace. Tall portable heaters spread warmth on a chilly day. Last year, the first season for the landscape, the Snedegars used the area until Christmas.

The project began in the fall and finished last spring. “That worked out really well for all the details,” Heidi says.

She says it’s safe to say that the family has grown to love Iowa and the Midwest. “When we moved here, our older son, Nick, was just leaving for college at the University of New Hampshire. When he came home last year for his brother Andrew’s graduation party from Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, he immediately felt at home. He had a job offer here and lives in the East Village of Des Moines. Andrew studies and plays lacrosse at the University of Iowa. He says he’ll never leave Iowa,” his mother says.

With the boys’ enthusiasm, “We have cemented ourselves into staying in Iowa,” Steve says.

And about that missing ocean? “We call our pool a salt-water pool,” Heidi says with a laugh.


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