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A Monkey Island Vacation Home
Landscape Architecture by Lorax Design Group

by Kelly Dooley, Lorax Design Group

A Monkey Island Vacation Home

This custom residential property, located on Monkey Island in northeastern Oklahoma, underwent a large renovation in less than six months. The landscape architectural firm behind the project was Lorax Design Group of Overland Park, Kansas.


Overlooking the Grand Lake O' the Cherokees, Monkey Island is a waterside property situated in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in Oklahoma. The Kansas City-based homeowners heard about Lorax Design Group through the grapevine and had their local interior designer reach out to make the initial connection. Monkey Island was their vacation residence and a hub for family gatherings.



A Monkey Island Vacation Home

McKay Landscape Lighting, from Omaha Nebraska, was contracted to do the lighting installation on the property. Lorax Design Group designed the spaces for lighting, and Jerry McKay and his team made placement improvements.


The clients were looking to update the existing waterline tile pool to a vanishing edge, as well as add a spa, outdoor kitchen and spacious decks for entertaining and circulation. Converting a pre-existing site came with some challenges but nothing compared to the biggest challenge the team would face: a massive time crunch to design and execute the vision. Lorax Design Group met with the interior designer and toured the site in October 2017: there was to be a wedding on the property in merely
6 months.

After getting a lay of the land during an onsite tour, the firm had a better idea of what was required to meet the deadline. Then lead landscape architect, and Lorax Design Group's owner, Kurt Kraisinger, prepared an initial design, always keeping in mind the natural state of the site, and the homeowners ending up loving it. The homeowners hired Lorax Design Group for construction documentation, and they created a complete and detailed set in half of their usual timeframe. Additionally, Lorax Design Group's pre-existing connections with trades helped them. They passed off the design to Atlanta-based pool contractor, Thrasher Pools & Spas, and Oklahoma-based builder, H&H Construction, who cut loose on construction as soon as possible.



A Monkey Island Vacation Home

Cherokee Tan Limestone pavers, that were quarried less than 100 miles away, were chosen due to their short lead times, availability and unique design. The larger pavers where used for the deck, while the smaller, irregular ones were utilized for the copings, stairs, and the custom fire feature.


A Monkey Island Vacation Home

The pool lounge chairs were manufactured by an in-pool furniture company. Pentair products were used for the pool's water treatment facilities.


Since there was such a short timeline, the landscape architects knew making and ordering appropriate material selections would be as important as initiating general construction. Imported materials with long lead times were immediately taken off their list of possibilities-instead, they focused on finding a sustainable selection. They selected a quarry within 100 miles of the project, which is better for the environment and saves on both transportation time and costs. Cherokee Tan pavers were chosen, and they are composed of a dense Kansas limestone with exuberant colors, and dynamic movement, and ultimately aligned with the style of the project.



A Monkey Island Vacation Home

A nearby platform supports the outdoor pergola that is softened with woven fabric on the ceiling. The pergola was custom built by Kansas City Metalworks of Kansas City, Missouri.


Working directly with the quarry also allowed the team to choose custom sizes, thicknesses and finishes. A large format paver was important in order to eliminate fussy grout joints on the expansive pool deck. Due to the order being so large and the timeline so short, the quarry suggested using several different paver sizes because it would be a more speedy and efficient use of the limestone block. Everyone agreed to the different sizes, but Lorax Design Group decided to keep the larger pieces on the main deck,
while smaller pieces were used for the edges, steps and risers.

The prairie-style home was built several decades ago and its definitive style laid the groundwork for the pool and patio design. The existing home had a rectangular standard waterline pool and built-in spa, but the design capitalized on the views of the lake with an aptly placed infinity-edge. Most of the construction occurred during cold winter months, so the workers utilized heated tents to keep the progress moving forward and continuously.



A Monkey Island Vacation Home

The fire pit is a unique feature that intersects with two existing columns from the home roofline. The columns integrate into the pool deck in a way that creates an outdoor room and repeats the chevron angle evidenced in the roof canopy.


A Monkey Island Vacation Home

The design firm placed the all-glass perimeter overflow spa on a separate promenade with better views of the lake. The spa comfortably seats 10 people and became a stand-out design element.


Lorax Design Group decided to keep three walls from the original pool, but tore out the spa and fourth wall, which in turn opened up one side to be the vanishing edge. Rather than keeping the new wall completely straight, the home's pronounced geometry was incorporated into the water's edge. The angles of the home were projected into the angle of the vanishing edge, and the pool seemed like it had been there forever. And while the pool is part of the landscape, the geometry of the pool makes it an architectural element as well.

The nearby fire pit is visible from the pool and is a unique feature that intersects with two existing columns from the home roofline. The columns integrate into the pool deck in a way that creates an outdoor room and repeats the chevron angle evidenced in the roof canopy.

As the pool deck edges toward the water, both the shapes and material selections become increasingly naturalistic. Sharp angles transition into rounded curves, and dimensional cut paving transitions into irregular slabs of sandstone flag. This was an intentional design decision to transition out more organically but cut down on cost and time to maintain the natural, more irregular topography of the peninsula.

The property is a lake property so there is no ambient light or glow of streetlights. The firm obviously couldn't rely on moonlight to brighten the space, so McKay Lighting brought the project to the next level. Lorax Design Group relied on McKay's expertise to avoid light pollution and, in the end, they advised on the right lights for the best location. Sustainable LEDs were used for the steps and infinity wall. There were also gas torchiere lanterns throughout the space. The interior designer purchased the torchieres but unfortunately each device had its own remote and system-with multiple torchieres, it would have been a complicated automation nightmare! Lorax Design Group worked with the vendor, Fire By Design, to re-engineer the gas lanterns in order to have a more efficient burner and to be conveniently linked to one system.

The second-tier patio, adjacent to the infinity edge, is a perfect location for sunbathing. The lead landscape architect placed the all-glass tile perimeter overflow spa on a separate promenade, with more great views over the lake. The spa comfortably seats 10 people, and with precisely installed Oceanside Glass Tile, it becomes a standout design element.

The pool is the central focus of the design but in addition to the pool and spa, their design included a pool house, large pump room and bathroom. Landscaping over the top hides the pump room. A nearby platform supports the outdoor pergola that is softened with woven fabric on the ceiling. Additionally, the design includes an outdoor kitchen, walk-up bar, green roof and multiple planting areas. On the farthest peninsula of the project is a wood-burning fire pit. Everyone was very happy with the final outcome.



As seen in LASN magazine, February 2019.



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March 25, 2019, 3:39 am PDT

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