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Summer Living

Small plunge pool + plastic privacy hedge = instant backyard oasis in Cohasset

Needing a pandemic project, this family turned a little-used side yard into one of their favorite places to lounge and spend time together.

Alison created a melamine plate wall with pieces she found online at Ballard Designs; The Enchanted Home; Pomegranate; Replacements, Ltd.; and WebstaurantStore.Stephen Sheffield for The Boston Globe

Opportunity for private outdoor living space was a major motivator behind Alison and Stephen Sheffield’s decision to move from a Back Bay condo to a Cape in Cohasset. While the family thrived in the city, the couple — she’s an interior designer, he’s a fine art photographer — and their two sons, Finley, 13, and Milo, 16, embraced their new life with gusto. Thanks to Alison’s vision and the family’s elbow grease, they slowly transformed the property’s side yard from a look-but-don’t-linger formal garden with pea gravel paths and a sundial into a family-friendly, stay-all-day gem.

“We spent the first summer weeding mint, not realizing how invasive it was,” Alison says with a laugh. “By the fall we threw up our hands and had a bi-level patio and plunge pool put in.” The hybrid gunite pool/hot tub, inspired by the one the couple enjoyed during their honeymoon on Grenada, is 8 feet in diameter and 5-feet deep with a submerged built-in seat that runs halfway around the interior. The pool cover? A giant, black swan raft that Alison named Pam. It even has its own hashtag: #pamtheblackswan.


For instant privacy from the street, Sheffield borrowed an idea she used in designing the outdoor seating area for The Hawthorne, a Kenmore Square bar that closed this year: a plastic boxwood hedge. The commercial-grade faux hedge consists of over 200 20-inch square boxwood panels screwed into a plywood frame that is set into cement. “We were a little embarrassed because our neighbor was a landscape architect, but we got away with it by playing the role of quirky artists,” Alison says, noting that she layered in plenty of real greenery for a more realistic, lush effect.

In need of a COVID project last summer, Alison put the family to work building a 16-by-20-foot pergola. The structure shades a seldom-used lower patio alongside the house. A resin seashell mirror and melamine plates with traditional china patterns decorate the wall and string lights make it festive. Striped outdoor curtains are the finishing touch. “It feels like a room now instead of a no man’s land,” the designer says. “We end most afternoons lounging by the pool followed by dinner under the pergola.”


Homeowner Stephen Sheffield watches sons Milo (left) and Finley in the plunge pool. The faux hedge provides total privacy from the street and even quiets the sound of traffic.Stephen Sheffield for The Boston Globe


Interior Designer: Sheffield Interiors, sheffieldinteriors.com

Hardscape: Frank Corrado Custom Masonry, frankcorrado.com

Plants: Kennedy’s Country Gardens, kennedyscountrygardens.com

Marni Elyse Katz is a regular contributor to the Globe Magazine. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.