San Clemente Vista



This multi-story home is located in the beautiful beach community of San Clemente, Ca. It’s all about awesome views in this home. Panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean, Catalina Island, Dana Point Harbor, city lights, hills, and sunset enrich nearly every living space of its three-level hillside design.

The existing landscape is primarily situated on a multi-level downslope with minimal useful space. Currently, the lower patio area includes a water feature built into existing retaining walls that offer no aesthetic or functioning value while also taking up valuable entertaining space. The west side of the rear yard boasts an awesome view but is limited to a small 500sf turf area that is retained by existing walls.


This family of five is a very active family that enjoys entertaining and has a multi-sport interest with children ranging from ten to sixteen years old.


The design intent of this project is to expand the outdoor living space while maintaining the panoramic views of the surrounding scenery. The anchoring element of this project is going to be an oversized spa that showcases innovative form, engineering, lighting and material selections that will complement the newly renovated modern home. Along with the oversized spa, this design will expand the west side area into a multi-purpose sport court. Finally, the addition of an Ipe wood deck adjacent to the oversized spa will create a true outdoor living room based around a linear fire feature. New succulent based landscape and state of the art low voltage lighting will further enhance the three main elements of this project.


  1. Develop conceptual renderings along with a working set of construction plans and details.
  2. Provide a complete geotechnical report with recommendations based on site conditions.
  3. Provide structural engineering for the new spa, Ipe wood deck expansion, and new retaining walls.
  4. Provide hydraulic engineering for the new oversized spa.
  5. Provide detailed finish material selection and procurement.
  6. Provide all construction which includes but is not limited to demolition, utilities, masonry, spa construction, deck carpentry, rough grading, flatwork, irrigation, landscape, and lighting.


We all love a good water shape challenge and this projects oversized spa feature was nothing short of that. Our client wanted to keep the location of their new spa close to the house to maintain easy access along with gaining as much privacy as possible. The perfect fit for this requirement was to locate the new spa exactly where the old water feature was located.

After a lengthy concept discussion with our client, we settled on an 11’ wide x 13’ long knife edge transitioning to infinity edge oversized spa that extends out beyond the existing retaining walls by six feet. This design requires a hidden basin on the knife edge side and an exposed basin on the infinity edge side. The infinity edge basin will drop 30” in elevation and will be accented with a 12”x24” Luna Gray tile supplied by Oceanside Glass Tile. The exterior and interior tile of the spa will be a custom blend of 1”x1” Moroccan Desert glass tile also manufactured by Oceanside Glass Tile.

The real fun starts with the structural engineering of this vessel to ensure what we deliver to our client stands the test of time. Although we have yet to receive a formal geotechnical report for this project the field testing showed that the shell of this spa will be sitting on four caissons that extend down six feet to bedrock. We heavily lean on our geotechnical engineer along with our structural engineer to develop the details for a sound structure. Considering this design showcases a 24lf of infinity edge there is zero tolerance for settling.

To ensure our client has the best possible experience while using this massive spa, I enlisted the hydraulic expertise of Jeromey Naugle from Premier Paradise in Gilbert, Arizona to engineer the hydraulics for this vessel. The collaboration with Jeromey went flawless and resulted in the following system.


  • Controls – Pentair Intellicenter w/ Screenlogic interface
  • Sanitation- IPS920 automated PH w/ ORP controller
  • Filter- Pentair CP520
  • Heater- Pentair Mastertemp 400k
  • Filter pump- Pentair Intelliflo VSF 3hp (Aquastar manifold system)
  • Upper therapy jet loop – Pentair Intelliflo XF 3hp
  • Lower therapy jet loop – Pentair Intellifflo XF 3hp
  • Calf therapy jet loop- Pentair Intelliflo XF 3hp
  • Lighting – Pentair Globrite LED coloring changing


There is no better way to exercise while bonding with family and friends at the same time than to engage in activities on a residential sport court. This property was tight on space so to incorporate a half-court basketball court, the only option we had was to engineer a retaining wall system to gain adequate space. Unfortunately, due to the geotechnical abnormalities, this will come with additional expenses. Just like the oversized spa on this project, the engineered cmu wall system will be supported by caissons.

In order to maintain an aesthetic consistency, we choose to incorporate a 42” high Ipe wood horizontal plank safety fence along the top of the retaining wall. Along with the Ipe wood fencing, there will be a 24” high post and cable system to further prevent balls from exiting the court while maintaining the panoramic views. This area will also dual purpose when hosting parties that need additional table space.


Once again, the lack of usable space became a major factor in this design. There was an existing seat wall and linear fire feature on the east side of the lower patio area that just wasn’t offering enough space to comfortably entertain more than six people. The solution to the lack of space was too engineer an Ipe wood deck out from the existing retaining wall while following the infinity edge of the spa marrying those two elements.

In order to ensure the longevity of the deck, the use of a Brazilian hardwood called Ipe was selected as the material of choice. The substructure of the deck will be built from pressure treated lumber supported by engineered footings.

In order to gain more privacy and to achieve a warmer environment, we raised the horizontal plank Ipe wood safety fence from 42” to 72” on the outer perimeter of the deck. Along with raising the safety fencing, the fencing design extended on top of the existing seat wall to tie the new and existing features together. The addition of outdoor furniture to this deck is going to have an immense impact on the function of this project. To put the finishing touches on this area we will be stripping the exterior of the linear fire feature down then reincorporating a custom blend of Oceanside Glass Tile as the veneer.


Too often I see an imbalance of hardscape to softscape or simply the main focus only being on the pool within a project. Fortunately, there was significant mature vegetation on this property that offered height and coverage. In order to accent the hardscape, we will be bringing in specialty succulents from Waterwise Botanicals in Escondido. The use of succulents has several benefits, one being a very low maintenance and water requirement. Along with the maintenance plus, succulents come in several colors, textures, varieties, and sizes that are not your everyday plant.

The true icing on the cake of every project is lighting. You can have a very sound design that looks great in the day time but if the lighting is inadequate your client’s investment can completely diminish in the evening. For this project, we will be using Alliance Lighting fixtures and controls out of Temecula, Ca. to accent our hardscape and softscape. Alliance’s IT300 controller is Bluetooth based and provides the client with a simple smart app for controlling. The Alliance fixtures are solid brass with a range of LED bulbs that you can tailor for each application. Looking forward to lighting this project up!

Thank you for taking the time to read about the San Clemente Cliff Hanger project. For future updates on the build and completion of this project please follow our Instagram @dreamscapedesigngroup

— John Kay of Dreamscape Design Group