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April, 2009

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America's Finest Homes

Home Highlights

Owners: Roger Taylor

Home Site: 750 feet above the Sacramento Valley nestled in the El Dorado Hills between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Nevada Mountains

Living Space: 4,133 square feet, including four bedrooms and 27,000 gallon lagoon connected to two giant ponds by a tumbling stream of rills and rivulets

Style: Contemporary

Resources

Landscape Design: Ron Allison

OUR TOUR TAKES US TO EL DORADO HILLS, CALIFORNIA, WHERE A VANISHING-EDGE POOL AND A HILLSIDE VIEW MERGE INTO AN AERIE OF SHOWSTOPPING PROPORTIONS.

As a fourth generation northern Californian, Roger Taylor's family history is inextricably linked to the natural beauty just outside the front door. "My mother's parents developed a ski area south of Lake Tahoe and they had me up on skis when I was 1-1/2 years old." By the time he was a teenager, Taylor was living away from his family and training with the Junior National Ski Team. "Driving home on weekends," he says, "I would pass through acre after acre of gorgeous mountains and evergreen forests. It wasn't until I crested the El Dorado Hills and saw the city of Sacramento fanned out below that my heart would start to race. I knew one day this was where I would make my home."

THE BOULDERS STAY, THE GAME PLAN BEGINS

Rising 750 feet above the Sacramento Valley, El Dorado Hills is nestled in the scenic golden foothills between the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. "I got tears in my eyes when I first saw this property," Taylor says of his contemporary four-bedroom, 4133 sq. ft. home purchased in 2003. "The previous owners never really became one with the landscape, whereas I took one look, saw a blank canvas and knew immediately what I wanted to do. I envisioned koi ponds, an in-ground pool, and plenty of patios."

Image of the pool

The "blank canvas" Taylor mildly refers to is a humble descriptive at best. One glance at the valley view takes your breath away, but as soon as the eye focuses on the half-acre slope, the dizzying reality of all that's been accomplished settles in. There is an eye-popping difference of 55 feet in elevation from the property's highest point in the front yard to the lowest point in the back where boulders the size of Range Rovers are parked here and there. "The property was dotted with some trees, scrubby brush, native weeds, sticks, and snakes," Taylor fondly recalls. "I was adamant about using the palette nature gave us, especially the boulders because they had been here for thousands of years."

Taming this challenging terrain took sweat, guts, 17 subcontractors, and a working partner who could make Taylor's resolve a reality. His first call was to landscape architect Ron Allison. "Ron and I worked on a previous project, and the experience proved why he has the best reputation in the area." Once Allison came on board, it took well over a year of preliminary planning to get started, and even then, it was never written in stone. "The grass areas weren't even in the original plan," Taylor says, referencing the two lawns where he practices chip shots and plays croquet with his grandchildren. "The lawns never existed until we excavated for the pool and had a big pile of dirt, so I said, 'Why not use it for a lawn?'"

LAYING THE FOUNDATION, ONE DYNAMITE STICK AT A TIME

It's hard for Taylor not to gush about the inventiveness of where his yard was then and is today. There's a new deck leading off the second story of the stucco home, and a stone staircase connecting the outdoor living area leading off the kitchen level to the pool deck one floor below. On the extreme back perimeter of the property, two massive natural rock retaining walls outline the terraced sections, providing the yard with an entertainment area on the upper tier and a year-round garden with dwarf fruit trees below.

Keeping the big landscaping picture in tune with nature proved to be the project's biggest challenge. "Simply putting plans on paper didn't do justice to the depth of this multi-dimensional setting," says Taylor. "From the onset, the project was ever-evolving, which allowed us opportunities to make things better along the way." To level the ground and build both retaining walls, Taylor's engineer had to set off a good bit of dynamite. "He wanted to keep blasting and blasting even after we hit bedrock," says Taylor. "So we came up with the idea of using rebar to anchor the retaining walls in the rock, a great relief because it spared the neighbors more noisy explosions."

Topsoil was brought in by the truckload. Fortunately, Taylor's neighbor consented to building an access road on his property. "Cima Landscaping imported top-quality soil for the garden, as well as transformed the yard's lackluster landscaping into a lush, verdant setting," says Taylor. A large part of the backyard plan was rooted in making Taylor's organic garden flourish. Placing it on the lower tier exposes the garden to full sunlight, while the stone retaining wall double-douses the soil with reflective heat from the sun. All of the water features—from the ponds to the pool, and even the water garden in front of the home—attract dragonflies, swallows, frogs and other pest-eliminating creatures.

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