One on One With Drew Stivgals


Adding Water to Outdoor Spaces

By Gina Dostler

Drew Sivgals 4Landscape designer Drew Sivgals creates beautiful living space out of doors, yet he knows the ins and outs of designing outdoor features that can save a homeowner headaches and money. He lets us in on some inside knowledge to those seeking a water element in their landscape.

Q: What is at the very base of landscape designing?

A: Understanding what is in the heart and mind of the client is really the key to any successful design. Most people have an idea of how they want to transform their backyard. Achieving it becomes another matter. A landscape designer can translate their idea into reality, a living dream that manifests just outside their doors.

Q: Water does wonder to a landscape. Are there any rules to putting in a water feature?

A: With any water feature, whether it is a koi pond, a water garden or waterfall, the location is the most important aspect to consider. You want to get the most out of your investment. If you want it to be a feature that many people can view such as in front of the home, you need to understand this will entail several considerations with the design and size of the water feature.

Q: Such as?

A: When any body of water over 18 inches deep is accessible to the public it must be surrounded by a fence and a gate. This can increase the cost considerably and might not be what the homeowner envisioned. Then there is the sound factor.

Q: Sound?

A: Absolutely. This is a big issue to be aware of. Many people actually want a water feature solely for drowning out a noise, such as a busy street. A trickle from a fountain can provide enough white noise to eliminate unwanted background noise. Then again, when sound isn’t a consideration, it can have negative effects, such as installing a 12’ drop waterfall and not realizing the noise that is created by the falling water makes conversation in the backyard nearly impossible. The design might look spectacular but not practical due to the sound generated from the water.

AMS - Bartholomew Residence - Walkway lined Pottery Fountains

Q: There basically are two types of water features, yes?

A: The general term is informal and formal. Very simply, informal is natural and blends into the landscape as part of the natural surroundings. Formal utilizes geometric shapes such as pots, wall fountains and statues spouting water and are more organized with highly designed shapes. Of course you can then go modern, contemporary or Mediterranean to name a few. But whichever is used, formal or informal, it should blend with the interior and exterior architectural features of the home. In other words, you shouldn’t be able to tell it was a feature that was added several years later after the house was built.

Q: Other things to keep in mind?

A: Koi ponds are extremely popular and lend a certain beauty to any landscape. Some people spend thousands of dollars on the koi fish, their beautiful colors swirling around the pond. Designing a beautiful pond is no problem. But keeping in mind concerns for predators that see the fish as dinner is important. Peregrine falcons, hawks, raccoons and cranes all love a free meal so building nets in strategic spots, placing plants for protection and cantilevered rocks for hiding spots all need to be part of the design depending on where the home is located.


Drew Sivgals, Landscape Designer

AMS Landscape Design Studios, Inc.

895 Dove Street, Suite 300

Newport Beach, CA 92660