Family Retreat

The Solomon family turned their unused, overgrown backyard into a lush oasis—the perfect pandemic retreat

Who: Muriel Solomon, co-founder of product design company Førs Studio; her husband Jordan Solomon, president of Ecostrat, a bioenergy supply and advisory firm; and their kids, Zoé, 21, and Jérémie, 19.
Where: Forest Hill.

Muriel and Jordan bought their red-brick detached house in 2002. They completed two extensive renovations to the interiors over the years and added a modern extension at the back, but left the 3,700-square-foot tree-filled backyard as is. They liked how it looked, but they barely used the space.

One day, Muriel joked that the backyard was plenty big enough for a pool, and that was all it took. In June 2018, they hired architect Michael Amantea, who came up with a clean, contemporary design to complement the extension. The final project, completed in September 2020, includes a saltwater pool, a hot tub, a sunken lounge, a barbecue area and a sauna pavilion.

The new backyard has been the perfect pandemic retreat to reconnect with friends and shake off the day’s stresses. “Every time we go into the backyard,” says Muriel, “we can’t believe we built it.” This summer, Muriel and Jordan will install an outdoor black-steel spiral staircase from their bedroom to the backyard so Jordan can fulfill his dream of waking up in the morning and heading straight for the pool.


The backyard gradually slopes down to the rear property line. Muriel and Jordan added tiered areas with different foundations. The concrete saltwater pool by Todd Pools is nine feet at its deepest, and edged in ipe decking and limestone:

The stone patio for the dining area is a floating slab built on helical piers to minimize intrusion on the magnolia’s roots. “It’s my favourite tree in the world,” says Muriel:

“The hot tub is very relaxing. It’s beautiful in the snow, and in spring it’s gorgeous with the blossoms. You sit there and look at the magnolia and crab apple trees in full bloom,” says Muriel:

The backyard has lots of electrical outlets, so the family can work outside:

Here’s the al fresco kitchen area:

In the fall of 2020, the backyard functioned as a meeting spot, product testing space and showroom for Førs Studio’s new ceramic tableware line:

“We put the frosted-glass window in the Swedish sauna to see the dancing shadows of the trees come through,” says Muriel:

The 185-square-foot pavilion is topped with a green roof and stuffed with amenities: the sauna, an outdoor shower tucked at the back, gym equipment with a foldable rig for weights, and a change room:

The outdoor shower is a family favourite. It’s secluded despite being open to the sky and the trees:

The lounge set is from Jardin de Ville. The two teak-top side tables, purchased at Fresh in Corktown, open to reveal ice buckets: