Relaxing poolside, staring up at bright blue skies, catching glimpses of your spouse practicing his putting game, and hearing your kids squeal as they race down a slide could simply be dreams this year of a resort vacation cancelled due to a pandemic. Or this scene could be right in your own backyard if designer David Santiago, owner and founder of Casa Santi, LLC and @StrictlySanti of Bergen County, New Jersey has a chance to put his magical skills to work to create your outdoor oasis. If we must embrace staycations, why not recreate a favorite hotel right at home?
Combining a resort hospitality feel with traditional residential concepts is David’s trademark—a practice he has coined hospidential. “Hospidential is an amalgamation of different concepts, blooming with balance and creativity. It caters to clients who travel and want that experience at home, the color, the accommodations, the unexpected design elements,” David said. The hospitality element of his work first came through his Strictly Santi trademarked wall coverings which cater to the hospitality and commercial markets. The residential design component has been part of his portfolio from his early days of working in New York City, first focused on custom window treatments and later delving into the world of home furnishings.
For 25 years David has been working with clients on designing anything from a closet to a complete house, offering full service interior design, renovation, and project management. He has a handful of trusted contractors and architects that he collaborates with to provide turn-key service. “No project is too small which is the story of my success. My clients come back again and again. I get to see them married, pregnant, with a baby, then with teens. I love that I have that in my life,” he said. His latest project, Cortland Trail in Bergen County, New Jersey, is tailored to a vacation-loving family that have been clients of David’s for years. They had chosen Balitano Contracting to renovate their backyard and had general proposals for the landscape and pool, but the owner, who was looking for a resort feel, recognized she needed help making the design decisions. David worked with Balitano on other projects so trusted his work and jumped right into the project. “I redefined and reshaped the proposed concepts looking at form and function as well as a style that would complement the existing style of the home,” David said.
Everything about this yard was meticulously thought through and measured. He worked with the client on what were the must-haves – a raised pool with lots of seating and a bar, and what was on the wish list – a putting green and water slide. “I was fortunate my client was hands on and wanted to be part of the design process. I knew her taste and style and we worked hand in hand to get this right.”
And they did get it right. The sparkling blue of the pool is tranquil yet the slide that runs over a stone embankment offers a thrilling way to enter the water. An expansive deck of concrete, granite, and slate has plenty of room for lounge chairs and umbrellas, ideal for days spent watching the clouds drift by.
The putting green provides a perfect practice place for both adults and kids to brush up on skills or show off their expertise to friends. The nearby wood paneled shed constructed to match the look of the home, is perfect for storing clubs and for keeping chairs and umbrellas safe over the winter.
By night, the space is ideal for entertaining, with space for a dining room size table to host casual dinners and adjoining a classic bar covered in artfully chosen mosaic scale tiles from Artistic Tile and granite from First Class Granite, covered by an original pergola design. As warm summers turn to fall, the fire pit near the bar assures the outdoor space can continue as an entertainment area or quiet space–pull up a chair on a cool fall night to sip a scotch while contemplating the flames.
The surrounding landscape features a wealth of greenery and stonework, creating a subtle wall between relaxation and reality. David said he was intent on placing the boulders and stones just right, making his contractors roll their eyes at his many requested moves. He recognizes his work relies on contractors. “It’s not just about me but who I collaborate with. It’s the unity that makes me successful.”
Whether it’s a backyard or a restaurant, David said the most important job for him as a designer is to assess the tasks at hand—what are they, how is this concept going to be used and who is using it. He defines the space with his clients. “If someone contacts me based on my work experience, they are aware that I like the unexpected with traditional sensibility and modern flair. I want clients to get comfortable with the uncomfortable,” he said.
David recognizes and is humbled by his success which encourages him to pay it forward. He has done table-top events for Hope Lodge and Kids Need More and is involved in the annual gala for Bailey House, referring to these events as among his most exciting projects. “I have been blessed, so I am able to give back.”