In 1982, Michael Shawn Kelly launched his business Mirror Lake Designs, a landscape architecture and pool construction company, from his living room. Armed with nothing more than a shovel, his gym shorts and a can-do spirit, Kelly said he would show up to customers’ homes for projects.
“They’d say, ‘Where’s the crew?’ I’d say, ‘You’re looking at it,’” Kelly said.
Kelly said he originally focused on landscaping, but after building his first pool in 1987 for a customer in Kingwood, he began building more pools and venturing into constructing outdoor kitchens and fountains. Today, he and his wife Blinda own six and a half acres of office space and show gardens on Mirror Lake Drive.
Kelly said running a one-man show helped him better understand the entire scope of work, from designing a project to the actual labor involved.
“I learned everything [about the business], and it allowed me to know what the crews need out there,” he said.
Kelly said he also combines his two degrees from Texas A&M University—ornamental horticultural and landscape architecture—to create holistic backyard transformations. Kelly said he uses his horticulture knowledge to offer more plant varieties to customers and his architectural skills to work on the engineering and construction aspects.
“Most landscape architects don’t know a whole lot about plants,” Kelly said. “I would [ask]different landscape nurseries … if they could send [new or different plants]my way so I could experiment.”
When beginning a project, Kelly said he asks customers to describe not what final design they want but what type of lifestyle they envision for themselves. This is important, Kelly said, as some customers will ask for pools even if they do not enjoy swimming—in which case Kelly said he might recommend a fountain instead.
“We try to get people to tell us how they live … then we can develop that space to accommodate that goal,” he said.
Mirror Lake Designs
19022 Mirror Lake Drive, Spring
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Sat.-Sun.
Mirror Lake Designs has been in business for 37 years and has completed a variety of projects.
- Projects range from $3,500 to more than $1 million.
- Projects are mostly done in Houston, but Kelly has completed projects as far as Las Vegas.
- Some craftsmen have been with the company for 36 years.