Special Features to Personalize to Your Luxury Pool
By Brian Van Bower
If you would like your pool to reflect your own personal style, you can break out of the humdrum box simply by making some minor additions, or by incorporating major stylistic changes. Following are some suggestions to consider if you are willing to venture a notch above what is typical and declare your pool's individuality as an extension of your own.
Custom Pool Shapes
Would you like your pool to take the shape of your most treasured possession? You can do this—and just about anything else—since virtually any custom shape is possible. A car dealer in Florida had his pool modeled like a sports car, his company's icon, complete with a black tiled round spa and rounded steps for wheels. A dentist in California drilled out his pool in the shape of a tooth, while a musician in New York strummed up a guitar-shaped beauty with a long lap lane that represented the neck of the instrument, adding water sprays to depict frets. A star-shaped fountain? A crescent-shaped pool?
Infinity or vanishing-edge pools create the illusion of a connection to the environment. Water runs over one or more sides of the pool in a way that brings the surroundings and the body of water together visually. Minimizing or eliminating the difference in elevation between the pool deck and the water inside the pool allows the water surface to reflect the elements beyond it. Whether the resulting view is that of a body of water, a mountainside or a simple flowerbed, the effect it produces can be phenomenal. Some pools, called 360-degree perimeter overflow projects or deck-level pools, have water flowing over all sides, which is captured in a trough or gutter around the pool; the water is then re-circulated back into the pool.
The water in these types of pools can be completely level with the patio, eliminating the use of waterline tile or coping, or it can be raised higher than the surrounding patio with water running over all sides and down a straight or canted exterior wall finished with granite or stone. As an added benefit, this dramatic visual connection to the existing surroundings can be observed from inside the pool (as well as from outside it) because the view is not impeded by conventional edge treatments.
Natural-look or lagoon-style pools are quite popular. Boulders set randomly around the perimeter, freeform shapes, darker (and more reflective) interior finishes, and the use of natural rock waterfalls are all ways to build your own backyard paradise. Complete this type of environment with the right landscaping and amenities, lots of lush foliage and an outdoor kitchen/entertainment center, and you may never want to leave!
Fire and Water Features
Fire in and around a water environment can add special ambiance and form great reflective visuals. From a simple tiki torch to a sublime sheeting cascade with electronic ignition-lit gas flames passing through the water, these primal elements evoke feelings of warmth and coziness that are hard to beat.
Gas fire rings and torches allow a controlled flame on demand. With the right construction materials, you can carry the flame to locations within a water feature that enables the flame to rise from, or to pass through, the water.
Firepits and fireplaces, surrounded by comfy seating areas, bring out feelings reminiscent of campfire days. By adding a little spark to your setting, you can't go wrong.
Beach Entry Pools
Imagine being able to walk into your pool across decking that slopes gradually into the water, providing not only easy entry but also functional areas of varying depths. These beach or zero-depth entries are becoming increasingly popular, offering shallow sunbathing spots where grownups can sit and chat or where kids of all ages can frolic and play.
Pool designers often choose to extend the patio material, possibly a natural stone or textured tile, into this area. With the addition of an umbrella hole, a fashionable umbrella and a couple of non-corrosive lounge chairs to this shallow area, you can increase the amount of time you spend in your waterscape environment. In the evening, when you are entertaining around the pool, you can put a short tiki torch in the same hole to get a low-cost fire and water effect with great reflective quality. Benches, alcoves, underwater barstools and swimouts are in demand for the same reason: they add to pleasurable time spent in and around the water.
Mankind seems to have an affinity for being near, on, over, or in water while relaxing and enjoying life. Witness the number of waterfront restaurants in the world today. Implementing a functional location like this within your private paradise can only add to your enjoyment. A wooden footbridge or a cozy bench built for two can make a distinctive statement and offer a change of perspective. A covered outdoor living area, such as a thatched hut, wood trellis or gazebo, positioned just the right distance from the pool, provides a welcome respite for those seeking solitude or for those who want to catch up on some reading.
Using special materials as a focal point, or over a large surface for maximum impact, can elevate your aquatic environment to the next level. The all-tile interiors that graced the regal vessels of ancient Rome are even more gorgeous today with updated colorings and intricate finishes that can be used in special combinations. Cobalt glass tile replicates the look of the deep blue sea, soft turquoise portrays glistening island water and iridescent or copper-veined tiles give a sophisticated gilded look. Custom mosaics created from small or broken tiles can reproduce an artistic design to accent the pool's floor, walls or adjacent structures.
Water in Motion
From a simple spray nozzle mounted in the pool patio to an adjacent spilling planter to a thundering natural rock waterfall, the soothing appeal of moving water has been appreciated for centuries because the sounds created are both soothing and relaxing. A water feature of any type enhances the visual aspect of your project and can extend the enjoyment to the inside of your home, where it can be viewed year-round.
When positioned inside the pool, the feel of a waterfall cascading on your neck or shoulders, coupled with the sounds created by it, can be more beneficial than a personal massage. Sheer cascades of all sizes are readily available and affordable and can be added easily to a raised pool wall or planter. They create a glimmering sheet of water that folds softly into the pool, producing varying amounts of sound. (Some people prefer lots of water noise and others seek a more subdued effect.) There are also all types of brass or stone fixtures that can flow directly into the pool water or into their own catch-basins. Freestanding statues and artwork can be placed on the pool patio to dispense calming water in a number of ways. A tipped vase, spraying frog or spouting lion's head may be the precise detail that sends your water project to another level and reflects your unique style.
Photo courtesy of Aquatic Consultants, Inc./Brian Van Bower, Miami, FL