Pool Style Options: Tips from Elite Pool Builders
By Debra Wood
When it comes to designing a beautiful poolscape for the ages, a homeowner can look to the past for a shape, work with a builder’s muse for color and style or just look within to discover personal preferences.
Once the resulting ideas are cultivated into building blocks, only then can pool designers produce beautiful masterpieces that will stand the test of time.
Creating a Pool Design that Blends with its Surroundings
The basis of any poolscape is the existing location. It can mean the difference between an exciting party spot and a relaxing spa scene. James Scott, owner of Group Works LLC, Wilton, CT, regularly looks to the land for inspiration. “As a watershape designer, I will do a design study consisting of scaled plans, elevations and perspectives,” Scott explains. “I always take into consideration the architecture of the home and the living spaces, as well as the existing landform and landscape. Of course, I will interview the clients to determine their ideas, goals and desires.”
Some homeowners may work with a designer to craft their pool with an older shape in mind: a natural body of water. Freeform pool designs can mimic natural lakes and ponds, offering a more relaxed style and integrating the shape into its landscaped surroundings.
No matter what type of pool a homeowner desires, however, that final decision should be influenced by its surroundings. Doug Staples, president of Cimarron Circle Construction Co. in Tucson, AZ., reiterates, “It’s not the shape that’s important. It’s what’s around it.”
Paolo Benedetti, principal of Aquatic Technology Pool & Spa in Morgan Hill, CA, suggests selecting “a durable design [that] performs well with the architecture of the home and the site. It takes into consideration lines of sight, view angles and the ways the homeowner entertains” to create a new poolscape that works with the existing surroundings — and will for many years in the future.
Achieving an Inspired Look
With a shape determined, homeowners look to pool designers for ways to turn that shape into a style — and the best designers rely on inspiration for their ideas. Where do they find it?
For many designers, inspiration comes in the form of homework — and a lot of it. Benedetti reads 60 to 80 architectural magazines each month, picking up ideas for materials or altering an industrial design, such as metal panels or chain draperies, for incorporation into a water retreat. “It’s neat to tweak things and make them work with water,” Benedetti says. “I’m always looking for cool things that other people have not done before.” Jordon Clarkson, consultant for Pools by John Clarkson in Jacksonville, FL, always starts with a client’s personality and style. “After gaining a better perspective on the client, I take into consideration the style of the home, yard and topography to create the design,” he states.
Some designers use color and tactile sense of materials as their inspiration. “My external inspirations are what the property has to present,” says Scott. “I use art history as a governor, however, to keep a project from falling into that catch-all style called eclectic.” Staples further suggests letting the pool’s lines direct the eye toward the view; a talented designer can design a view-inspired poolscape that adds instant beauty.
Some of the most unique poolscaping innovations have emerged from beyond the design world, as those in the pool industry often find their greatest ideas in everyday experiences. Staples attributes his idea for a glass-walled raised pool to a theme park outing, when he watched whales cavorting around a huge clear-walled tank.
Choosing the Right Materials
Any style can look beautiful, but it is often the accessories and details that really catch the eye and make it memorable. For timeless appeal, pool designers add just the right amount of innovation and add-ons to make the poolscape stand out from the rest of the pack without becoming gaudy.
Tile has always added class to any pool; however, today’s designers work with homeowners to maximize the effect of luxury tile as they use the medium for much more than a simple waterline border. Benedetti suggests that homeowners consider tiling the pool’s inner surface for a service-free luxurious look that will last a lifetime. Clarkson points out that the tile companies have also advanced way beyond the traditional to find different materials, patterns and colors that provide a creative palette to dress up a pool — turning every pool into a custom one.
Raised pools are one example of a current hot trend that builders expect to become a timeless classic. Rather than recessing it, the pool is built with walls rising 18 to 24 inches above the deck, offering an opportunity to add poolside seating or other new elements. Staples’ whale tank-inspired pool is raised, featuring a pair of 3/4-inch-thick, tempered-glass panels for an elegant, eye-popping effect.
The right add-ons can create beauty without distracting from a pool’s natural allure. Subtle lighting offers safety while enhancing a desired mood; Benedetti suggests multiple small lights to offer more illumination options than a single large light. He adds that shade structures can typically carry some of the home’s visual elements to the pool area. And for beauty that never falls out of fashion, keep it natural with stones, such as travertine, flagstone and quartz, as well as glass tiles and high-end ceramics.
“Most of the current trends I see involve the blending of different materials and colors,” explains Clarkson. “A higher percentage of pools are finished with some type of colored plaster — pebble or otherwise — versus white plaster.”
Some pool innovations have little impact on aesthetics — but big impact on ownership. The current eco-friendly trend heads outdoors with the advent of natural, chemical-free pools. “It has a positive environmental impact,” says Jim Robyn, owner and president of Rin Robyn Pools, Bernardsville, NJ, builder of BioNova Natural Pools. “There’s less energy consumption, and the pool just about maintains itself.” Low-maintenance luxury — a timeless trend everyone can appreciate.
When all is said and done, however, the homeowner has the final say. As Scott explains, “I try to get the homeowner to see what I see, so they understand my logic. But, many times, what the homeowner wants can be achieved with a differing technique or style that is also in keeping with the surround.”
In the end, that is what makes a style timeless: its ability to become one with its environment.
Photo courtesy of Questar Pools and Spas, Inc.