The Pools

q1Pool 1 – Eclectic Style

DESIGN INTENT:  These homeowners had an eclectic taste. They appreciated the structure of a geometric pool, but didn’t want it to look rigid. They liked the flowing nature of freeform pools, but that option seemed a little too amorphous to them. The designers answered these sensibilities with a combination rectilinear-radiused pool. The house side of the waterscape is formed of all straight lines and hard angles so it would harken back to the very linear home. One large, sweeping radius sits at the far end of the pool to soften it up. Floating step pads help blur the distinction between water and deck and prevent the fire feature area from feeling detached.

Fire feature
This stone-veneered rectilinear fire feature is constructed with a fire box perched at the top and water flowing around the perimeter underneath. The crushed tempered glass concealing the gas line can be color-coordinated with the waterline tile, especially if it is glass tile. Not only does it present a simple way to dress up the pool, but it anchors a small conversation area on the deck, which can be accessed by the floating step pads from the main patio.

Quick tip: Fire and water must always be kept separate in these features if the water will be shared with the pool or spa. Otherwise, combustion materials could seep from the fire ring into the water.

Outdoor kitchen
Quarters were fairly tight, and the homeowners wanted the outdoor kitchen to be convenient, so it made most sense to place this functional space close to the home. But when the designer first drew the counter with no covering, it created a line that seemed to just hang from the side of the home. To remedy this, the designers gave it a covering. This not only helps shade the cook but also continues the home’s roof line.

Quick tip: In these settings, split counters often are helpful. In the bar area where people will sit, the counter can stand between 42 and 47 inches high. The counter for food and drink preparation should be 34 to 37 inches tall so the cook can work comfortably. Or the floor in the cook’s quarters can be elevated to bring it closer to the counter.

Deck and coping
Travertine coping adheres to the design motif, and a panel of turf breaks up the hardscape.

Quick tip: When working with lawn like this, consider artificial turf. Some of the modern products have nicer textures and look more realistic than ever – some even feature brown blades to depict natural drying.

Raised planter bowls
The planter bowls on pedestals serve multiple purposes. On a practical level, they offer an economical and relatively maintenance-free method of introducing softscape into the lawn. But their design functions carry at least as much weight in this particular backyard: The round bowls harken to the traditional design influence inside the home and help blend the pool’s radius into a landscape comprised mostly of straight lines.

Quick tip: Homeowners can change out the plants with annuals to enjoy different color throughout the year. For practicality’s sake, outfit the pots with drip irrigation systems so watering takes place automatically.

q2Pool 2 – Warm Contemporary

DESIGN INTENT: This client wanted a more utilitarian project that included a rectangular pool with automatic cover and portable hot tub. But, in acknowledgement of the home interior, she challenged the designer to incorporate these rectangular features into a “warm contemporary” yard. The materials choices and structural shapes maintain a tight balance between the clean and linear versus the more irregular and rustic.

Arc wall and barbecue
The back wall and barbecue to the side are formed in arcs to help soften the straight lines of the pool and hot tub. Both are finished with hand-troweled stucco to create a clean surface that contrasts the irregular stone deck. Triangular shade sails over the barbecue and deck areas offer another clean element.

Quick tip: Half walls such as this, which stands 24 inches tall, provide a built-in seating opportunity. This particular wall especially comes in handy for those who want to enjoy the fire bowl and adjacent runnels.

The random stone deck serves as the major rustic influence to balance out the rectangular pool and hot tub. Here, quartzite is used, in part because it can be used for the coping, deck, and even waterfeature, if desired. The stones are left uncut through much of the deck’s perimeter to create organic shaping that transitions smoothly into the softscape areas. However, the edges of the deck closest to the home are cut to create an arc that mimics that of the half way in back.

Quick tip: To place a deck of irregular stone is to balance between planning and randomness. When doing so, begin setting whole stones in the middle of the deck and work outward so any cuts can be kept to the deck’s perimeter, where they are less visible.

Hot tub
While the homeowner could afford an inground spa, she preferred the benefits of a portable hot tub – increased ergonomics; built-in amenities such as a wide range of jets, sculpted lounge seats and even televisions; and the relative ease of keeping the water warm at all times. The designer wanted to integrate the self-contained unit into the rest of the yard. To accomplish this, a stepped surround wraps around two sides of the hot tub. This allows easy access into the unit, and the stair-stepping visually softens the elevation change with a more gradual transition.

Quick tip: When combining an inground pool with a hot tub, don’t try to mimic an inground pool/spa combination. Keep the hot tub separate, both for a cozy sense of privacy and to avoid the awkwardness of trying to combine a pre-manufactured product with something constructed on-site.

Fire feature and runnels
The fire and water feature encapsulates the design’s balancing act by combining a round fire bowl with straight, narrow runnels fed by clean weirs. The moving water emits under 50 decibels so it doesn’t overpower conversation in the social area.

Quick tip: If there’s any chance that a runnel will run dry, avoid using plaster on its interior. Because these features can measure as little as 4- to 6-inches wide, any troweled product can prove difficult to apply. Stone surfaces likely will better serve this element.

q3Pool 3 – Harborside Sleek

DESIGN INTENT: This elegant waterscape was designed not only to include a multitude of destination points, but also visually integrate the home and pool while framing the nearby Intracoastal Waterway. For visual cohesion, a strategically placed and designed waterfeature helps draw attention down to the pool, while a “floating” fire element maintains one’s gaze and creates reflections across the pool at night. The pool, spa, cabana and patio are positioned on a diagonal line toward the northwest to make way for the waterfront view.

Because the pool would be located approximately 60 feet away from the home and at a lower elevation, the designer was challenged to visually integrate water with structure. The first order was to draw one’s attention and curiosity away from the home and toward the backyard. To accomplish this, a perimeter overflow waterfeature with stair-stepped water cascading on each side would be placed between the home and pool, somewhat mimicking the access down to the backyard. The smooth water surface would reflect a nearby cabana and landscape area, and the cascading water at the sides would motivate anybody to follow its path.

Plans are meant for this project only. Consult an engineer for exact specifications on other installations.

Quick tip: With any vanishing-edge or perimeter-overflow element, keep the edge nearly level. Genesis recommends a tolerance of 1/32 inch. This ensures a wet edge with as little water flow as possible.

Spa/lounge shelf
A definitive destination spot is formed by the combination of a shallow lounging area and a spa. The perimeter overflow spa makes for a perfect mirror to reflect the up-lit Egyptian palms in three nearby planters. Water on the shelf varies from 4 to 6 inches in depth, ideal for placing chaise lounges. The swim-out bench goes a little deeper, with 18 inches of water. Foam jets add moving water to the stairs and an umbrella sleeve allows the homeowners to create shade whenever needed.

Quick tip: More is not necessarily better when it comes to elevation changes. A gentler height for raised perimeter-overflow features can increase the sleek factor, in part because it helps maintain a cohesive feel between water elements. Here, the spa is raised a mere 4 inches above the pool.

Slow overflow
The pool features a deck-level perimeter-overflow system. With the water level so high, the reflective surface becomes visible more quickly from home elevation and beckons as one descends the court steps. While some overflow slots are narrower, this one was 1 inch wide to help catch water that may be blown around in the frequent winds from the Intracoastal. The slot is configured in a Lautner Knife edge detail, so called because of the sharp edge created at the weir as the entrance to the gutter slopes in toward the gutter.

Quick tip: While the term “Lautner edge” is becoming more well-known, people may not know its origin. It is named after the Los Angeles-based architect John Lautner (1911-1994), who developed the detail and was one of the earliest employers of vanishing edges and slot overflows. He designed homes and pools featured in films such as The Big Lebowski and Less Than Zero. Since his death, his office has continued under the leadership of architect Helena Arahuete, who has taught for Genesis.

The cabana is surrounded by water around two-thirds of its perimeter, to create an island feel for its occupants. Several shallow water lounge areas, swim-out benches and steps, all finished with the same material as the patio, allow for easy entrance and egress. The 4-by-4-foot planter boxes are large enough to accommodate the Egyptian palms and are square to complement the round footprint of the spa and cabana.

Quick tip: When bringing planter boxes onto the landscape, be sure the soil line is kept low enough so dirt can’t float out of the planter and onto the deck or into the water. Here, it is kept 6 inches below the top of the planter.

Floating Steps
The floating steps add to the resort feel of the waterscape and provide easy access to the cabana. The slot-overflow detail on either end of the steps adds to the floating feeling. A fiberoptic light is installed under each stepping pad to create a glowing effect.

Quick tip: When designing this feature, elevate the stepping stones so the bottoms are submerged, to enhance the floating effect. Here, the pads are about 4 inches thick, with approximately 1 inch underwater.

q4Pool 4 – Oceanfront Remake

DESIGN INTENT: The owners of this property were remodeling their home with a more modern look, so they wanted to similarly update their existing freeform waterscape. The designer had to retain the original pool perimeter, so a more contemporary look was attained by modifying the interior. He transformed the installation into a perimeter-overflow pool and added a square spa and a shallow lounging shelf with linear steps. To make the pool more useable, he also raised the deep-end floor.

Originally, the aquascape included a round spa, elevated 18 inches and sitting closest to the house. But between the elevation and close proximity, the hot-water vessel seemed to crowd out the abode (and stick out like a sore thumb). The designer removed the spa altogether and built a new, rectangular perimeter overflow version on the other side, pairing it with the shallow sun shelf to create a true destination spot.

Quick tip: Gentler elevation changes often make for a sleeker, more elegant look. Here, the new spa sits only 6 inches above deck level. Add this to a perimeter-overflow pool, and there is no visible freeboard when the pool is running, creating a glassy look throughout the entire pool interior.


Perimeter Overflow
To create the slot-overflow detail, the team removed the coping and worked with the original pool bond beam, which was beveled down toward the pool interior. Another bond beam was constructed directly behind the original to contain the gutter system. After everything was waterproofed, the team performed a static test on the gutter, without having to fill the pool, to make sure all is watertight.

Quick tip: If not constructed correctly, perimeter-overflow gutters are susceptible to making slurping sounds. To avoid this, builders must make it easy for air to escape by using large pipe, orienting the pickup pipes in a horizontal fashion, and gently sloping the trunk line to the holding tank so water can slowly gravity feed. If horizontal pickups are not possible, snorkels should be used to provide air an escape route.

Fire element
By placing a fire element in the back of the yard, the designer took advantage of an existing depression in the grade. A pit area is set up something like an amphitheater, with the fire occupying the lowest spot in the middle, and seating area elevated around it. Everything is kept at a low elevation, so as not to interrupt the ocean view from the home.

Quick tip: Clear glass fencing will help retain as much of the view as possible.