Details, Details, Details
Pool Design article by Dave Penton
One thing that really irritates me when I look at a pool is when I notice all of the elements that are wrong! It is like an orchestral musician missing a note in the middle of a symphony - it causes me to cringe.
Skip Phillips once shared a story with me that I have never forgotten. A reporter asked him how often he used his own personal pool. He replied that he uses it every single day. She was surprised and asked if it was expensive to heat it in the middle of the winter. His response was that he only swims during the summer, but that he looks at and fully enjoys his pool 365 days a year. That realization was a bit of an epiphany for me personally! I had never thought of pools in that light before. Sure, we spent time picking out nice tile, coping, and plaster colors, BUT the reality is that a pool is so much more than an amalgamation of materials… the integration of all of these materials with the mechanical systems is vitally important as well.
As a pool builder, I have always focused on making a structurally sound and energy efficient vessel. But, I had never given much thought to the visual presentation of the pool itself… the suction grates, return lines, light locations - they were all installed to maximize efficiency, but I had never given much thought to the visual impact these elements have on the end result. As I began to evaluate our projects, I realized that this haphazard approach was causing visual discord within our pools. I noticed drain covers that were just haphazardly placed on the floor of the spa - return lines that were placed directly within the primary visual envelope that the client looks at every day - lights that were shining right toward living spaces the clients would be utilizing at night.
There are so many elements that can disrupt the visual harmony within the pool that can easily be addressed with a bit of thought and pre-planning.
We spend a few hours on each job discussing and laying out all of our return lines, light locations and elevations, suction cover sizes and location, and anything more that we will need to make the pool work properly. We then try to hide as many of these elements as we can. We evaluate which wall is the least visible, and then try to install as much of these elements as we can at those points where they will be least visible. Always paying attention to the layout, and its impact on the visual presentation of the pool, once it is completed.
Compare these 2 spas - the one we built on the left includes; 4 unblockable channel drain covers, 1 light, 4 heated return lines, 6 infinity overflow return lines, and 20 jets (35 different elements). The spa on the right we did not build, it only has 8 jets, 1 light, and 4 drain covers. I think we can all agree that the spa on the right is much less visually appealing.
(Below) Notice this spa interior has very little visual "noise". All you notice is the beauty of the materials and the overall beauty of the spa itself! You don't see any of the required mechanical elements needed to make the systems work.
There are many ways to achieve this visual harmony. This spa has custom fabricated suction covers to hide the suction lines. Also, note that the spa jet plumbing is not white PVC. We utilized light gray PVC to allow these lines to blend in much more seemlessly.
Pictured here is the wall of the pool that is closest to the house. Rather than putting all of the suction outlets on the floor of the deep end, we decided to pull them up onto the wall to minimize the visual impact they will inflict on the pool. Also notice that all of the suction covers are perfectly level, and equally spaced off of the center line of the pool. You can also see that we ran the return lines near the floor… notice that they follow the contour of the pool floor rather than simply being laid in there without any thought.
In this final photo, notice all of the symetry. All of the return lines follow the contour of the pool floor slope. The six suction lines are parallel to each other and they are equally spaced below the small pool light niches. You can also see the large speaker niches which are located immediately below the pool light niches. What you can’t see is what is located on the other wall - the only elements that are included on the other wall - The Visual Wall - are the necessary return lines that also follow the cotour of the floor. Most of the time when the client enjoys the pool, the will not be looking at ugly drain covers, or have lights shining in their eyes.
This kind of precision does not just happen. It takes deliberate forethought and attention to ALL of the details, as well as a wholistic approach to laying out everything intentionally.