Let’s face it: once the weather warms, the desire to play in the water is overwhelming.
We head to the beach, the Susquehanna, and all manner of creeks winding through our county parks just to splash or simply to watch water catch sunlight and shimmer. It’s why our gardens feature birdbaths, whiskey barrel ponds or mini-waterfalls spilling over stones. And more frequently, it’s why our landscapes are including private places to swim.
Forget the boring blue box bordered by glaring white concrete sitting squarely in a suburban backyard. Advances in materials and maintenance, coupled with the visions of innovative landscape designers, work to redefine backyard swimming pools into lush oases fully integrated with the feel of the home and surroundings. The pool has gone from kids’ playground and occasional domain of lap swimming to an upscale design feature that becomes the focal point of outdoor entertaining.
“People are interested in creating whole backyard rooms,” says Matt Lusk of Aquavisions in Mechanicsburg (aquavisionspools.com), who says a pool is just one piece, albeit often the centerpiece, of an outdoor living space. “They have become gathering areas, where people pull together a whole look, just like they would when decorating indoors, from the interior color of the pool to the fabrics on the outdoor furniture.”
Blame it on HGTV dream shows and resort vacations with their waterfalls, fountains, and swim-up cabanas. Elaborate design ideas can be scaled down and easily transferred to create personal paradises. Add in kitchens and entertainment centers, fireplaces and patios, and it’s easy to see why we can’t wait for Pennsylvania winters to be over.
Lusk says that with the advent of computer modeling and 3-D design programs, customers can not only see what their backyard can look like with the addition of a pool, but they can also experience what the view will be from inside their home.
“It helps them see what it will look like from their kitchen window,” says Lusk, who added that many customers enjoy designing the entire package in one swoop, picking out their pool features, lighting, landscaping materials, and patio furniture to all work together. This creation of a master plan also allows homeowners to execute the project in stages, as their budget allows.
“The only limitation is your imagination,” says Joe Dodson of Fox Pool in York (foxpool.com). Experts advise that, when planning a pool installation or upgrade, you take some time to access your lifestyle and personality. Also think about your home’s architecture and landscape styles, to ensure your pool blends in with its surroundings as a cohesive whole. Consider why are you building the pool. Is it for entertaining and exercise or for aesthetic purposes? Lap pools come with certain requirements; a natural water garden feature embellished with boulders and waterfalls has different needs. Regionally, the trend is predominantly organic.
“We cater a lot to mostly free-form, custom shaped pools,” says Dodson.
For those who may have already inherited a pool in their backyard, Dodson says an upgrade with new materials can completely change the look, refreshing not only the pool itself, but helping to create a cohesive landscape design. “It’s often when there’s a new homeowner who wants to make a change,” he says. “With a vinyl pool you can change the liner for one with a different color or pattern that is more vibrant. Also, a lot of older pools have a three-foot concrete walkway that is often stained. Now you can use an epoxy coating to create the look of brick or a solid color to create a whole new look.”
He says changing the pool’s edging or coping to a cantilever bullnose look as well as expanding the pool deck with hardscape pavers to create backyard rooms for eating and lounging areas are also popular changes in the quest to update
and create a more uniform look.
Dodson says that retrofitting and refurbishing an older pool not only has aesthetic benefits, but there are safety upgrades to consider like double drains, as well as simple functionality. “A lot of older pools didn’t have stairs,” he says. “Now we can add them in.”
And then there’s the greatest benefit of all—the ease of caring for a more modern pool. “The myth of the swimming pool is the maintenance,” says Dodson. “It was the number one objection, but not anymore, now that pools have become much more consumer friendly.”
Dodson says that the biggest game changer is the advent of the salt generator system that replaces the need for homeowners to purchase, store, and add chlorine. “Salt generators are much easier to maintain and they make the water softer, which is gentler on your skin,” he says. “My wife loves it because it is easier on her bathing suits.”
Dodson says that advances in energy efficiency for pool pumps and motors have helped to reduce electric costs, as well as providing the added benefit of operating more quietly. Lusk adds that LED lighting in the pool is not only more energy efficient, but has the added benefit of creating mood-shaping light shows that offer their own entertainment value.
“Now homeowners can spend more time enjoying their pool and less time taking care of it,” he says.
This article appears in the April 2013 issue of Susquehanna Style
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