Make a Splash

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions

With stay-cations all the rage, it’s time to transform your backyard from drab to fab with a custom built swimming pool. CD Traveller shows you the way to go…

Few things in life beat a refreshing dip in a swimming pool on a sweltering day and with the UK set to experience a heat wave this summer (yes really), it could be argued that – finances permitting –swimming pools are as necessary as oxygen.

However if you want to stand out from the crowd and ensure that your garden radiates glamour with a capital ‘G’, consider a custom built pool – which can substantially improve the value of your property. With a custom pool, you are given carte blanche meaning you can kiss goodbye to boring, bog standard square shapes, regular rectangular ones and other cookie cutter pools and hello to something altogether more special. Being tailored to your taste, custom pools can be as artistically designed, technologically advanced and luxurious as your heart desires. As Brian Van Bowyer of Aquatic Consultants – one of the industry’s most coveted consultants – puts it: “they should look as good as they work. A custom built pool is an object of art as opposed to a hole in the ground where the kids get wet.”

Perhaps you fancy a freeform pool? Alternatively how about a kidney shaped one or even a ‘spool’ (a combination of a spa and pool)? Would you like your pool to be long enough for lengths or just big enough for a quick dip? As for features, the possibilities are endless; take your pick from waterfalls and fountains to luxurious lighting, underwater music systems (seen at The Hillside Su hotel in Antalya, Turkey), artificial seashores, stylish ‘Baja’ steps, swim up bars and sunken bar stools – ideal for creating a mini resort – bridges and barbecue islands… Chances are if you can dream it, your vision can be incorporated in the design. But before you get carried away creating your backyard oasis, there are a few practicalities to keep in mind. CD Traveller gives you the low-down on what to consider when planning your piece of personal paradise.
First you need to think about the purpose of the pool – is it intended solely as an object of art or is it for recreation as well? If it needs to be functional as well as fashionable, consider who will be using the pool. Tweens and teenagers will no doubt appreciate fun elements such as slides whereas small children and non-swimmers will want a shallow area for splashing and wading. Meanwhile serious swimmers – Michael Phelps or Ian Thorpes in training – need a larger pool for lengths and laps, and if your daughter is a diver she will require a pool with a depth of at least nine feet. Planning on entertaining? “Try mixing up features like tables and chairs in the pool” recommends Ron Shaw of RA Shaw Designs – whose home designs over the last 10 years have all included pools. Given the ferocity of the sun, Shaw also suggests factoring in “a pool sitting area that is covered – swim up bars and outdoor kitchens make it easy to accomplish this.”

For all that, it is important to remain realistic. You might desire an Olympic sized pool and a patio but if you have a ‘boutique’ backyard and as such are short on space, installing a 50×25 yard pool is akin to creating a glass carriage out a pumpkin. Likewise the idea of a clump of trees clustering your pool may sound appealing but if the maintenance and mess (think loose leaves) is going to drive you mad, forget about it. Similarly if you’re a sensitive sort, think about filling your pool with artificial saltwater which is gentler on the eyes and hair than chlorinated fresh water.

“A well thought out pool should pop visually as well as functionally. People often spend more time looking at their pools than swimming in them, so you want something that is really pleasing to the eye,” reveals Brian Van Bowyer – a man who has been designing pools (or “water shapes” as he calls them) since 1989. Subsequently if you want your pool to have pizzazz, you’ll need to add a feature or three – which should encompass the latest innovation, technology and design.
Glass tiles are one trend making waves amongst upscale pool owners owing to their elegance – something David Tisherman of David Tisherman’s Visuals (a company heralded as a leader in pool design and construction) acknowledges: “For those who want something truly spectacular, glass tile is often a big part of the equation. From a design standpoint, there’s nothing else like it.” Part of the appeal can be attributed to the magical way in which glass changes in appearance according to the angle of the sun and the level of the lighting.
Elsewhere, those wanting to get in touch with their inner techie should think about installing lighting, which can be functional as well as adding aesthetic appeal; as a rule of thumb, soft light evokes a romantic mood whereas brighter light creates excitement.
Water features are also highly sought after and for good reason: “Water is such a fabulous medium to work with,” says Van Bowyer. The watershaping guru continues: “It can act as a calm, reflective, mirror-like surface, repeating natural beauty as well as architecturally significant elements. Water can transcend elevations, fill spaces and lift spirits”. Aquatic options range from waterfalls and fountains to infinity pools – something Shaw incorporates “wherever possible [as] it creates an incredible boundless feeling.” However, arguably the hottest tend right now is for pools with a perimeter overflow – whereby the water level in the pool is the same as the top of the decking. “Perimeter overflow pools are one of my biggest requests,” confirms Van Bowyer. “The pool looks like a sheet of glass – it’s a drop dead gorgeous look.”
Yet for the ultimate ‘wow’ factor, fire features are arguably where it’s at. Whether it is a solitary flame sitting on top of the water or a traditional fire pit, the mesmerising flare from a fire element is sure to add spark to your setting.

A good custom built pool should blend seamlessly into the surroundings or as Tisherman terms it: “The pool itself is not the most important element of the design. A pool is nothing more than an odorless, colorless, highly reflective body that mimics the environment in which it is placed.”
In addition to complementing the landscape, your pool should also work in harmony with your home and flow with the interior design. For instance, if your house has a natural environment, you might want to create caves, grottos and waterfalls to rival Mother Nature using man made rock systems for as Terre Higgs, president of Urdl’s Waterfall Creations, explains: “Today most custom waterfalls are made of man made rock systems. Believe it or not you can make rock outcroppings more realistic looking using man made formations than trying to stack real rocks together. Perhaps you would like a cave or grotto around the pool with a spa inside of it. You could look forever and not find a natural setting to allow that. But with man made rocks, it’s just a matter of design and installation to get whatever your imagination and wallet can afford.” Alternatively if your home is a shrine to all things Asian, plump for plants and flowers like bamboo, Weigela, Japanese Irises and moss that are typical in oriental gardens. For a more modern and understated abode, something simple yet chic – read angular walls and sleek pavement lines – would work well. Essentially the idea is to build a pool that becomes an extension of your house.

Custom built pools can undoubtedly add value to your property – providing the design is universally attractive. Outrageously over-the-top pools might be fun – not to mention the talk of the town – but conversely could make your home harder to sell. The message? If you want to put your property on the market in the future, it’s best to exercise some restraint and stick to a “classic, clean design” says Van Bowyer. However if you are not worried about future buyers, by all means go ahead and get creative – arguably the only limit is your imagination…


Assimilated all of the above? Next up you need to consult a custom pool builder who will assist you in turning your vision into reality. The best way to find someone who specialises in custom pools is to ask friends (who have had pools built) which company they used. Alternatively contact your local pool store; they should have an encyclopedia’s worth of reputable contacts and be able to point you in the right direction. Contractors do advertise in local directories and online but the problem with choosing a contractor like this, is that you have no idea how reliable, professional or – and this is key – experienced the company is. Insist on viewing “at least three pools and get a list of the last five pools the company has installed with contacts,” advises Shaw. The importance of experience should not be underestimated; a seasoned company will know what does and does not work which means they will be well placed to give guidance on yours.

The bottom line
Creating a custom built pool requires careful planning but the end result is well worth it. A custom built pool is so much more than a place for recreational activity; it’s an extraordinary showpiece that multiplies the value of your home and magnifies the beauty. Time then, to take the plunge…

If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.