THE CANVAS: An acre of untouched woods, dense clay and rock soil
THE PALETTE: Tumbled Old World pavers, South African thatch, hints of the tropics
THE MASTERPIECE: A vast lagoon of pitch-perfect curves, a private paradise for a discerning traveler
The backyard of this one-acre lot was host to dozens of tall pine and oak trees. It was a forest lover’s paradise.
It was not, however, what Eddie Bullock had in mind for the yard of his new home. The owner of Pool Builders, LLC, is a veteran vacationer who prefers the beaches of Mexico to Southern woods. “When I go into my backyard, I want to feel like I’m on a getaway,” Bullock says.
In a matter of days, he removed nearly 60 trees from his lot to make space for a pool that now rivals any resort destination in Cancún. “I knew I wanted a lagoon shape, and I wanted it to be big,” he says.
The project, which was built during weekends, took more than a year to complete. And the results far exceeded Bullock’s imagination. Combining tropical shapes and plantings with other global accents, the pool has taken on a life of its own.
“It gets used all the time by my son and daughter, and by my friends. It’s got everything you can think of,” he says. “Now I bring my customers over to look at it, and everyone who has seen it has bought a pool from me.”
Creating the ideal environment wasn’t easy. Tree removal was only part of the process. Once the land was cleared, Bullock and his crew built a 250-foot-long stone retaining wall. Now covered with Old English Ivy, the wall helped strengthen the foundation for a more than 50-foot-long and nearly 50-foot-wide pool.
The aquascape ranges in depth from 3- to 8 feet, though the majority of it is shallow. “It’s got two sets of stairs that [lead] down into the pool, both in the shallow end, but 40 feet apart,” he says. Inside the pool, three curved radii form alcoves where guests can rest.
To unify the 2,000-square-foot space around the large pool, Bullock installed a deck with tumbled pavers. “I like earth tones, and this gave the pool a courtyard-type look. The edges are dulled, which gives it an Old World charm,” he adds. “The little imperfections make it look like the pool’s been there awhile.”
The decision also worked well with the soil conditions. “In this area, the ground often moves because of the clay, and that tends to crack the concrete,” says Bullock, who has built pools since 1973. “Pavers take the swelling and heating, expanding and contracting, better than concrete.”
Yet the installation was tricky. More than half of the backyard was inaccessible because of the retaining wall. The crew had to wheelbarrow in the majority of the pavers. Then they painstakingly aligned them across the expanse of the pool.
“There are no straight lines in the pool’s shape,” Bullock explains. “We basically put a grid over the whole vessel, and matched up the lines of the pavers on one end with the lines of the pavers on the other end.”
Creating a secret oasis
The pool’s sweeping lagoon shape was an inspiration from a design book. Bullock then transformed the environment using lighting, waterfeatures and landscaping.
Two artificial rock waterfeatures emulate the sound of a distant waterfall. Pop-up fountains spray swimmers in the shallow end, and three laminar jets shoot into the pool from each radius.
Three in-pool lights in each of the vessel’s curves create an ethereal quality in the water. In addition, a fiberoptic perimeter lighting wheel makes the pool fun and festive during nighttime soirées.
The most stunning element of the pool area, by far, is the lush vegetation. Palm trees of every size — including Majestics, which tower 12 feet — create a tropical illusion. Crape myrtles and flowering hibiscus add splashes of color and are accented with low-voltage landscape lighting.
“I love plants with long leaves. At night, they blow in the wind and look beautiful,” says Bullock, whose company now specializes in lagoon-style projects, building 30 to 40 pools annually. “I also put in a number of flowering trees that bloom all summer long. We [left] some of the trees along the perimeter of the lot to keep the yard secluded.”
An inground acrylic spillover spa serves as a private, year-round space for Bullock and his family. Installed underneath a 14-foot-tall, round palapa with a thatched roof imported from South Africa, it’s used mostly during cool, rainy weather. A larger, 16-foot-tall palapa nearby houses a bar, grill and seating area for guests.
Chaise lounges and wide umbrellas create comfortable poolside nooks. “For a big pool, it’s amazing,” Bullock says. “I put a lot of my heart into it.”