The Canvas:Retro glass blocks, an ’80s pool in need of renovation, a lonely bubblerThe Palette: Russet and jade, sparkling sheer descents, toys for the most important hostessThe Masterpiece:Old World Italy meets Mediterranean warmth, playful landscape lighting, a pièce de résistance that dazzles guests
The Canvas:Retro glass blocks, an ’80s pool in need of renovation, a lonely bubblerThe Palette: Russet and jade, sparkling sheer descents, toys for the most important hostessThe Masterpiece:Old World Italy meets Mediterranean warmth, playful landscape lighting, a pièce de résistance that dazzles guests

Michael D. Manley’s pool was stuck in an ’80s time warp. It was early 2003, but his aquascape screamed clunky glass blocks, an unattractive patterned tile and acrylic deck.

Frustrated with the backyard’s dated appearance, Manley and his wife decided their pool was in desperate need of an extreme makeover. “The pool was built in 1989, and it was trendy back then,” says Manley, president/CEO of Champagne Aquatech Pools of Florida in Sanford. “[We] decided to make it much larger, grander and with more features than a bubbler. We made it dramatic.

“My wife [Janice] was going for an Old World feel,” he adds. “She wanted it to feel like an old courtyard from Europe, with an Italian/Mediterranean look. So the colors were natural earth tones with a jade finish.”

Unfortunately, the renovation, which should have taken a few weeks to complete, stretched over months. With business going well, Manley didn’t want to compromise his other customers for a personal project.

“Between the weather, my knee injury and Janice changing her mind, the project took about six or seven months,” Manley says, “My kids were without their pool the whole summer.”

True colors

The finished product was well worth the wait. Subtle, alluring colors tie various elements of the pool together, from the tan-toned decking to the bird of paradise flowers. In addition, a stand-alone fire pit and scattered torches illuminate the detailed brickwork and dramatic fiber-optic lighting at night.

The most difficult part of the pool was the intricate brick coping, which was complemented by individually cut pieces of pavers. “We had well over a thousand cuts to give us the look we were searching for,” Manley says. “We put brick on the inside and outside, and then the cut pavers were put in between each brick. This stage of the process took almost three weeks to complete.”

Challenged by the raised areas around the pool and spa, Manley had to start the work from scratch. “With the renovation, we were challenged beyond any proper reasoning,” he says. “We had to figure out how to get all these pieces to mathematically fit on the beams and risers. That was a craftsman’s nightmare; however, that is what gave us such a quality finished product.”

To customize the rest of the pool, diamond-shaped inlays were placed throughout the tiling. He textured the pool’s interior with a pebble-sheen finish designed to fit his wife’s color scheme.

Manley’s crew also removed the pool enclosure, changed all the planters and installed soft lighting in the vessel and throughout the yard. As a result, a gentle shimmer emanates from the pristine deck and clear water at night, transporting guests to a turn-of-the-century courtyard on the Mediterranean Sea.

Sheer perfection

The most dramatic element of the project is the redefined waterfeature. To create its spacious, tiered style, the poolside wall, including the glass blocks, was removed, allowing space for a water wall, sconces, a sheer descent rainfall and several European fountainheads. A 4-by-8-foot piece of Plexiglas separates the spillover waterfeature from the pool.

The spa’s glass blocks, which strongly contributed to the dated feel of the pool, were replaced with another piece of Plexiglas. In this case, the Plexiglas houses etched art that reflects light at night. Though it was not redesigned as a spillover spa, the system can be pushed to force water over the glass divide.

“We also opened up the foot well and benches to provide an area where you can work out while you’re in the spa,” Manley says.

The aquascape is used by Manley’s son for water volleyball, basketball and other sports. Mom and Dad prefer to use it to entertain. To that end, the couple added new furniture, an outdoor speaker system and deck perimeter lighting, which casts a soft glow on the backyard.

The project cost between $12,000 and $15,000 in labor. However, the same renovation would have retailed for between $50,000 and $75,000. “It helped me realize what customers have to go through when building their pools,” Manley says. “My pool spent a lot of time sitting around empty, and it can be real stressful.”

Today, the renovation has become a faded memory — just like the ’80s