Design Team:
Steven Brenden
Steven Brenden Architect, LLC
Paradise Valley, Ariz.

Roger Soares II, SWD
Scottsdale, Ariz.

 What the judges thought
Water and stone colors are absolutely perfectly blended to go with the landscape and surround. The rusted steel panels and other earth tones are an extension of the architecture. The pool is positioned for sun, shade and privacy without cutting it off from views. — Jamie Scott, owner, Group Works, Wilton, Conn.

Earth ‘n metal: It was important to Brenden – the architect and owner of this home – that the pool add to the desert landscape without overpowering it or the abode. To this end, he and his wife chose a water-hole theme that would seamlessly merge pool with ground. The 14-foot-high retaining wall takes advantage of the yard’s existing slope. The drain scupper, aligned with the entry point to the pool area, provides water movement and sound that helps mask traffic noise. The jumping deck on the other side of the same wall is made of wood, with a wood ladder – all inspired by the floating decks that the Brendens used to play on in nearby lakes as children. This spot now provides their own children with a place to play. The 10-foot depth makes for safe diving. To maintain a relatively low profile for the 24-by-24-foot aquascape, he also designed a knife-edge stone detail around a portion of the pool. “So there’s not a lot of perimeter,” Brenden says. “The desert runs right up to the water on multiple sides, so it really limits the overall visual impact - you see water and desert.” He also designed the pool as a separate getaway from the home interior, rather than making it visible from the inside. “Our house isn’t gigantic, and a pool could just totally dominant your living room aesthetic if that’s where it was.”

Beautiful barrier: A planter wall next to the home creates a small patio space just outside a bedroom and separates the pool area so it feels more like a getaway. It doesn’t connect with the other raised wall to prevent the installation from being too monolithic. “They’re two freestanding walls that space kind of flows in between,” Brenden says. “It’s part of one of our design philosophies, which is not to build one solid mass of house, but to kind of pull it apart into the desert, so that there’s not a clear line between development and natural desert.” The raised walls appear to be veneered in steel to match the home’s cladding, however those actually are 2-by-4-foot tiles. A vertical stripe down the planter wall is finished in a glowing glass tile so it almost seems illuminated.

In the details: Sheets of grouted river pebble coat the pool, including the perimeter bench for those who prefer not to plunge into the 10-foot-deep water, left. “It looks like, if you were looking in the ground and you washed the dirt away, it would expose the rock,” Roger Soares says. The sheets are constructed so the pebbles interlock, ridding it of a straight grout line, but the crews made an extra effort to ensure a sense of randomness. “Sometimes, even with this type of tile, you can still see a seam,” Soares says. “But then my guys will cut it out and then hand-place a rock in so that everything fits in.” The thin granite knife edge separates pool from earth and almost creates the appearance of a slot overflow. The random plinths, capped in granite, serve as another sitting place and visually reference back to walking pads near the outdoor kitchen. At right, The large-format pool steps are finished in a tile that resembles the wood planks from the deck. The same tile that appears on the planter wall serves as an accent.

Nice destination: The patio provides a spot to stay close to the house, yet enjoy the backyard view.


Pumps/filters/controls/sanitation system/heater/lights: Pentair Aquatic Systems

Drain covers/fittings: Color Match Pool Fittings

Skimmers: Hayward Pool Products

Auto leveler: Waterline Controls

Tile: Iris U.S./Legno; Oceanside Glasstile; Apavisa

Waterfeature: Goodman Fabrications