THE CANVAS: Nostalgic bungalow living, shadowy woodlands, endless canopy of green
THE PALETTE: Teal blue concrete, fire-red brick, black anodized aluminum
THE MASTERPIECE: Quiet spiritual retreat, sophisticated swimming hole, ultimate hideaway
Pool builders are called upon to face all kinds of construction challenges, including untenable slopes, tiny backyards and poor soil conditions. Seldom are they asked to build a vessel in the middle of the woods. But that was the challenge facing Bill Kantor, managing partner at Benchmark Pools.
“It was a full, thick forest and we carved the pool right out of it,” Kantor says. “We removed about two dozen trees of various sizes, the biggest being 18 inches across.”
The pool’s overall design was conceived with project coordinator Tony Marshall. The idea was to create a surprise oasis one might come across while hiking through the woods.
“The [clients] live in a small cottage completely surrounded by trees and they wanted something that looks like a pond or a swimming hole,” Kantor says. “The idea of a black-bottom pool completed it. We liked the way it reflected light late in the day.”
The big idea
The pool was a basic rectangle, which is what the homeowners were seeking. They requested clean, crisp geometric lines to give the project an air of sophistication.
While the black fiberglass shell provided an upscale look, Kantor made sure the clients were aware of the possible problems inherent with colored fiberglass. In this case, the manufacturer created a custom color gel coat, which cost a little extra.
But that was just the beginning. What started as a simple 8-by-12-foot structure to shelter the pump and filter turned into a 10-by-40-foot pool house/cabana. “We kind of planted the thought in the customers’ minds,” Kantor says. But once the idea was there, it kept evolving: a sitting room, then a wet bar, toilet, vanity. …”
The architectural style of the pool house was based on the main residence — a 1950s-era Sears bungalow. The main house sported a big, red brick patio, which became a continuous design theme throughout the entire project.
“They already had a red brick patio,” Kantor says. “So we created a 12-by-4-foot bridge to the pool area and just carried [the brick] the rest of the way.”
The brick portion of the deck then segues into custom-colored, stamped concrete.
In addition to forming a visual tie with the house, the brick deck also has a hidden purpose: It holds an automatic cover. Originally, the pool was to have infinity edges on all four sides, but the idea turned out to be too cost-prohibitive.
As an alternative, Kantor built the pool so the water came nearly to the top.
“We could have done the typical installation where the cover is sandwiched between the deck and the shell to hide the tracks, but because of the water level, it would have flooded the box,” he says. “We needed an on-deck installation.”
Kantor turned to a cover manufacturer for help. Together, they devised a system whereby the mechanism and box would be placed beneath the slightly raised, red brickdeck.
The shelves covering the mechanism are stainless steel trays measuring approximately 24-by-24-inches, held in by a bracket. The bricks were laid loosely atop the trays so that a service technician can easily reach the cover mechanism by removing them from the deck.
The cover manufacturer had developed a recessed track that is installed flush with the concrete deck. “It’s literally down in the concrete,” Kantor says.
Two more things were done to further disguise the tracks. Because the pool deck was stamped concrete, false tracks were created parallel to the width of the vessel the same distance away from the edge as the real tracks, which run parallel to its length. This furthered the geometric look that the customers prefer.
“It frames it and fools your eye,” Kantor says.
Next, the crew powder-coated the tracks. They needed to blend in better with the custom bluish teal color that was chosen for the stamped concrete.
The cover posed one final difficulty: Without a raised track, it would drag across the deck. “The worst thing you can have happen is deck drag,” Kantor says.
“It creates a lot of wear and tear [on the cover], and is hard on the motor,” he adds.
To solve the problem, a spa air blower was installed on the equipment pad and connected to water drains under the cover. When the automatic cover is turned on, the blowers activate and literally levitate the cover as it moves over the pool.
The deck is built on 6-foot pilings set into the ground below the frost level. Raised bond beams around the pool perimeter help support the structure. The brick steps leading back to the home are part of the bond beam.
The finishing touch was adding planters to the deck.
“We put 18-inch planters on the inside of the fence to relieve the harshness of all that concrete,” Kantor says. “There is dune grass on the outside of the fence that acts as a buffer to blend things in.”
Final result: a secret getaway in the forest. It’s a project that contrasts with, and complements, the sylvan surroundings.