THE CANVAS: Tall timbers of the Pacific Northwest, a winning ticket, a taxing timetable
THE PALETTE: Cultured-stone accents, cascading waterfalls, warm cedar woods
THE MASTERPIECE: A rustic retreat, country-lodge hospitality, an emerald oasis tucked into a rugged setting
If you won the lottery, what kind of pool would you build? That’s a question one of Rick Ashabraner’s clients knew exactly how to answer.
A former Boeing employee, the homeowner was one of the first winners of the Washington state lottery in the 1980s. “As luck would have it, he actually found out he won the lottery the day before Boeing laid him off,” says Ashabraner, inground projects manager at Aqua Quip in Seattle, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder.
A conservative spender, the newly minted millionaire’s most extravagant aquatic purchase was an aboveground pool. “He was frugal and wise enough to manage his money in the beginning,” Ashabraner says.
After a series of smart investments in the 1990s, his family convinced him it was time to build their dream home — and their ultimate pool. He opted for the inground vinyl-liner pool because of “the horror stories people were telling him about concrete pools,” Ashabraner says.
“He had experience with the vinyl-liner [aboveground] pool, and he trusted it,” he says. “He also had experience with our company. The fact that we were promoting it made him feel even more comfortable.”
Rolling the dice
The $75,000 installation only required about 21/2 weeks of man-hours. But it was broken up over the course of more than a year because that’s how long it took to construct his home in Graham, Wash. “It was time-consuming because we’d work for a few days, then we’d leave for a couple of months,” Ashabraner recalls.
“For instance, we would dig the hole for the pool, pour our concrete footing, pipe everything and leave,” he says. “Then the room had to be backfilled with pea gravel. The home builder filled the room and poured concrete over it, which became the foundation of the house.”
The pool wing of the house was built with timber-peg construction that used cedar support beams to give the interior a rustic lodge appeal. Ashabraner says the architecture is indicative of the Pacific Northwest. “We have giant cedars and fir trees everywhere up here,” he says.
The owner knew he wanted a free-form pool. In fact, he said he wanted it to be anything but a cookie-cutter shape. So Ashabraner suggested a look that combines radius curves, square corners and straight lines to give the vessel a unique design.
The entire outside of the steel-walled pool was shaped with wooden forms. The crew set its standard footing, then carried up concrete pilings from the footing to support the poured wall behind the stone façade.
The pool walls are raised 20 inches out of the exposed aggregate deck, which serves as much for aesthetic reasons as it does for utility. “By raising [the pool] out of the ground, it gave them seating all the way around it for entertaining,” Ashabraner says. “The room is used for parties, so the entire pool becomes a waterfeature.”
The perimeter was faced with gray cultured stones (artificial rocks), intended to match much of the stone-work throughout the rest of the 8,000-square-foot house.
A 41/2-foot raised bond-beam waterfeature, made from solid concrete for strength, was added. “We put a 3-foot custom cascade waterfall in the middle that drops straight down,” he says. “Then we put installed custom cascade arch falls on each side of it to heighten the effect.”
The pool is heated by an underground geothermal system that’s used throughout the home and beneath the pool house. Similar to a heat pump, the costly system uses heat from an external source, but draws it from the ground rather than ambient air.
All things considered, Ashabraner says he realized the project was something special from the beginning. “Sometimes I know a project is truly great before we start because of the vision we have for the pool,” he says.