THE CANVAS: The majesty of Phoenix’s Camelback Mountain, a home’s bold vertical lines
THE PALETTE: Natural dry-stacked field stone, imported hand-carved stone mural, a three-sided vanishing edge
THE MASTERPIECE:Fearless fusion of contemporary/ Asian/ Southwestern styling, a minimalist slice of heaven
This project started with well-traveled clients who wanted a contemporary home and pool with an Asian flair. “They had lived in Bangkok for 10 to 15 years,” says Michael Wetzel, AIA, an associate with architectural firm Swaback Partners, PLLC.
Along with a sleek design, Wetzel placed an emphasis on the pool’s functionality. The clients wanted to use it for lap swimming and to entertain young grandchildren who needed a place to splash safely in the water.
The aquascape played a significant role in enhancing the home’s architectural appeal as well. “The shape of the pool is defined by the [linear style] of the house,” Wetzel says. “The clients also wanted the outside and inside spaces to become one.”
To accomplish that, Wetzel used bold lines, natural materials and a dry black pebble garden to create a contemporary/ Southwestern/ Asian feel. Unconventional vertical and horizontal planes showcase an art mural from Thailand, while a three-sided, vanishing-edge pool provides an intriguing reflective quality.
The pool’s raised contemporary design complements the home’s linear architecture.
The synthesis comes courtesy of the vessel’s 24-inch elevation. The elevation helped incorporate one of the most distinctive features of the architecture: a series of majestic, stacked-stone pillars.
A three-sided vanishing edge enhances the pool’s sleek lines. One is located outside the lounging/wading area, another wraps around the end of the pool and sits on the opposite side of the spa, while a third is in front of the spa. To create a solid sheet that would emit more sound than the other two, the vanishing edge near the spa was outfitted with a colored aluminum strip just underneath the edge.
Each negative edge needed to be level with the other. “If they weren’t, the water would show you where you made your mistake,” says pool builder Jim Stannard, owner of Natural Settings Pools, Spas & Waterfeatures.
A vanishing edge on the outside of the wading/lounging area spills toward the house. While it appears to fall into a black pebble garden, it actually flows into a trough lined with black tiles. The effect creates a moving waterfeature to view from the home.
“I think the black intensifies the mystery of the pool,” Wetzel says.
The dry pebble garden, another Asian element, is shaped in a radius to help soften the entire waterscape. It sits a scant 5 feet or so from the residence. “We thought it would be of more interest if it were curved,” Wetzel says. “At one point, we did have it squared and it just seemed too harsh that close to the house.”
Inside the pool, a flagstone sit-down table with black umbrella serves a playful, as well as practical, purpose: While the clients enjoy refreshing drinks, the table appears to be suspended in the water.
A work of art
The pool’s main focal point, a hand-carved stone mural from Thailand, sits on the back side of the aquascape. Its sea life icons are framed by the same stacked stone that’s used for the columns of the house. Fire pots atop similar columns on each end of the mural illuminate the wall at night.
A 60-foot-long lap pool lined with a black aggregate finish is located between the wading/lounging area and art wall. On one end sits a square spa with its own set of entry steps rising up from grade. The designers placed it directly outside the master bedroom.
To merge interior and exterior spaces, Wetzel created an indoor/outdoor dining room. He placed it near the backyard and enclosed it with solid, retractable glass doors.
Strategically placed desert vegetation sets the stage for Camelback Mountain in the background. “The view of the mountain [looks] completely different from [inside] the pool, and the experience of the house is also completely different from the project because you’re submerged in water,” Wetzel says.
“They say it’s such a great experience to be out there with the calm water, watching the sun set and looking at the mountain.”