Photo by Jamie Mitchell

Because the bright blue water flows into an outdoor alcove containing floor-to-ceiling windows. Because the homeowner insisted that his backyard showpiece be in vinyl. Because the builder gave it a chance, even though he wasn’t sure a package pool would work. Because the pool’s curvy lines seem to dance with those of the home. Because the view of the water is best seen inside from the bench of a baby grand piano. Because the home’s foundation had to be fortified to help support the pool. Because there’s a perfect visual transition from inside the house to the Arkansas River in the background. Because the builder added a separate portable spa to warm up those cold winter nights. Because the spa’s gazebo matches the rest of the house. Because when’s the last time you saw a vinyl-liner pool so completely integrated with the home’s architecture?

David Burton just didn’t know.

A potential client had approached the Arkansas pool builder wanting to imitate an architectural theme he had seen in Florida. The man called it “Florida or California stucco” architecture. The client’s house, still in the design stages, would be white with a blue tile roof and very simple lines. And he wanted a vinyl-liner pool.

That wouldn’t be a problem, figured Burton, who is CEO of Burton Pools & Spas. Then he found out that the house would wrap around itself to form an alcove in the backyard. The homeowner wanted the pool to squeeze its way into the alcove. He could then sit next to the window at his baby grand piano, and look at the pool and then farther back to the Arkansas River.

To pull this off, the pool would have to sit within 16 inches of the house in some spots. Burton had been building and designing vinyl-liner pools since 1978, when he and brother Dan started the Fort Smith company. But he’d never done this before.

“After I looked at the job, I told him, ‘You know, you need a concrete pool,’” Burton recalls. He saw two challenges: preventing the pool from undermining the home’s foundation and configuring a set of standard wall panels to match up with the lines and curves of the house.

“I proceeded to explain to him that some of the things we had were prefabricated and that I could do a lot of things, but I couldn’t do everything,” Burton says.

But the homeowner, who acted as general contractor on the job, insisted. “He said, ‘I’d really like to have a vinyl pool because that’s what my brother-in-law has and he talks about how easy they are to take care of,’” Burton relates. “The customer wanted a concrete-pool look, but he wanted to use vinyl to make it low-maintenance.”

It’s hard to turn down a customer who wants something so bad, says Burton. “Maybe the customer had more faith in me than I did,” he says. “That helps.”

Convinced to give it a try, Burton first showed the plans to the home architect/engineer. The home’s foundation ended up being altered to prevent damage from the pool.

“Typically, in this part of the country a footing would only need to be about 16 inches deep and 2 feet wide,” Burton says. “[Here,] we had to pour footings that were 5 feet deep around the area that’s recessed up into the house. We made a barrier of concrete all the way down past the bottom of the pool.” This way, the home would remain stable while the pool was excavated.

To keep the house steady, workers also had to gingerly excavate the alcove area by hand.

Burton then turned to his polymer package-pool supplier to formulate exactly which panels to use in configuring the pool. The company was able to make the pool with standard panels, so no custom panels were necessary. A 71/2-foot radius sweeps around one part of the alcove.

Because the calculations were so close, Burton and his crews had to fine-tune the panel combination once out in the field to make it fit. “We had to add a special 1-foot panel on one side to make it work,” he says.

The tight quarters also required expert coordination between the pool and home contractors. Burton’s staff built the shell after the home’s foundation, footings and floors were poured. When the home exterior was completed, they came back to finish the pool.

Together, Burton and the homeowner chose the finishing touches: a blue liner pattern featuring a classic tile line, with tile images scattered throughout the floor. They selected this liner to play off the blue tile roof. For a monochrome look, the customer preferred white polymer steps to match the white cool deck. Cantilever coping added the right amount of crispness.

While Burton’s specialty is more natural-looking designs, the client really wanted a simple, clean form. So Burton decided against substantial softscaping. Instead, small white planters are scattered throughout the deck and alcove, to add touches of color and softness. To keep the design simple, Burton thought he should avoid too many interruptions in the deck, so he decided against including a waterfeature. The homeowner also didn’t want to interrupt the view to the river, so this suited him fine.

Who could argue with the results?


Photo by Jamie Mitchell