Limitations often give rise to great creativity. For instance, pools with automatic covers had to be rectangular at one time. Fencing used to mean that a waterscape couldn’t be enjoyed from inside the home. In addition, waterfeatures were cumbersome to work around with a cover of any kind.

However, thanks to innovation and creativity by builders and manufacturers, this is no longer the case. Homeowners now have more options. Black fencing is less conspicuous, and automatic-cover lids can be concealed by covering it with the same material as the deck.

The following projects show how four builders took these ideas to the next level. By allowing the main design concept to dictate materials and layout, they achieve safe, yet elegant, end products.

Ron Coker

Founder, Master Pools by Artistic Pools


This fence wasn’t designed to keep children out of the yard. Instead, it was installed to keep people in.

Coker didn’t have much room to maneuver. The lot sat on a severe slope, and the home builder had erected a retaining wall. It dipped as far as 32 feet below, so that they could have flat area.

Yet the client wanted a pool large enough for lap swimming and a play area for his grandchildren. The aquascape also needed enough room for a sizable deck. “He wanted as much sitting area as possible,” Coker says.

“And, of course, I said to him, ‘This is a perfect place to have a vanishing edge,’” he adds. “[The lot] is sitting 100 feet above Lake Lanier. If you look through the trees, you’ll see water way in the background.”

Coker placed the rectangular vanishing-edge lap pool perpendicular to the home to maximize the existing space. Part of the pool juts in toward the house to add square footage for a play area. Coker raised the spa approximately 18 inches out of the ground to provide extra seating.

To add entertainment space, he brought the deck all the way to the edge of the lot and aligned it with the vanishing edge. He had to make an unusual decision: Place fencing on either side of the vanishing edge. The black wrought iron not only matched an existing fence, but it blended in better with the view. Plus, it fit in with the rest of the property’s clean yet classic materials.

Brick veneered the raised spa, while limestone formed the pool coping and lined the spillway. Crews installed a rough-sawn marble on the deck. “It’s just simple,” Coker says.

Randy Beard

President. Pure Water Pools

Costa Mesa, Calif.

A prominent surgeon and his wife bought a piece of property overlooking the back bay of Newport Beach, Calif. They had three young children. To accommodate their growing family, they built an elegant Cape Cod-style house.

The husband wanted a pool, but his wife argued against it. She was concerned about their children’s welfare. In the end, they decided to call Randy Beard, who helped evaluate their situation.

“As a salesperson, you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you don’t address pool safety. Believe me, it’s on the customer’s mind,” Beard says. He informed the parents about the latest safety features that could be installed on their pool, including an automatic cover, and door and subsurface alarms.

With the wife reassured, Beard embarked on the project. He designed a 16-by-32-foot rectangular, vanishing-edge pool that seems to melt into the horizon. The coping and surrounding raised walls are composed of Pennsylvania bluestone to accentuate the white woodwork of the house. Tiles of silver Idaho quartzite line the water’s edge, and the interior finish is a smoke-colored quartz.

Beard used cut pieces of bluestone on the walk-on lid trays to hide where the cover rolls out. Whenever the homeowners need it serviced, they remove the bolts and pick up the stone to access the cover. This construction is expensive, but they believe the resulting aesthetic appeal is worth the cost.

The couple also opted to install door chimes. That way, whenever someone exits into or enters from the pool area, musical notes ring throughout the house. The sound is even heard upstairs. In addition, the pool features a sonar alarm system as another safety layer. It utilizes subsurface sonar technology to detect small children falling into the water, but screens out “false alarms” such as wind, rain or toys.

Next to the pool is a 7-by-7-foot, half-moon spa. The overflow from the vanishing-edge side pours into a vertical trough, or a notch. To prevent accidents in either one, Beard added safety netting to both bodies of water.

He prides himself on the ease of use in all the protective layers in this project. “Good safety involves mechanisms that fit into a child’s day-to-day [activities],” Beard says.

Gary Duff

President, Gary Duff Designs

Holbrook, N.Y.

These homeowners wanted protection for their children and pets. So Duff did the seemingly impossible: He used isolation fencing to enhance the waterscape design. He created a solid backyard room feel, while the black wrought-iron product helps frame the view from the home.

To achieve a classic look that complements the architecture, Duff opted for symmetry in line. He placed the rectangular pool perpendicular to the house on axis with the large kitchen windows and front door. This also makes the most use of the area.

“The property was somewhat rectangular, with more depth than width,” he says. “We wanted to accentuate that and not split the property in half by running the pool parallel with the back of the house.” This left room for a grass play area to the left of the pool.

Duff wanted a focal point at the pool’s far end, so he and the clients chose a metallic statue reminiscent of the Venus de Milo. To accentuate the sculpture, Duff added a radius at that end of the pool and downlit it from the trees in back. “At night, when you turn the lights on, it reflects the statue in the pool,” he says.

A gazebo sits approximately halfway along the pool’s length. The structure’s copper roof turns to a patina color over time for an aged look. A gray stain over the exterior complements the bluestone.

The fence layout helps pull the whole scheme together. It encloses the area to create a new room, which is connected to the home with a path of bluestones set in the lawn. Duff thinks black wrought iron makes the most sense.

“Dark colors make things look smaller and less conspicuous,” he says. “If that wrought iron were white, it would be prominent and stop your eye from looking through it and appreciating the rest of the landscape.” He veneered the fence piers in Danish red brick, then capped them with bluestone. Rather than the same simple bullnose that he used for the coping, he edged it with a fancier ogee cut.

Whereas some people see isolation fencing as a hindrance, Duff was able to enhance his project with it. “It actually added another dimension or other detail to the aesthetics of the project,” he says. “It’s almost like adding moldings in a house — it just makes it that much more interesting and intriguing.”

Joe Donnelly

Owner, Complete Pools

Stilwell, Kan.

These homeowners were looking for a low-cost aquascape that offered moving water and room to play. To protect their children and keep out leaves, they opted for a mesh safety cover. It would do the job and cost less than the automatic version, says Zoe Frank, office manager at Complete Pools.

Donnelly designed the vinyl-lined gunite pool with a raised bond beam. Four sheet waterfalls spill from the wall. The clients requested steps and a swim-out, but they wanted them close to the home. A fan of the Roman-end pool, Donnelly offered an unusual twist by taking two 10-by-5-foot radiuses and putting them on one side. This left two “bump-outs” on the house side of the pool — one contains a set of stairs, the other a bench.

To help maneuver the cover around the waterfeature, Donnelly installed a cable system made by the manufacturer. He drilled holes into the raised wall and placed eyelet screws in each, level with where the cover would rest. The hooks from the cover attach to the eyelets, which can be removed in spring, so they don’t detract from the project’s appearance.

Donnelly veneered the bond beam with a precast stone. The broom-finished concrete deck and stamped-concrete coping kept the price down.