When designer/builder Rick Chafey entered this rooftop pool and spa for consideration in our 2016 Masters of Design gallery, we kept asking: Is this really a house — as in, people live there?
Indeed, it is, built at one of Phoenix’s most picturesque landmarks, Camelback Mountain. The architecture shows the fluidity displayed by the natural masterpiece in the backdrop, only achieved with long, contemporary lines. When designing the pool, Chafey and Brett Blauvelt of Gilbert, Ariz.-based Red Rock Pools and Spas, a Genesis member, sought first and foremost to make the pool an integral part of that architecture, rather than an accent to it.
This project was selected as an online honoree in the Masters of Design gallery. Here, we take a closer look at a waterscape that combines technical mastery with design sensitivity.
Ice overhead: Chafey and Blauvelt made sure the pool and spa combination was not approached as an afterthought. Before they joined the team, the plan was to construct the house with a 2-½-foot-deep structure to support the pool, then design the waterscape afterward. But this would only leave enough space for about 1 foot of pool depth without changing the architectural concept. “That building has some pretty dominant horizontal sight lines,” Chafey says. “We wanted to make sure we could maintain those through the pool and upper deck area so, when you took a view of the house, it fit seamlessly.” As the following pages show, they found a way to have a 3-½-foot-deep pool and maintain those lines. Acrylic panels on the outer pool walls enhance viewing between the water and ground level, and visually tie back to clear balcony railings used throughout the property. The home was designed by C.P. Drewett, AIA, of Drewett Works, and built by Brimley Development, both of Scottsdale.
Refined concept: The long, narrow pool/spa combination melds with the strong horizontal lines of the architecture. Lautner edges and fire features added a contemporary touch to the simple rectangular waterscape. The spa sits at the far end and features the same edge detail, so it all looks like one body of water. “We really didn’t want to separate the two bodies elevation-wise,” Chafey says. “We wanted them to look like a seamless body of water.” To accomplish this, the team cast a ½-inch stainless steel slot into the pool/spa dam wall. This accommodates the overflow from both. But when the spa is in use, its water stops overflowing, so its level drops approximately ⅛ inch. The system then just recirculates the heated water rather than pulling from the shared perimeter overflow gutters. Meanwhile, the pool can remain in overflow mode without cold and hot water mixing. A sunshelf in the foreground sits in about 7 inches of water.
Details in azure: Chafey and Blauvelt chose an intense blue glass tile to convey a richness that would have otherwise required significantly more water depth to achieve. “We wanted to stick with the theme, but we really wanted it to be obvious from the ground that you weren’t just looking through a glass panel and seeing nothing,” Chafey says. “The look is pretty impressive with that color of blue coming through the panel.” Crews took steps to make the benches as comfortable as possible, such as rounding all corners and recessing some of the jets so they would not dig into the back.
Aesthetic foundation: To make the pool seem all of a piece while gaining maximum pool/spa depth, the team built it to support itself and even part of the abode. Because Red Rock joined the team while the home was still being designed, they could slightly alter the specifications for the area above the garage, where the pool would go. Chafey had the general contractor build the front columns of the home to a certain height, then the pool floor would sit on top. Crews built what they called a “dance floor shoring system” to help form the poured-concrete floor. “Once it cures, we take all that shoring out, and now the pool itself is spanning the distance from column to column,” Chafey says. All equipment sits in a room below.
Finishing touches: The fire pits sit atop support columns for the home. Inside the fire feature are polished fire-glass pebbles. Behind the marble slab on the spa side, loungers can place bar stools so they can eat, drink, and converse with those enjoying the hydrotherapy.