Built circa 1912, the California Craftsman-style house had been registered as a historic home. The original owners were renowned for helping create Los Angeles’ infrastructure — and for their interest in horticulture. So both the home and grounds were registered, which meant some trees couldn’t be pulled and the poolscape had to be realistically integrated with the home.

The clients originally requested a freeform design, along with a koi pond and seating area nearby. “I talked them out of [the freeform pool],” says Mark Goldschmidt. “I thought that the space warranted something very square. One of the things about Craftsmen, they did a lot of freeform kinds of gardens in the day, but they really liked rectangles and squares.”

But how could Goldschmidt make a pool and spa look like they fit, considering that when the home was built, one of these amenities didn’t yet exist, and the other was generally only seen on a community level?

The solution lay largely in the tile. It took a collaboration — the homeowners, landscape designer, pool builder, and Ojai, Calif.-based tile supplier RTK Studios — to select style and colors reminiscent of the early 1900s.

Then Goldschmidt and builder Don Ward composed this waterscape, complete with a koi pond sitting area, to look like it had always been there.

The koi pond’s footprint forms a C, with built-in seating wrapped around a gas fire pit. To give the pond a fountain-like feel, the team placed bronze emitters and tile along the back wall. 

Ward planted papyrus and water lilies, selected by the homeowner, to match the yellow flowers on the pool’s tile line. The plants are mostly ornamental, with the majority of filtration accomplished mechanically.

The spa was made to look like a fountain, and here, the tile takes center stage. The hand-made squares are a bright, almost apple green for the field, with olive used on the border.

At first, this color scheme was a hard sell. “I was looking at these greens that don’t seem to have any relationship to each other,” Goldschmidt says. “My wife always taught me, ‘Don’t wear greens that don’t go together.’”

But RTK brought Goldschmidt on board after telling him they had discussed the combination with the homeowners, who liked it. “I was so happy to be wrong,” Goldschmidt says.

Rounding out the waterscape, the team selected brick to create panels in the deck. A cast-in-place concrete was used to create the coping, which would harken back to the days when all pools were made of concrete. For the vessel’s interior, a custom-colored plaster lends further authenticity.

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