THE CANVAS: Suburban sprawl meets the good earth

THE PALETTE: Diving rock, dangerous curves, a childhood dream

THE MASTERPIECE: Tahiti on the Hudson, teeming tropics

With more than 50 years’ combined experience in the pool industry, Mando and Rene Insignares are no strangers to winning pool design awards. Perhaps it’s because the husband-and-wife team is fortunate enough to work with a high-end clientele in Rockland County, N.Y., one of their primary service areas.

Or maybe it’s because they’re just that good.

This project speaks more to the latter. Though the builders were working with a budget larger than what’s typical for package pools, this is the only Pool & Spa News Masters of Design winner in the vinyl-liner pool category built for substantially less than six figures.

Nevertheless, the homeowner still had some lofty demands. Despite his mid-range price bracket, he wanted the backyard to be the sunny escape from suburbia he’d imagined since childhood, with a tropical lagoon as the centerpiece.

“I think when he was a kid, he’d seen something like this pool in a magazine and carried it in his mind ever since,” says Mando Insignares, president and lead designer of Cool Pool Inc. “He had his dream house; now he wanted the dream pool to go with it.”

The dream factory

Nestled in Congers, N.Y., a hamlet west of the Hudson River, the property is part of a trend toward the suburban development of the region’s farmland. Thus, there was none of the rocky terrain that the county was named for by the early settlers — only loose, tilled soil. Excavating the large pool wasn’t a problem.

Instead, Cool Pool’s challenge was to construct a free-form, vinyl-liner pool that met the client’s needs and tested the flex-wall boundary. “This customer knew exactly the shape he wanted. He actually drew it out for us,” Insignares says. “It was a matter of trying to take this picture in his mind and build it in his backyard.”

Making the vision a reality was going to be more difficult than it looked, especially because the client also wanted a plastic-walled pool. Insignares had worked with steel walls before, but was new to polymer flex. Based on his experience, he wasn’t sure a plastic wall could support the large degree of curvature that was being requested. Other builders told him it couldn’t be done.

But Insignares isn’t in the business of broken dreams, so he contacted his manufacturer to see if it was possible. As it turns out, the manufacturer was able to build custom panels per the builder’s unique specifications. The news was music to the client’s ears and cemented the deal for Cool Pool.

Slice of heaven

A vinyl-liner pool was the ideal choice for the homeowner, who does a lot of entertaining and is known for throwing large Fourth of July parties. He didn’t want neighborhood kids scratching their feet on rough plaster. In fact, this particular liner has a custom 40-mil gauge. What’s more, the extra-thick vinyl is without the glossy sheen of typical liners, which benefits the lagoon look.

Continuing the tropical theme is a three-tiered waterfall, largely constructed of three massive moss rocks, the biggest of which is 6 tons. The rocks had to be craned in and reinforced with concrete footing because of their size. Their color was chosen to match the concrete deck, all of which are accented by the complementary dark tones of the bluestone coping.

The homeowner, who had a bit of a green thumb, put the final touches on the project with his own landscaping. Between the weepy pines, budding mosses and vibrant dashes of flowers, the plant choices make an Eden out of the New York spring.

At $65,000, the pool demonstrates how a little slice of heaven is still within reach. For the Insignareses, it also turned into a big lead-generator. The couple has built pools for two of the homeowner’s sisters, and currently is working on projects for two other siblings.