The owners of this home wanted a small body of water for dipping and to accent their backyard. The Malones answered their request with a “spool,” which is a small pool or oversized spa, depending on how you look at it.

They shaped the 15-by-22-foot free-form by working around existing rock and plants. Pre-existing boulders bookend the steps leading up to the house, and the palo verde trees came with the site.

“We scraped along the existing outcropping, got it as deep as we could and that was it,” Deborah Malone says.

Though many might expect the clean, contemporary Southwest home to showcase a rectangular vessel, the Malone team went against conventional wisdom. “The boulders are more irregular, sculpted and natural. A rectangle would be an unnatural shape,” Deborah says.

They also nestled the spool at a lower elevation than the house. “The adjacent neighbor, who is much higher than them, can’t look down into their pool area,” Deborah says. “We created privacy in a non-private area.”

By finishing the pool with a black pebble interior, the Malones included a part of nature that most designers don’t consider. “We basically brought the sky into the pool,” Deborah says.

They also managed to bring the inside outside. Flagstone flooring runs throughout the entire house, and stone also accents the inside fireplace and coffered ceiling. Therefore, a flagstone deck and stonelike waterline tile serve as ideal counterpoints to the pool.