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Reading to Reshape My Mental Outlook

By Mike Farley

MikeFarleyBookNotes4aLast year was the worst I’ve endured since I was a novice in the pool and spa industry. At the time, I found myself taking comfort in the fact that I wasn’t alone, that the recession was to blame for my ebbing sales and that we were all

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Humility and Grandeur

By Mike Farley

Whenever I work with clients who want to make an artistic statement with their watershape or landscape designs, I commonly start by asking, “What’s your inspiration?”

That simple question cuts right to the heart of the matter:  It prompts them to discuss their memories, preferences, influences and tastes while also encouraging them to think in artistic and even emotional terms about what they want.  This gets them excited about the process – and gives me some much-needed

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Swimming in Harmony with Nature

By Mike Farley

MikeFarleyBookNotes3bDid you know that there's a strong trend toward creating ponds that are made for swimming in Germany and Austria? That revelation came by way of a terrific book I just finished — Natural Swimming Pools: Inspiration for Harmony with Nature by Michael Littlewood (Schiffer Publishing, 2004).

Littlewood is an American landscape designer who

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Shades of Paradise

201007MF0By Mike Farley

One of the most common things I hear from my clients is that they’ve been inspired by experiences they’ve had at vacation resorts and want to recapture those good times in their own backyards.  

I’ve heard this often enough that I keep an eye out for volumes on resort design as I wander through bookstores and hunt for material online.  It’s a narrow subject, of course, so I don’t run across too many relevant titles.  That’s why I was immediately pleased to find Paradise by Design by Bill Bensley (Periplus Edition, 2008).  

My pleasure quickly turned to delight:  The book is certainly about designing resorts – but it

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Architectural Thought

201005MF0By Mike Farley    

It might sound a bit strange to put it this way, but when it comes to design work, one of the most useful things you can do is to think about how you think about design.

If you’re like me and have been working as a watershape designer for more years than you care to count, much of what you do is now second nature.  But if you think back to the way it was when you first started – and if you’re anything like me – little or none of what you did felt natural or easy.  In my case, I had to process every step methodically, sometimes awkwardly and even painfully on occasion.

That’s why I wish, back in those early days, that I’d

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Packaging Your Finest Work

By Mike Farley

MikeFarleyBookNotes3aOne of the greatest contrasts I’ve found between watershapers from the pool and spa industry and watershapers with backgrounds in landscape architecture is the way representatives of the two groups handle their portfolios.

Landscape architects are taught that

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Change From Within

201004MF0By Mike Farley

So much has been written and said about our current economic situation that it can get pretty depressing.  One thing I hear and read over and over is that “Many people are just stuck, waiting and hoping for things to change.”  

I can’t help noticing that, for lots of people in government and major industries as well as in small businesses and sole proprietorships, this approach means doing the exact same things they were doing when their days were fat with opportunities.  Personally, I think that’s crazy!

I believe if I want my situation to change, good times or bad, I must change myself from within and can’t afford to wait for external forces to push me toward prosperity – especially not these days, when nobody really knows what’s

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Selling the Dream

By Mike Farley

MikeFarleyBookNotes2bOne of the questions I always ask prospective clients is, “Why are you investing in a pool and not a recreational vehicle, boat or vacation home?” Obviously, I’m not interested in having them rethink the decision to purchase a watershape; rather, I’m trying to draw them more deeply into

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Steve Jobs: Master of the Presentation

By Mike Farley

MikeFarleyBookNotes2aYou hear it all the time these days: Now is the time to improve all aspects of what you do for a living. I’ve taken that message to heart and, in striving to upgrade all facets of my work as a watershaper, have come to a somewhat shocking realization: For all of the countless presentations I’ve made to clients, I’ve never

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Concrete Possibilities

By Mike Farley

Concrete is an utterly amazing material, but it’s so widely used – so pervasive in our world – that it’s easy for the average person to take it for granted and barely give it a second thought.  

As watershapers, of course, we don’t have the luxury of underestimating concrete:  With the sole exception of water, it’s far and away the most essential of all the materials we use across a huge range of applications.  We simply could not do what we do without it.

But how often do we deploy concrete in purely aesthetic ways?  Some of us use artificial rock or specialized decking treatments, but isn’t it mostly true that we build our structures from concrete and then systematically cover it up with plaster, stone, tile or some other surfacing material?   

It didn’t take long for me to start

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A Place to Begin

201002MF0By Mike Farley

It’s a bit hard for me to believe it, but it’s now been fully 11 years since I attended my first Genesis 3 design school.  One of the events I remember most clearly from that first session was (among many others) David Tisherman laying out a bunch of books and recommending that we should immediately obtain and read all of them.  

Always looking for a firm foothold, I asked him which one I should read first, and, without hesitation, he pointed to Janson's History of Art:  The Western Tradition.  I didn’t act on his advice right away, but I eventually acquired a copy and started reading – and it took me nearly

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Meeting and Fooling the Eye

By Mike Farley

MikeFarleyBookNotes1fAlthough we might not commonly think of watershaping and exterior design in this way, a great many of the details we shape are designed to fool the eye or somehow create illusions. Consider the pools that are made to appear so natural that they don’t seem to have been man-made — or vanishing edges that conjure the impression that

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Modern Landscapes for Living

By Mike Farley

MikeFarleyBookNotes1mBy now, we all know that pools and certain other watershape forms have been around since ancient times. It’s my strong suspicion, however, that most of us who design and build backyard swimming pools today would fail a pop quiz about

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