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The homeowners had waited decades to revamp their backyard and came to the project with high expectations about how their new spa, fountain and deck would look. Now it was up to Grant Smith to solve a few tricky technical issues while making the most of the distant views.
The homeowners had waited decades to revamp their backyard and came to the project with high expectations about how their new spa, fountain and deck would look.  Now it was up to Grant Smith to solve a few tricky technical issues while making the most of the distant views.
By Grant Smith

It all started in the years following World War II, when large parcels of undeveloped suburban land were carved into tracts in which, all too often, as many homes as possible were included to accommodate huge population influxes. In a nutshell, this is why so many of the lots in places like southern California are relatively small.

We do lots of our work in these “bedroom communities,” and I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked to shoehorn full-featured pools and spas into tiny backyards with limited access. It can be done – we at Aqua-Link Pools & Spas (Carlsbad, Calif.) frequently tackle small-yard projects – but each of them carries

Designing and building any pool in close proximity to a body of water has its challenges. But if you start by focusing on one primary goal, writes William Drakeley, you'll find that the rest of the tasks involved in these technically demanding projects will become much more manageable.
Designing and building any pool in close proximity to a body of water has its challenges.  But if you start by focusing on one primary goal, writes William Drakeley, you'll find that the rest of the tasks involved in these technically demanding projects will become much more manageable.
By William Drakeley

As watershapers, we all have one common goal in mind: We don’t ever want our concrete pools, spas, fountains or waterfeatures – whatever it is we’ve just finished building – to move at any time, in any way at all.

This is true no matter the physical or geological circumstances. On a slope, on the flat, elevated above a parking garage or set on rock or in sand or clay, wherever we’re working, we follow

10 3 farley video artBy Mike Farley

I consider myself fortunate to work in a part of the country where the soil holds few mysteries. There’s a lot of clay, which means we make our shells stronger than you typically do in the sandy soils of Florida, but we don’t generally have the sorts of steep slopes where you have to worry about having a pool

The project started with a touch of mystery, says Chuck Baumann, but not knowing the name of the client up front was no barrier to defining the site's potential -- or to asking for an expanded budget that would take full advantage of breathtaking views of San Francisco and its bay.
The project started with a touch of mystery, says Chuck Baumann, but not knowing the name of the client up front was no barrier to defining the site's potential -- or to asking for an expanded budget that would take full advantage of breathtaking views of San Francisco and its bay.
By Chuck Baumann

Some of the most intriguing projects begin with an element of mystery.

I received a call from a prominent local designer who informed me that he was putting together a Dream Team for a special client and a special site – but for now, no name would be attached: All we were to receive was a reference number (15-LLC) and a location along with a preliminary plan and some photographs. I wasn’t alone in receiving this preview: Other top-tier exterior-design professionals had been

The homeowner saw his backyard as an incurable disaster, but Shane LeBlanc found great potential on its open slope -- as well as a golden opportunity to test out some unique design concepts he figured he could use in transforming the unadorned space into something truly spectacular.
The homeowner saw his backyard as an incurable disaster, but Shane LeBlanc found great potential on its open slope -- as well as a golden opportunity to test out some unique design concepts he figured he could use in transforming the unadorned space into something truly spectacular.
By Shane LeBlanc

We may have wrapped up the project discussed here more than five years ago, but I still see this backyard almost every time I take clients around to see examples of our work. The way I figure it, there’s no better way to start a portfolio tour than by knocking prospects’ socks off.

There’s lots of cool stuff going on here, some of which can readily be seen: the sweeping, Lautner-style perimeter-overflow edge around much of the free-form pool; the glorious water-on-water vanishing edge overlooking a large pond; a nice, full-featured spa; and the floating

The clients wanted to add a pool to the existing features of their large backyard. Kurt Kraisinger was happy to oblige, but he had a grander vision for reorganizing their entire space around a core fire feature and had to figure out a way to persuade them to come along for the ride.
The clients wanted to add a pool to the existing features of their large backyard.  Kurt Kraisinger was happy to oblige, but he had a grander vision for reorganizing their entire space around a core fire feature and had to figure out a way to persuade them to come along for the ride.
By Kurt Kraisinger

It’s been my good fortune through the years to have worked with some wonderful clients who’ve inspired me to take the extra step, think in different ways and do everything possible to make them happy.

This family was on that level: They love entertaining friends and relations, yet more than anything, the four of them enjoy spending time together – a throwback to the “Leave It to Beaver” spirit of the 1950s and ’60s. At every turn, they were easygoing and patient in ways that made

When the homeowner suddenly (and completely) changed his mind about this project's direction, it was easy to slide into a new groove, says Andrew Kaner, simply because the fresh start offered so many opportunities to transform the pool, deck and views from so-so to spectacular.
When the homeowner suddenly (and completely) changed his mind about this project's direction, it was easy to slide into a new groove, says Andrew Kaner, simply because the fresh start offered so many opportunities to transform the pool, deck and views from so-so to spectacular.
By Andrew Kaner

Did you ever have a client who knew exactly what he or she wanted in a project, only to change direction once he or she heard the price? That happened with the poolscape discussed in this article – but with an unusual twist.

The homeowner, a prominent South Florida businessperson, had purchased the waterfront property with its existing pool. And he wasn’t finished: He also purchased two neighboring homes, flattening one to make way for a sculpture garden and setting up the other as staff housing. When we saw the site for the first time, the main residence was

Taking a chance with someone who wasn't yet his client, Skip Phillips sketched up an alternative to a proposed pool renovation and ended up completely transforming a large backyard space. It was suddenly a major project -- and then came a long list of efficiency-oriented details!
Taking a chance with someone who wasn't yet his client, Skip Phillips sketched up an alternative to a proposed pool renovation and ended up completely transforming a large backyard space.  It was suddenly a major project -- and then came a long list of efficiency-oriented details!
By Skip Phillips

I’ve noticed through the years that, from my perspective at least, some of my favorite projects come with the best stories. The poolscape seen here is definitely one of these.

The client started things off by purchasing a house in an ultra-high-end neighborhood, then personalized it with all sorts of details, materials and finishes that turned the existing house into an extremely comfortable Country French-style estate. The one element it lacked, he figured, was a nice swimming pool.

While he was considering his options, the home next door – one with

Working on a steeply sloping site above a Texas lake, Mike Farley ran into a bizarre local rule that knocked him back a couple steps -- literally. But that episode didn't keep him from providing his clients and their kids with more fun and features than they had ever imagined possible.
Working on a steeply sloping site above a Texas lake, Mike Farley ran into a bizarre local rule that knocked him back a couple steps -- literally.  But that episode didn't keep him from providing his clients and their kids with more fun and features than they had ever imagined possible.
By Mike Farley

One of the important lessons I learned as a young watershaper is that I am not a surveyor.

Working on a pool design in the hills south of California’s Napa Valley many, many years ago, I found myself on a sloping lot, broke out my line level and figured I could, with some patience and care, map all of the relevant elevations and develop a suitable design based on my observations of the contours.

As it turned out, I was

The pool and its spa may have simple shapes, says Jimmy Reed, but when they're finished as boldly as these are with glass and stone tile and custom-cut granite edging, you learn fast that basic contours pose unique challenges when it comes to producing visually flawless surfaces.
The pool and its spa may have simple shapes, says Jimmy Reed, but when they're finished as boldly as these are with glass and stone tile and custom-cut granite edging, you learn fast that basic contours pose unique challenges when it comes to producing visually flawless surfaces.
By Jimmy Reed

If I’ve learned anything through the years, it’s that a successful, truly satisfying project generally requires a good client and, quite often, a great project team.  What the good client was after in the project discussed here was pretty simple – that is, an oval-shaped pool to go along with a large, oval-shaped shade structure another contractor was to install alongside it.  

Making a fine start, the client called in Skip Phillips of

5 2 farley video artBy Mike Farley

Safety is never far from my mind as I design for my clients, but as important as it is, it’s seldom the only thing on my mind as a project comes together.

In fact, balancing the need for features we must include for safety’s sake with our everyday passion about never compromising on aesthetics is something I consider with every detail.  Whether it’s the extent to which

The position and basic shape of the pool may have been predetermined, writes Scott Cummings, but the visual drama he added with his finish selections and a perimeter-overflow/vanishing-edge design made all the difference in optimizing the site's cool water-on-water views.
The position and basic shape of the pool may have been predetermined, writes Scott Cummings, but the visual drama he added with his finish selections and a perimeter-overflow/vanishing-edge design made all the difference in optimizing the site's cool water-on-water views.
By Scott Cummings

When we get involved in backyard projects, it’s rare these days that we don’t have a fairly high level of creative control:  We’re the ones who figure out where to place the pool, what shape it should have, how it should be finished and what should surround it with respect to the hardscape and landscaping and even the furnishings. 

That’s why it’s a bit funny that this is the second in a pair of projects we’ve recently published through WaterShapes in which many of the fundamental shots were called by others – in this case by a talented home-construction firm that brought us in after the footprint for the pool and spa had been

Working atop a rocky prominence through a harsh winter on a short schedule? It was enough to make Kurt Kraisinger take a unique approach to the project, drawing support from near and far to get things done -- from extensive site preparation through to on-time completion.
Working atop a rocky prominence through a harsh winter on a short schedule?  It was enough to make Kurt Kraisinger take a unique approach to the project, drawing support from near and far to get things done -- from extensive site preparation through to on-time completion.
By Kurt Kraisinger

It’s strange how things can work out with a project.  

In this instance, we were called in to design the outdoor environment to go with a couple’s weekend/vacation home on the water of Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in northeastern Oklahoma.  It was a beautiful, inspiring setting, with the home situated at the end of a peninsula that reached out into the lake, and it quickly became a favorite gathering spot for a couple generations of a fun-loving family.

We developed the design based on a few parameters offered by the clients as well as the nature of the incredible site and the distinctive

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