Pools & Spas

Subtle at the Surface
Back in 1987 and particularly in California and Florida, the surfacing industry found itself in the middle of an unfortunate wave of plaster failures.  Some people blamed the material, others blamed application techniques - and traces of the debate continue to this day. The situation was truly desperate in some areas, so much so that it drove many plasterers to seek new materials and techniques - anything to escape the cycle of negativity.  Our firm in San Diego, for example, moved early and became the first in our county to apply exposed-aggregate finishes.  Today, more than 80% of
Making Models Super
Not every upscale pool contractor has to be working with his or her own designs to be successful in building beautiful pools.  Our company, for instance, has established its reputation by excelling at making the ideas of others come to life. Examples of this can be found in the work we did at One Ford Road, a development where we were asked to follow through on designs prepared by three of Southern California's best-known landscape architects.  We've found here and elsewhere that when you work with highly creative people (including those who designed the pools, spas and waterfeatures pictured on these pages), the process can be truly rewarding, exciting and even
A Tasteful Genesis
Good pool design isn't something that happens by chance. It's the product of a mental discipline applied to the entire setting, from one end of the yard to the other.  It's the result of an over-arching vision that incorporates the watershape as a desirable component in a whole tapestry of textures, traditions, shapes, surfaces, highlights, spaces, contours and lines that please the eye, gratify the soul and bring a smile to the face of the observer. Perceiving this integration is often intuitive, but you can tell when it's been done right.  You also can tell when the mark has been missed and can spend minutes or hours (or days) unraveling and considering everything from severe challenges and missed opportunities to lapses in focus or simple errors in taste and judgment.  If your head's in the right place, you'll probably learn more from the problem pool than you will from the gem. Putting pool-industry heads in that right place is part of the thoughtful, reflective approach to pool design offered in the Genesis 3 Design School, which has convened three times and has now touched the sensibilities of more than 75 designers and builders.  While school is in session, participants are immersed in an ocean of information on design principles, technical issues, presentation techniques and, perhaps most forcefully of all, on attitude and mindset.  The basic message:  Every pool can be special, appropriate and expressive of the
A Gem from Every Angle
The first thing I tell myself when looking at a prospective job site is that the pool is unimportant. That may sound strange coming from one who has spent years of his life in designing and building the finest pools money can buy, but in a very real sense, I think it's absolutely true:  The pool itself means nothing.   What's important is the site, its prevailing geological conditions, the visual strength and influence of the house or other structures and the natural elements of landscape and physical setting.  All of these directly influence the design of the pool - its shape, size, elevations, materials and position on the property. When all of these elements of the pool's physical structure come into balance with the surroundings, then the experience of someone entering the area can be utterly transforming:  They will draw impressions of beauty, elegance, relaxation, tranquillity and even a distinct connection with nature. You're off to a good start simply by recognizing this potential.  To maximize it, however, you need to
Hydraulics in Hot Water
Of all the features associated with inground swimming pools, attached spas almost certainly have the most complex designs.  Achieving proper hydrotherapy-jet action requires the interweaving of air lines, water lines, fittings, jets and associated pumps, blowers and motors in a way that delivers results the customer wants and expects.  And making mistakes is definitely costly:  Once the plumbing is set in concrete, there's no easy way of turning back. The bottom line:  You have to get it right the first time! Yes, you can adjust inground systems, but it usually involves ripping out expanses of decking and chunks of the spa shell at the very least - definitely not activities that breed customer satisfaction.  It's a high-stakes game, but all too often I see pool builders take an ill-advised roll of the dice by not doing the work ahead of time to make sure the
Public Forms and Functions
These aren't our parents' public pools. Whether run by a city or by a county, these recreational facilities are now subject to a new set of rules in response to evolving consumer demand and the growing popularity of elaborate waterparks.  The inert, rectangular pools of years past - ten or 12 feet deep at one end, three or four feet deep at the other - are fast being replaced by multi-faceted, multi-purpose, quasi-organic forms that appeal to users of all ages and abilities. The new designs incorporate large
Gaining an Edge
I've spent a lot of time in the past few years thinking about the things that generate the most interest in what we do as pool builders - and even more time turning those thoughts into designs and effects that meet my customers' desires. Once I started down this path, there was no way to turn back:  There's a market out there at the high end that most pool builders never even approach, and breaking through with these clients takes persistence, skill and talent.  As important, it also takes a willingness to stop looking at pools, spas and waterfeatures in the context of traditions and conventions that just don't line up with the needs or expectations that these customers at the highest levels have these days. These are customers who won't settle for the ordinary.  They won't accept plans that stick
A Classic Restored
With just a few weeks to go before our work was to begin, I took my wife Denise to visit the historic pool at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables.  I wanted to take a long look at what was (and may always be) the largest re-plastering job I'd ever landed. As I stood at the edge of what can truly be described as a huge pool, I actually thought for the first time in my career that I'd bitten off more than I could chew:  The surface of the massive U-shaped pool was in terrible shape and dragged down the hotel's otherwise beautiful decor and landscaping.   Yes, it was the kind of prestige job I'd always wanted, but it only took a few minutes for the enormity of what I had undertaken to
Pebbles, Pozzolons & Polymers
One certainly  emerges from all the discussions that have taken place about swimming pool plaster over the past several years:  The product has had plenty of room for improvement. Among the complaints has been that traditional white-plaster pool finishes simply haven't kept pace with the rising expectations of owners, who increasingly want their pools, spas and waterfeatures to be entirely forgiving when their lifestyles limit the time they can spend on maintenance and upkeep.  In that environment, in fact, traditional
Shaping Perfection
When I talk with prospective customers about hillside installations, more often than not I'll find myself saying "A good foundation deserves a great pool" at some point during our conversations. In fact, I view all of my pools as works of art, whether they're installed on a hillside or on flat land.  The design can be a simple rectangle (which in my opinion are some of the most beautiful pools built) or an elaborate oceanscape with all sorts of bells and whistles.  Regardless of location, style or complexity, I build my pools with first-rate foundations engineered for the specific soil conditions, and I give my clients the best pool I possibly can. As I explained in