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Fit for Friends
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Fit for Friends

Nestled on the banks of Lake Norman, NC, this project was created for a couple who love to entertain, enjoy the good life, and wanted something none of their neighbors had. The result is this balanced composition of form and function from Lea and George Frederick.

By Lea Frederick & George Frederick

It’s always great to hear from old friends; but, when they call asking you to build them a pool in a beautiful setting, it can certainly brighten one’s day. That’s exactly what happened when an old college roommate (one of George’s buddies) and his wife — Mike and Shelia — called us to ask if we’d make the trip to Lake Norman and build them a pool!

They went on to explain that they had asked a homebuilder they know which local pool company they should hire – his response was none of them. Not only was it great to work with old friends, but being able to come to the rescue and represent our industry in a positive way was also gratifying.

We were off to a positive start even before we paid them a visit. So, to Lake Normand, NC, we went. There we found a beautiful home on a gorgeous lakefront property in an exclusive neighborhood filled with beautiful homes and shady streets.

We were enthusiastically greeted by our friends, who were fired up to create a space devoted to relaxation and socializing.


It was an upbeat situation, no question, but there were some challenges. We quickly learned that when you’re building on lakes in this region, there will be regulations.  

Despite a shoreline easement and limited space, we were able to comfortably create an aquatic social environment.

Lake Norman is a reservoir used to supply drinking water to the local municipalities including Charlotte. It also supplies water to a nuclear power plant. Like many lakes in North Carolina, there’s a line along the shore you shall not cross with any kind of built structure, which sometimes dramatically limits the space. In this case, the buffer went approximately 50 feet from the shoreline, leaving what felt like a confined footprint of useable space.

Because of that constraint, our friends had been thinking they would only be able to have a small splash pool and maybe a hot tub. We’ve worked in tight spots before and even though the space was somewhat confined, we told them that we could fit in far more than they thought.

Initially, it was just a pool with no spa, but as we started thinking, by keeping the pool down to 20-by-11 feet, that gave us room to push the footprint out another eight feet make space for the spa. The whole thing is probably too big to call a plunge pool or a spool or a cocktail pool; maybe it’s an upsized spool.

By whatever label, it’s certainly a pool/spa combination designed for socializing.

The entire system only holds about 7,800 gallons; but, the way it’s scaled to the setting and the different ways you can interact with the water make it seem surprisingly substantial. When it was finished, they were surprised at how big it looks.


One of the more important features on the project is affectionally known as the “Shelia Shelf,” named for the lady of the house, who stands about five feet tall. If you look along the lake side of the pool, there’s a step that runs the length of the vessel that’s set at the perfect height so she can stand on the step, put her arms on the coping and look out over the lake.

While Shelia wanted the social pool, Mike was more focused on the coolness factor. He wanted to figure out a way to give the whole setting its own unique panache. We found that hook in the world of sports.

One of their sons is a Clemson University alumnus, and they are all huge fans. So much so one of their rooms that faces the pool area is devoted entirely to their fandom, decorated in all orange, purple and Tigers’-related accoutrements. In fact, pretty much everything in their house has some form of orange because of the Clemson connection.

At a minimum, we knew we had to include some version of the color scheme in the design.


Considering the color palette led us directly to the subject of materials, and particularly the tile.

We were talking to fellow IWI member, Chrisie Dahl-Blanco of CDB Design, whose husband, Enrique is a master tile installer and a true artist. They’re located not far from us in Cornelius, NC, where they mostly design and install tile on high-end custom pools in the area.

The owners wanted to make a statement seen from the water, ultimately prompting them to opt for the arcing laminar jets.

Chrisie asked Shelia what her favorite colors were, and Lea (co-author) jokingly said, “orange and purple – Clemson colors.” Chrisie ran back to her car and came back with this amazing iridescent Light Streams glass, with beautiful purple, orange, pink and yellow shimmer. It was a dynamic and expensive choice but we thought why not see if they liked what they saw.

Shelia and Mike loved it! It has enough of the purple and orange to fit in with the Clemson-inspired decor, but it’s more complex than just that and makes for an almost spellbinding detail that we used throughout the setting.

One of the places we utilize the tile is on the unusual narrow steps that lead down the side of the spa into the pool. It’s an unusual detail where these long, shallow steps gently descend into the pool as you pass by the spa. It was necessary because of the way the pool and spa structure work around the structural pillars, which support the upper deck.

We all felt it was the best way to manage access to the pool and as it turns out, everyone absolutely loves the steps.

We picked up the tile to mark the steps as a safety measure, which turns out to be a surprisingly cool looking detail. We use small LED penlights from Hayward to illuminate the steps and the dam wall between the spa and the step area.

Enrique goes by the nickname ‘Tile Jesus,’ basically because he is so masterful, and is always seeking utter perfection. He despises making cuts and never makes one unless it’s absolutely necessary. All his installations line up perfectly. It’s the kind of detail you might not notice; but, it gives the entire scene visual continuity and a sense of structure and even discipline.  

The tile looks especially beautiful with the black onyx, pebble sheen interior finish from Pebble Technology. Our friends had looked to us to steer them to the pool’s interior finish selection. With the tile, the black onyx was the perfect choice. The pool is shaded almost all day, and even though it gets really hot in this region, the pool and surrounding area feel like a great place to beat the heat.

They had owned pools before and told us they would have never picked a dark finish, but trusted our selection. As it turns out, they love it.  


Going for that elusive cool factor, Mike really wanted something striking that would draw your eyes toward the lake view; or looking back from the water, a feature that would make a statement to boats and kayaks passing by.

We didn’t have room for a vanishing edge trough, so we though a fun fountain effect could do the trick. The laminar jet fixtures we settled on are from Hayward. Without going into excruciating detail, we had to make the jets shoot up from below the water level and over the raised bond beam. They’re not really designed to do that, so the whole thing took quite a bit of calculation and a bit of luck.

The bed of dark Mexican river rocks accommodates the laminar fixtures and also serves to disguise the drains for the yard, essentially evacuating water from around the base of the pool structure.

The pool, spa and deck areas conspire to create a multi-functional recreation destination that takes full advantage of the lakeside setting.

We also installed a band of the same river rock in a narrow trough between the deck and spa and steps, that also provides drainage. It was also necessary to manage the transition from the existing deck and the watershape structure, offsetting the difference in elevation and pitch. 


While working around the shoreline buffer was a pain, as mentioned above, we also had to contend with the area’s expansive soil. That can be problematic; but, in this case, the yard’s slope kept everything draining towards the lake anyway, and we weren’t faced with saturated soils beneath the pool. And, because it’s a shallow pool cut into the hill, it’s a very shallow excavation overall and didn’t require any type of fortified foundation.

The equipment is all Hayward, using cartridge filters and two variable speed pumps — one for spa jets and the other for everything else. The treatment consists of an ORP-controlled chlorine feeder (bleach) and pH control. We also have the Hyrdopure AOP system, which enables the pool to operate on a low chlorine residual. The entire system is control by the OminiLogic system.

The overall result is a pool/spa combo that perfectly suits the clients’ needs and makes the most of the available space. The process was mostly fun with some bumps along the way. But our friends still call us and we’re thrilled to have provided them with an environment that will serve them well the next time they call.

Lea Frederick is owner and design specialist for Vue Custom Pools in Greensboro, NC. George Frederick is the company’s general manager and is in charge of quality control. They are both members of the International Watershape Institute, instructors for Watershape University, and are widely recognized for their excellence in design and const

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