As I’ve reported previously, the past few years have seen a proliferation of consumer-oriented books on custom swimming pools. Most put the emphasis on images rather than written information, but I don’t object: They’re generally loaded with beautiful, inspirational projects and terrific photography.
In fact, I use many such publications as sources of ideas and frequently share them with clients as we move into the design phase. But I’ve found that I need to pick and choose within some of them: While the projects are often executed at a very high level, some aren’t all that great.
With that one occasional caveat, I’ve recently been through four of these books – and this time around, they all focus mainly on pools in
Europe and other locations around the world. Taken together, they offer a convenient global tour, almost entirely by way of photographs.[ ] Pool Design (Loft Publications, 2003): This 400-page volume offers dozens of case studies of pools found throughout Europe. I found it interesting to note that almost every depicted project has a simple shape – mostly rectangular – and that the European “look” as presented here is completely dominated by glass tile. I was also intrigued by frequent use of banks of tiny steps with extremely narrow treads – something we don’t see too often in the United States. [ ] Cool Pools and Hot Tubs by Vinny Lee (Watson-Guptill 2006): The London-based author of this book focuses mainly on European pools, salting things with a handful of (mostly) familiar, well-documented California projects. This is the exception in this group in that some substantial text accompanies photographs of the pools, which include a variety of indoor, outdoor and indoor/outdoor designs that are genuinely interesting. The author also shares insights on surface materials, deck designs, associated garden features and some truly artistic uses of patio furniture.
[ ] Pool Dreams (EPN International, 2005): This book is unusual in that it is dedicated entirely to the work of a single German company, Antheunis Zwembaden, which has been building luxurious custom pools in Europe since 1959. This 240-page volume is very much a study in a single style of design: Almost all depicted projects feature gutters and perimeter overflows as well as unusual stainless steel handrails that appear on the vast majority of entries.
[ ] Pools & Gardens (Paschen, 2006): This 380-page book offers 70 case studies that encompass not only European but also a small number of U.S. projects along with a smattering of work done in tropical outposts from Singapore to Costa Rica. About half of the studies here feature swimming pools; the rest cover public and private gardens, most of which (but not all) contain fountains, reflecting ponds and other decorative watershapes. A nice variety of styles is represented, and the compilers did a good job of showing water used in a range of garden settings.
Although each has limitations in terms of scope, when examined as a group these four books provide a good, basic survey of design ideas we can borrow or adapt from our colleagues overseas in setting our clients’ imaginations ablaze.
Mike Farley is a landscape architect with more than 20 years of experience and is currently a designer/project manager for Claffey Pools in Southlake, Texas. A graduate of Genesis 3’s Level I Design School, he holds a degree in landscape architecture from Texas Tech University and has worked as a watershaper in both California and Texas.