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Given its spectacular ocean views, Randy Beard knew that this home called for a pool and spa that didn't get in the way. But that wasn't all he had to consider in designing the watershapes and organizing this remarkable space for entertainment as well as private enjoyment.
Given its spectacular ocean views, Randy Beard knew that this home called for a pool and spa that didn't get in the way.  But that wasn't all he had to consider in designing the watershapes and organizing this remarkable space for entertainment as well as private enjoyment.
By Randy Beard

With hillside projects, it’s generally true that lines of sight mean everything.  No matter whether the views are up close or in the far distance, no matter if the space looks out over water, trees, rugged terrain or other structures, a design wins huge style points (and a client’s gratitude) if you are conscious of the way your watershapes fit into their environments.

The project covered in this article had almost every advantage in the view department.  Set on a slope overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Dana Point, Calif., the home sits above a place where dolphins, whales and seabirds are commonly part of the picture.  Adding a pool to this composition was an exercise in giving the homeowners what they wanted while simultaneously not getting in the way of knockout views.

This is the sort of challenge we face with lots of projects at Pure Water Pools (Costa Mesa, Calif.):  We build pools, spas and various waterfeatures in the stretch of coastal Orange County from Laguna Beach to Newport Beach, and I’d by dishonest if I didn’t say I feel privileged to work in these spaces.


In this case, the clients are distinctly gregarious:  They love to entertain, and they love being out on their decks to partake of the scenery.  The house is on two levels, with a large deck on the lower level that includes the pool and an outdoor kitchen area as well as ample seating.  Up on the top level is another, private deck outside the master suite.

In evaluating the space, I kept two things in mind:  On the lower deck, the sweeping view was punctuated by the rooftops of homes farther down the slope.  From the upper deck, the view to the deck below was more or less straight down, but the distant views were spectacular.

I started by working through the viewpoints from the lower level.  It was clear that the vantage points from inside the house and from close-in portions of the deck would be much enhanced by raising the watershape’s elevation and thereby blocking out the sense that the property was in any way hemmed in by nearby homes.  It was also clear that we needed to do all we could to keep out of the way of the ocean views:  What’s an elegant party about if your guests are kept from watching humpback whales glide by?

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Before we raised the edge of the slope, the rooftops of homes down the hill made too strong an impression on the view.  The image at left was taken from the top of a ladder; the one at right is the same view at eye level as you move from the house out onto the deck to take in an undistracted ocean view.

The view from above was a bit trickier:  Yes, it included a panoramic view of the ocean’s majesty, but it also offered a bird’s-eye view of the deck and pool below.  We wanted the homeowners, when they were alone in their private, upper-level space, to feel some connection with the lower deck – and decided to pull them in by placing a large tile-mosaic medallion in the pool’s deep end.

On the lower level, this floral ornament isn’t anything you see until you’re right at the water’s edge.  From above, however, it is a sparkling gem that seems as though it’s there for the homeowners’ exclusive enjoyment.  And we played up the jewel-like effect by embedding the mosaic in a field of super-white quartz as the perfect, sparkling foil – especially at night, when the pool’s lights play across the surface.


The slightly raised, perimeter-overflow pool is visible the moment you walk through the front door.  The home’s interior is filled with elegant, tasteful furnishings, but your eyes are drawn to the views beyond – now with the rooflines obscured by a shimmering water surface that enhances the sense of infinite spaciousness.  

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You can see the medallion in the bottom of the pool from the lower deck, but you have to get fairly close to the water’s edge to appreciate it fully.  From the upper deck, however, the floral mosaic stands out in the bird’s-eye view, turning the pool into a jewel box backed up by a 180-degree ocean panorama.

When you pass through to reach the deck, which is finished in porcelain tile accented with some natural stone, you emerge onto a platform with 180-degree views to the Pacific – and there’s no noise to compete with the sounds of the waves, because the pool/spa equipment is hidden in a vault on a lower level – right next to a sweet little bocce-ball court.

Water Management

The project described in the accompanying text is another instance in which we installed what we call our Pure Water System – an approach to water treatment in which virtually no chemicals are used in maintaining the pool.  My next article in WaterShapes will discuss the practicalities of this approach in detail.

-- R.B.

The pool itself is set atop a deepened footing – that is, with none of the caissons we usually deploy in our hillside projects.  In this instance, our geotechnical engineers determined that the soil was stable enough that the footing would provide sufficient support.  Everyone was happy:  Our clients saved a bit of money, and the site preparation and excavation processes were considerably simplified.

Our scope of work covered the pool, spa and hardscape.  A landscape designer crowned our endeavors with an expanse of lawn and a tasteful array of plants.  None of them near the pool are deciduous, so very little by way of leafy debris finds its way into the water.

It’s a jewel box on the Pacific, and looking down on the mosaic fleur de lis from the upper level is a special experience – for us in having made it happen, and for our clients through countless years to come.


Randy Beard operates Pure Water Pools, a construction/service firm based in Costa Mesa, Calif. He may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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  • Guest - Chuck Baumann


    Great looking project and a wonderful use of materials and water. I can only imagine the pier and grade beam structure that went into this project. If you write more on this backyard in the future I would love to hear what is holding this beauty up as it sits on the edge of your clients back yard. All of us love the beauty shots showing these works of art that are created for our clients but the real magic is what is going on behind the curtain. You are a true Water Shaper my friend.