Retro California Pool Gets a Modern Makeover

My firm, Creative Environments, Alamo, CA, was called upon to remodel an existing swimming pool and spa that was originally built in the mid ’70s. The pool structure was in great condition, but the client wanted to update the design, make it more energy efficient, and create a destination resort for their family and friends. This vacation home is set on a 2,600-acre working ranch in the Bay area located near the rugged Northern California coast by Santa Cruz.

The project had to be completed by July 15, 2012 for a big 60th birthday party for the client. It took about seven months. We began planning Nov. 1, 2011, started the pool construction Feb. 1, and completed the project June 8, 2012.



Before renovation, the architecture of the pool reflected the mid-70s era here in North California. Cantilever concrete decks were very popular at that time, as were the 45- and 90-degree angles. The setting is very peaceful, but there was no excitement about being there when the clients wanted to entertain in the yard.




Pool Renovation: The old pool was mostly rectangular and had an attached spa. We renovated the pool into a complete rectangle for a clean, modern look that still fit into the ranch setting, installed an automatic pool cover, and built a much larger spa separate from the pool.

Before we added the new gunite walls on the pool, we stripped all of the plaster off and took the pool back to raw concrete. We also gunited the deep end of the pool to accommodate the new in-the-deck vault box for the automatic pool cover.


Outdoor Kitchen: The general contractor built an outdoor kitchen area that would be the envy of any modern-day kitchen. It features stainless steel appliances including a large gas barbecue grill, dish washer, wine bar fridge, mini fridge, warming ovens, service cabinets and sliding drawers, and a sink with garbage disposal. The centerpiece of this kitchen is the most beautiful wood-burning pizza oven I have ever seen.

There is also a large sunken firepit and bench seating area positioned in between the new raised spa and kitchen area.




New Spa and Guest Houses



Building the new spa:

This spa was by far the most elaborate spa that I have ever built. The landscape architect took the time to detail every bench location along with the exact height of all 24 waterway spa jets.

During construction we put a notch at the top of the bond beam of the spa to allow the coping to cover the automatic pool cover track; this also allows people to sit all the way back on the sloped wall and not hit their head on the edge of the coping.

We used Arizona Flagstone that had a special bullnose finish on the spa edge of the coping. There are special LED lights on the face of the steps of the spa.




Equipment bunker:
 It’s always tough to figure out where we can put the pool equipment so it’s somewhat hidden but still efficient enough to operate the pool and spa. A bunker was built to house the equipment and the wine cellar. It was designed to resemble a mine shaft. We backfilled the area around the bunker to make it look like it was part of the existing slope complete with trees and landscape.

We replaced the old equipment with Zodiac pumps, filters, heaters, and salt chlorinators along with Zodiac automatic controls featuring in-house, wireless, and new internet controls. The pool also has a gas pool heater, which was important since the home is near the coast.

Building the guest houses (below): One of the needs that the clients had was to expand the living area of the ranch house and create several bunk houses for guests. The interior of the bunk houses is as nice as it gets and brings a whole new meaning to “roughing it” at the ranch.



Special Features



Outdoor shower: This showerhead doubles as a piece of art. It is made out of wrought iron that was heated up and pulled through a special tool that puts scratches on the rebar to give it a look of tree bark. The needles are made of stainless steel, and the pine cones are made of copper with a finish.



Coping stones: These coping stones were custom made to not only have a smooth bullnose finish on the spa side, but also a chiseled finish on the outside to match all the other edges on the seat walls throughout the yard.


Photos courtesy of Creative Environments; Designed by Don Boos, Landscape Architect; Photography by Chuck Baumann


Chuck Baumann is the president and founder of Creative Environments, Alamo, CA. Baumann has studied design with Genesis 3 and regularly attends industry conferences to stay abreast of the latest trends and advances in equipment. He serves as an advisory board member of Carecraft.

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