Designing Outside the Lines

Innovation and imagination are key to creating one-of-a-kind luxury pools and outdoor living spaces.

A glass-edge infinity rooftop pool designed by Choeff Levy Fischman has unparalleled views of Biscayne Bay and Downtown Miami – even when you’re underwater.

Photo by Lifestyle Production Group


Miami offers more than its fair share of gorgeous views, but there’s one that might top them all: The rooftop pool at Villa Venetian. Paul Fischman, Principal of Choeff Levy Fischman Architecture + Design was enlisted to revamp the gorgeous home, including its existing pool. Teaming with designers at Aquatic Consultants, Fischman removed the pool’s existing infinity-edge and replaced it with structural glass to create a transparent vanishing edge. The result is an even-more incredible destination that incorporates the Miami skyline and Intracoastal Waterway beyond: A see-through wonder that allows swimmers to see downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay, even when they’re underwater. Swim jets and underwater speakers add to the luxe poolscape.

“It really is breathtaking,” Fischman says. “It’s a play on the eyes…it literally takes the downtown Miami and Biscayne Bay view and brings it up to the pool.”

It’s these kinds of innovative, exciting, and fresh ideas that the most cutting-edge pool designers are executing as they constantly push themselves to design outside the lines. These designers explore the globe for inspiration as they broaden their horizons, and are “always looking at different architects and design for good ideas” and applying those disparate ideas to everything they do, says Roger Soares II, president of Hydroscapes LLC.


Premier Paradise, Inc. takes outdoor living design to the next level.

Photo courtesy of Premier Paradise, Inc


Getting the look

Pool pros like Soares, who pride themselves on staying at the forefront of design, love to incorporate the hottest materials in their clients’ outdoor living space. He points to the trend of using large-format tile, especially in porcelain.

“They’ve come a long way in the last year with that,” he says.

Other materials and features take the most modern luxury pools far from the aqua-hued vessels of decades past. For instance, when designing baseball star Alex Rodriguez’s Coral Gables, Florida, pool, the Choeff Levy Fischman team opted to use a dark gray PebbleTec finish. Doing so not only creates a more reflective appearance and a more robust, elegant color—deeper and darker than the traditional aqua blue—but also a little less transparency, which makes the pool surface more reflective—creating a mirrored effect on top of the pool.

It really takes the environment—the surrounding oak trees, home, and outdoor living space—and mirrors it on the pool, Fischman says.

LED and other lighting technology has also allowed for different looks within the water itself. For instance, Kurt Kraisinger, RLA, LEED AP, owner and president of Lorax Design Group, likes using fiber optics in the pool itself, which provides a dramatic nighttime lighting experience.

“It’s like a star field that’s in the bottom of your pool,” he says.

Movement is also important to how the water looks, from bubblers to offset tiles that make waterfalls foam and dance as it falls from jagged edge to jagged edge.

“Anything to make the water dance is what we’re working on right now,” says Shane P. LeBlanc SWD, principal of Selective Designs.

In fact, LeBlanc says that “The coolest features are typically always movement; movement always attracts the eye.”

And “getting inside the movement is the newest thing,” he says, adding that he likes to wrap the water feature inside the pool environment. For instance, pool goers might be sitting on bench with a seven-foot wall of water all around them.

“The water is surrounding you,” he says. “I’m creating more spaces inside the water where you can sit.” Infinity edges have long been a staple of high-end pool design, but now, designers are looking to take pool edges to the next level, with innovations like cantilevered vanishing edges and overflows that look as though they spill directly into the grass.

“You don’t have to have that hardscape edge,” says Jeromey Naugle, founder and owner, of Premier Paradise, Inc. “We’re trying to hide them so you can’t see where the water goes…it looks like the water vanishes into the earth.”


Photo by Lifestyle Production Group


True outdoor living

Other favorite new design elements aim to take the experience of upscale outdoor living to the next level, with elements like built-in loungers and umbrella holders, plenty of seating in and around the pool, in-pool spas, and personalized outdoor kitchens. They key? Incorporating fun, family-friendly features, like splash areas and lazy rivers, in a way that’s sophisticated and timeless.

“I want them to live in their backyard,” says Naugle, who just finished a three-story, French-modern swimming pool project that included a party deck above a lazy river that doubles as a diving platform.

Kraisinger agrees, noting that he likes to incorporate new twists on more traditional or old-fashioned pool elements.

“Definitely On the way out are deep pools that have diving boards,” he says. Instead, families “want to utilize as much of the pool as they possibly can…A deep end with a diving board is, in many cases, a real estate hog.”

Instead of having a 9-to 12-foot deep pool with a diving board, new pools might be 6 to 7 feet deep with jump rocks. In fact, deep pools are often forgone altogether.


Hydroscapes LLC integrates this pool and outdoor living design into the natural desert landscape

Photo courtesy of Hydroscapes LLC


“The trend now I see is really shallow pools,” he says, which allows for wading, lounging, and multiuse recreation. “Some of the pool may only be 5 feet deep at the deepest portion.”

Similarly, in-pool spas bring the more traditional hot tub within the pool perimeter, at the same elevation, giving the appearance that there’s no difference between the pool and spa.

“People are doing that because they like that clean look, and they realize by extending the pool slightly they don’t have to extend the pool perimeter with a hot tub,” Kraisinger says.


Waterfalls make the water dance. Below, fire elements, seating, and dining areas create a total outdoor living experience, both from Lorax Design Group.

Photo by Travis Bechtel


For LeBlanc, getting people active is also key. For instance, in addition to placing fire features in and around the pool area, he also incorporates bocce, putting greens, and cornhole into many pool and patio layouts, using different elevations to create destination areas, or even bringing the action right to the pool itself. Cornhole placements might be over the pool, and putting greens could come up to the edge of the water.

“I try to use as much activity things as possible,” he says. “I’m constantly working on utilizing the space of the yards.”

LeBlanc also takes outdoor kitchens a step further by finding out personal details about the clients, such as whether they’re left- or right-handed, which will determine the layout of the space’s burners, countertops, and serving space. For him, that focus on usability is crucial.

In the end, it’s the innovative and boundary-pushing details that take pool designs from enjoyable to truly outside the lines.

“Details are super important,” LeBlanc says.

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