Photographs by McNeill Photography
The Northeastern sector of North America experiences some of the most beautiful weather around—white winters melt into gorgeous blooming springs, transitioning to hot summers, and the fiery foliage of fall starts the cycle over again. A four-season climate provides a great deal of beauty but also presents challenges and opportunities for those building and servicing within it.
Pool designers building in the Northeast face a particular challenge: the region’s freeze and thaw patterns. When designing pool features, explains Peter Friis, COO at Gib-San Pools, a builder has to consider “how is this going to be winterized? Are there any consequences the cold weather could have on this product?”
Between climate considerations and a greater emphasis on simple design preferences, the Gib-San team has noticed a few trends that pool owners in the Northeast have gravitated towards lately. Below, the professionals at Gib-San Pools, one of the leading pool build/design firms in the Northeast, dive into some of the hottest trends in northern pool design right now.
Elements like fire bowls, fireplaces, and other fire features do more than provide a stunning look (although they are showstopping against shimmering pool water). They also lengthen the day with evening ambience, as well as lengthen the season by providing heat during the fall and winter months. Caley Gibbs, director of marketing and designer at Gib-San, points out the advantages of embracing the four-season lifestyle. “Rather than think we’re limited with a short pool season,” she says, “let’s celebrate the seasons. In the fall we have spectacular changing colors so let’s enjoy that by a fire feature.” Gib-San designer John Kenyon, SWD notes that fire features bring families together with songs and stories.
Crisp and Clean
“We refer to these types of designs as “encapsulating the ‘Chanel Look,’” explains Ed Gibbs, CEO of Gib-San. “Simplistic, minimalistic, timeless design is in the greatest demand currently,” he says. Think light and bright spaces with high end finishes like marble tile, white coping, light natural stone, and white furniture. The look is clean and contemporary with a California influence. When designing costly pool renovations, clients nowadays are often looking for a “timeless look,” says Ed Gibbs. “They’re looking for something that’s going to age well.”
Four Seasons Outdoor Structures
Structures that provide indoor/outdoor living vary from simple pergolas to luxurious pool houses with all the bells and whistles. Whether a family wants a modest shaded spot to shield from the sun or the rain, or a full guesthouse structure with heat, A/C, a kitchen, and a bathroom, the increased demand is there.
Other indoor/outdoor living situations can look like a screened-in porch, or a cabana that might even have a bar or a bathroom. “We saw through COVID, more people were getting together outside as the media and government promoted this as a safe way to socialize,” says Peter Friis, adding that many homeowners also use these outdoor areas to work from home. “A four-season room is such a great gift for your family,” says Jason Dedels, SWD. “It can become your summer morning coffee nook or your winter cottage retreat.”
When Gib-San begins a pool project with new clients, “we’ll ask our clients ‘what are a few things you really loved about your last few vacations?’” says Caley Gibbs, SWD. “Was it watching your kids in the pool? Was it sitting by a fire in the evening? Was it tanning in the sun? Was it sitting dining outside on a beautiful patio?”
She explains that a lot of clients have a preconceived notion that their pool must have a deep end. What Gib-San wants to find out, however, is how the clients are going to use their pool. Most resort pools are one shallow depth, optimized for playing games, enjoying a cocktail, and socializing. “We’re shifting the mindset,” says Caley Gibbs, “from the deeper the better to really thinking about your use of that pool.” A bonus for Northeastern pool owners: less depth means less water that needs to be heated and chemically treated!
Automatic Pool Covers
An automatic cover can help owners extend the pool season by a couple of months, explains Connor Gibbs, SWD, “and concurrently reduce their operational costs.” That’s all before the other two major benefits of an automatic pool cover: keeping debris out of pools and providing another layer of safety when pools aren’t in use. “There’s a huge demand for automatic covers,” says Connor Gibbs. “It’s an upfront investment, but a lot of clients are seeing the value of this cover in their overall pool experience.” With an automatic cover, an outdoor pool can stay open from March through November or longer, even in the Northeast.
Wood design features have become increasing popular, say the professional team at Gib-San, accredited to their natural look and the warmth they bring to a space. Clients incorporate wood into their backyard space in many ways, from decking to privacy screens to accent pieces. “Wood adds texture and softens materials to create welcoming outdoor spaces,” explains Evan Baard, SWD. Wood elements are particularly impactful when clients choose that crisp, clean, timeless look for their space—wood brings in some warmth, a new color, and a different texture.
“Just because we’re in a climate that experiences multiple seasons, doesn’t mean we can’t have that backyard resort we’ve always dreamed of,” says Ed Gibbs. “That differentiates between a pool builder and a pool design/build firm,” he explains, like Gib-San. The only pool company with five on-staff SWD (Society of Watershape and Design) registered professionals, Gib-San takes the time to understand each client’s needs and values the long-term relationship building.
All trends aside, creating a pool that works for each family’s unique lifestyle makes all the difference. “When you build something in the space that’s built for the space, it changes everything,” says Ed Gibbs. “The backyard space is an extension of the home and should be designed with the same respect the interior receives.” After all, there’s nothing better than the comfort of your own home.