Dramatic Pool Designs

Three show-stopping pool designs ramp up the drama with extreme features.

There are myriad ways to add drama to a landscape, with plantings, hardscaping, inviting outdoor living areas, and more, but a smartly finessed pool is particularly effective. The following pool designers have each taken a unique approach, resulting in distinct shows of ingenuity.


Photo by Lifestyle Production Group, Design by Cheoff Levy Fischman

“This project evolved quite a bit from the initial layout,” notes architect Paul Fischman, principal of Choeff Levy Fischman Architecture + Design, with respect to this South Florida property. “It was inspired by an aquatic design [firm] I work with, Aquatic Consultants Inc. They have a partial patent for what’s called a Lautner knife-edge perimeter overflow.” That edge drove much of the design.

The goal was to maintain privacy with a courtyard feel. But, given the courtyard’s expanse, Fischman was adamant that the coping not be visible as it would be interruptive. Hence, the Lautner design.

“What it allowed us to do,” he explains, “was keep that courtyard feeling that you might see at a big estate in Hollywood Hills with green everywhere. The client wanted that same feel.” Without coping, the lawn transitions straight into the pool water—an effect made possible using synthetic grass to avoid die out and maintenance complications.

The one-story home—also designed by Fischman’s firm, and oriented such that the back façade and exterior spaces were of primary importance—is unique in that its interior and pool courtyard are on the same elevation.


Photo by Lifestyle Production Group, Design by Cheoff Levy Fischman


This sharing of a grade level proved a blessing in disguise. “That challenge is exactly what makes it beautiful,” notes Fischman. “We were able to bleed the architecture into the landscape and into the pool. It all behaves seamlessly.”

“The difficulty was keeping everything seamless in the back and [determining] the transition to the lower grade [below the courtyard],” he continues. The solution took the form of hiding the retaining walls, disguising them with plantings and boxwood hedges. Fischman notes, “We don’t want to look at walls; we want the landscape design to be very integrated.” This strategy helped to achieve the client’s desire for a seamless aesthetic in the rear—they wanted the house to “float.”

He chose a light gray pebble sheen for the nine-inch splash area—a transitional zone into the pool proper—lending it a deep-blue color with a hint of turquoise. “It’s a little more masculine and commensurate with the interior of the house,” says Fischman. Other hardscape elements include ipe wood flooring and gray limestone for the cabana, which, he notes, is the most used space on the property. “It’s the place everyone seems to gravitate to.” clfarchitects.com


Photo courtesy of Hammerhead International


For his project, Jason Jovaag, CEO of Hammerhead International, worked in accordance with the landscape designer, whose inspiration borrowed heavily from the surrounding Oro Valley, Arizona, landscape, and the giant saguaro cacti that characterize it. The property and pool were sited to capitalize on views of the Santa Catalina and Tortolita mountain ranges. Jovaag’s team is responsible for the 18-foot-long acrylic viewing panel crafted to work with the infinity-edge pool to capture the sound of the trickling water.

Adding to the design’s drama is the pool’s location at the front of house, which abuts a mountain. “The wow factor, day and night—whether you are driving up to the residence or are down below—is seeing a great body of water that overlooks the downtown area,” says Jovaag. “From any vantage point in the neighborhood, especially at night, it is amazing.”


Photo courtesy of Hammerhead International


Elements that help make it so include focused light around the pool, coping to hide the pool edges, and stacked stone that ties back into the deck and surroundings. With respect to the panel itself, Jovaag explains how modifications to the spillway’s underside were made to add a second layer of waterfall, which comes down the face of the window panel. “Originally, there was a 90-degree turn that would allow the water to stop and roll. We decided to bevel that edge so it goes from over the window to hitting the bottom edge of concrete to another drop down into the catch basin below.”

The stone picks up on the colors in the desert landscape, lending a natural feel while still allowing for the modernity of a viewing panel, located next to a central gathering area with a sunken barbecue and fire feature. “Between the coping, natural stacked stone, and tile, I think it all blends together very well,” says Jovaag, adding that this project differs from the more modern projects they typically take on. “We don’t get a chance to do too many deserts or work with that style of home.” hammerheadintl.com


Photo by Joe Traina Photography, Design by Ryan Hughes Design Build


Ryan Hughes Design Build’s Amarula Sun project could be the very definition of dramatic. He describes it as “10,000 square feet of designed outdoor opulence.” Indeed, it is a design and engineering feat. Located on the Gulf of Mexico in a velocity zone, the site presented exciting opportunities as well as multiple challenges.

The homeowner asked that the spa be located on the second floor, the primary living space. The ultimate goal was to have it spill into the main swimming pool located 15 feet below on the ground level.

“As designers, we felt that simply having a spa cantilever 15 feet over the main pool would not provide the cohesive look and flow desired. Therefore, our vision was to break up the elevation by creating separate pools that all spill over into a lower lap pool,” explains Hughes. The effect is of water in constant motion, flowing from pool to pool. “Even for the spa, we created a double spillover so that when one walks out of the rear doors of the home, there is a seamless water-to-water visual.”


Photo by Joe Traina Photography, Design by Ryan Hughes Design Build


The main pool features grotto-style seating, the mid-level pool spills over a high acrylic window into a sun shelf with a three-sided vanishing edge, and the lap pool is characterized by a covered pavilion with outdoor kitchen and sunken fire pit.

The decorative aesthetic draws from opulent “Versailles-esque” interiors. “We played off [similar] finishes by doing an all-tile pool with several handmade mosaics. We also incorporated 24-carat gold into the mosaics,” explains Hughes. “We used a combination of fire features and LED lighting to bring a wow factor across the entire outdoor space that was already full of water-wow.” ryanhughesdesign.com

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