Luxury Pool Renovations: Before and After

Someone once said, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” This sentiment can be applied to just about anything, including the area that encompasses your outdoor space. When you peer out the patio door, do you wince when you see the poolscape that came with the home you just purchased? Does the pool you had constructed 25 years ago no longer fit into your style or plans? Or does your pool need to be totally re-plumbed and constructed so it works the way it was designed? No matter the reason, it may be time to renovate your backyard retreat into an exquisite poolscape that is not only eco-smart and energy efficient, but which also includes everything on your backyard wish list.

Here are three very different pool renovations that prove homeowners do not have to live with the pool that is currently gracing their backyards—there are countless options for change. With a little bit of ingenuity (and a lot of skill and experience in pool design and building), any type of pool remodel is possible.

Pool Renovation: Splendor in the Desert

Many people inherit a pool from the home’s previous owners that does not suit their needs or their personality, and remodeling it is one of the first renovation projects they put on their to-do lists. One such poolscape was transformed by Dave Brandenburg, owner of Brandenburg Pool, Phoenix, AZ. When he was initially contacted by the homeowners, they stipulated that they wanted to revamp their outdoor space, which included a 40-year-old freeform pool with standard-issue tile and decking, into a contemporary getaway that featured a clean-lined, elegant pool and spa.

“At first we were going to try to keep the freeform pool,” say Brandenburg. “But, we soon discovered that by removing the existing pool and starting fresh with a new conceptual design, we would have more creative possibilities that would better serve the homeowners’ vision.”

Brandenburg developed a plan that included a geometric, angular pool framed by integrally colored concrete decking divided into various rectilinear shapes for visual interest. The clients had their own ideas about color, which is reflected in the colored glass tile that they chose. “Up close, the tiles show blues, greens, golds, and browns,” notes Brandenburg. “But from a distance, the tile appears to be a rich earth tone, which complements the property’s desert setting.”

In addition to the pool, the space also includes an elevated spa, two sheer descents, cantilevered steps that trick viewers into thinking they are walking on water, and twin thermal shelves—one to display the homeowners’ artwork and the other to serve as a lounging area.

Additionally, the outdoor space features a custom-crafted fireplace under a tensile shade sail in a terra cotta hue that visually defines the setting as contemporary. “We accomplished the homeowners’ goals,” states Brandenburg. “The space is now imaginative and sophisticated.”

Photos courtesy of Brandenburg Pool, Phoenix, AZ; photography by Scott Sandler


Pool Renovation: Natural Escape

There comes a time when the space around the outside of the home becomes tired and faded, failing to live up to its promise of endless beauty. When that time arrives, changes usually need to be wholesale.

Chris Cipriano, founder and president of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools & Landscaping, Mahwah, NJ, recently listened to the complaints lodged by the owners of one such outdoor space. They felt the venue was uninspiring and quite outdated. Plus, the pool was too close to the home and built on a raised design that was 20 inches higher than the adjacent patio. When Cipriano’s team started the renovation, they discovered why the pool was built the way it was: the old gunite pool was built on top of an exposed ledge rock.

“We transformed the setting to fit into the wooded surroundings of the property,” says Cipriano. “In fact, we incorporated a slope in the backyard to accommodate the design’s large waterfalls and plantings.”

Cipriano used other natural materials to build the site, including Grey Tennessee Crab Orchard flagstone for the coping and the patio and weathered sandstone boulders to create the three separate waterfalls. The largest waterfall is fed by a small stream over cascading boulders. “We used over 200 tons of stone and three 5-hp pumps utilizing 6-inch lines to push the ideal amount of water over the stone waterfalls,” explains Cipriano. “The result is a perfectly tuned effect of water and sound.”

The setting also includes a number of other outstanding amenities, including colorful fiber-optic lighting and a volcanic firepit installed next to an oversized spa. “We included natural gas to power the firepit’s flames that rise from a bed of crushed glass,” says Cipriano. “The balance between the rushing waterfalls and rugged firepit brings a huge amount of excitement to the venue. The space is now an enjoyable place to eat, cook, relax, and entertain.”

Photos courtesy of Cipriano Custom Swimming Pools & Landscaping, Mahwah, NJ


Pool Renovation: Modern Sanctuary

A pool owner will tell you: there is nothing more frustrating than a pool that does not function the way it was designed.

Skip Phillips, one of the founders of the Genesis 3 and owner of Questar Pools and Spas, Inc., Escondido, CA, knows first hand how to handle this type of challenge. In fact, one of his most creative designs was the result of a remodel of a remodel. Working with Jimmy Reed of Rock Solid Tile and John Crystal who did the construction, Phillips was able to completely repair a problem that caused the pool to overflow under the new coping and over the deck and into the home.

“Most likely the system was mis-plumbed or undersized,” relays Phillips. “And on top of the plumbing issues, the theme of the pool was not in sync with the home’s nuances of glass and stainless steel. We needed to rework everything.”

In the process of renovating the pool, Phillips deleted the existing radiuses in the access steps plus the floor to wall transitions. By adding a bench around the pool’s perimeter and re-pouring the steps, Phillips achieved an angular theme for the pool as dictated by the home. “I custom ordered P.E.M. rectangular light with stainless steel rock guards to resemble the window treatments,” says Phillips. Additionally, the solar lines were encased in stainless steel chases with round treads welded in a ladder pattern to suggest an industrial access to the roof.

Phillips used a gray offset tile to finish the pool, and he had the suction and discharge grates custom-designed with a slot detail. Plus, he had the slot in the overflow as well as the laminars illuminated. “We achieved our goal of making the outdoor space match the sharp good looks of the home,” says Phillips. “But first and foremost, we fixed the plumbing problems!”

Photo courtesy of Questar Pools and Spas, Inc., Escondido, CA.; project designed by Questar Pools and Spas, Inc.; built by John Crystal Pools, Northridge, CA; tile installation by Rock Solid Tile; photography by A Birds Eye,

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