How Innovative Pool Designers Create Stunning Effects

Ever see a reflection so clearly you could mistake it for the real thing? In many instances, lakes, oceans, rivers, and even puddles do not appear to be made up of water at all, but rather some sort of mystical element that piques your curiosity. It’s no wonder why travelers will request an ocean view or sit by a beautiful resort pool for hours without any plans to even put their feet in. Water’s mesmerizing effect has led homeowners to desire pools with the kind of wow factor that offers striking views from every angle. Many luxury pool designs even seem to defy the laws of physics, providing owners and guests with not only an impressive work of art, but a sense of wonderment that begs the question, “How did they do it?”


The illusion

At first glance you may believe you’re looking at a mountain range with low-lying clouds in the valley below. Since the water in this pool mirrors its surrounding so perfectly, it’s difficult to determine the sky from its own reflection!

How it was achieved

When water becomes one with its surroundings, its borders seem to disappear, leaving nothing but a vast, breathtaking scene worthy of a panoramic camera. Though this pool is manmade, its amazing reflective quality makes it look like a natural pond. “Once the watershape location was determined, the view line became very obvious and we knew the reflective image we were looking for,” says Newton.

The goal was to blend this pool and spa with its natural surroundings and maximize the view of the Cascade Mountains. “I knew going into the design of this project that we wanted a natural look, so we went with a freeform design,” says Newton.

For the finish materials, he incorporated natural flagstone and approximately 70 loads of local rock and boulders. He also used a dark plaster interior to achieve as much reflection as possible on the pool surface. Construction was a challenge, however, because the site had many large boulders and a great deal of ground water. A team of geotechnical and structural engineers worked closely with the construction team to guarantee that the pool was anchored to the site. Though the owners could not see the stunning effects until the project was completed, Newton envisioned this sweeping mirror-like image from the start: “The final result was a very nice surprise for the owner!”

Builder/Designer: Rick Newton, LifeScapes

Project location: Central Washington State




The illusion

This brilliant modern art piece does more than just impress the eye: it invites guests in for a relaxing soak. Though its surface resembles a piece of mirrored glass, the 9-foot-diameter spa is indeed filled with water and equipped with massaging jets, providing a true Zen-like experience.

How it was achieved

This client was looking for something family-friendly with an artistic feel. That’s when builder and designer Don Gwiz came up with the idea of a circular, perimeter-overflow spa. The entire spa—including the exterior—is finished with ¾-inch black Italian glass mosaic tile, giving it a highly reflective look. “It’s located in a setting surrounded by tall trees, which provide these beautiful, scenic reflections,” says Gwiz. The spa’s perimeter-overflow design enhances the artistic appeal, while also serving a function: As water flows down the outside of the spa, it goes into a narrow trough that carries water into the shallow kids’ pool.

While both pools are closed in the winter, the owners keep the spa open year-round, where they can see reflections of the foliage as the seasons change. Though the water flows continuously over the spa’s edge, its movement is barely detected; water is jetted back into the spa via floor jets, allowing the surface to maintain its reflective quality.

“Since we imported this beautiful high-end glass from Italy and tiled the entire spa and interior of both pools with it, our biggest challenge was the budget,” says Gwiz, “but the end result was well worth it.”

Builder/Designer: Don Gwiz, Lewis Aquatech Pools, Chantily, VA >>

Project location: Fairfax, Virginia


The illusion

Along with a lounge area that appears to be floating, this deck-level, perimeter-overflow pool creates the illusion of walking on water!

How it was achieved

The architect of the home, Jasmit Rangr of Rangr Studio, Inc., came up with the concept of a very large pool with clean lines and a modern look. When pool builder and designer Brian Van Bower came on board, the team focused on “a dramatic design that wouldn’t interfere with the overall beauty of the site,” says Van Bower.

To make the pool truly seamless, Van Bower used a 360-degree, perimeter-overflow system in which water is constantly overflowing on all sides, carried into an underground tank, and pumped back in via floor jets, so it never disrupts the stillness of the water’s surface. Where the pool is level with the deck, the water flows into a narrow slot. A dark all-glass-tile interior makes the water highly reflective; combined with the pool’s seamless design, the pool appears to be only several inches deep throughout. In reality, the water goes as deep as 8½ feet in some places.

Another illusion? This pool sits atop a tall, rugged cliff; from most vantage points, however, the pool appears to be level with the ocean. “On the far edge, we dropped the deck lower than perimeter overflow, creating an effect similar to a vanishing edge. It forms such a strong connection to the view beyond,” says Van Bower. “You get the feeling that you are floating.” No doubt, the pool’s lounging island also contributes to this effect. As water subtly flows into the slot behind the island, underwater benches on either side allow guests to cool off. “By keeping the lines of sight low to the ground, you can look across the pool and appreciate the spectacular view,” says Van Bower.

Builder/Designer: Brian Van Bower, Aquatic Consultants, Inc./Brian Van Bower, Miami, FL >>

Project location: Dominican Republic

Architect: Jasmit Rangr, Rangr Studio, Inc.

Photograph by: M. Bouwmeester


The illusion

From the color of the water to the pool’s freeform shape, this vanishing-edge design gives the illusion that the pool is flowing right into the lake.

How it was achieved

As water flows over a vanishing edge, it seems to continue into the horizon. While it is a common feature in the pool industry, it never ceases to amaze and to create a powerful connection to the view beyond. In cases such as this waterfront view, it’s hard to tell where the pool ends and the lake begins!

After 15 years of a basic rectangular pool, the homeowners decided it was time for a change. “They wanted more of a wow factor so we demolished the existing pool and went with a brand new design,” says builder and designer Michael Moore. “A vanishing edge was the perfect way to enhance the view overlooking Caddo Lake.” To make sure this view could be appreciated from multiple locations—the kitchen, living room, master bedroom, and screened-in porch—the placement of the pool was key. “We had to look at the elevations and push the pool out 15 feet further than the old one. It gave the owners more deck space, which was ideal since they like to entertain,” says Moore.

The color of the interior was also important; the dark blue exposed aggregate accentuated the vanishing edge and blended with the lake. “In springtime, the lake appears very clear and light blue. When the sun hits it, the effect is really stunning,” says Moore. The pool’s other features were carefully designed to maintain the vanishing-edge look. The thermal ledge was cast in the same flagstone as the deck, and the borders of the perimeter-overflow spa are very subtle. All the elements provide this poolscape with one cohesive look.

Builder/Designer: Michael Moore, Morehead Pools, Shreveport, LA >>

Project location: Mooringsport, Louisiana


The illusion

This spa and stone walkway remain hidden under water until—with the touch of a button—they seem to rise to the surface and float in the center of the pool.

How it was achieved

If you’ve been to a water park or resort pool, you’ve probably seen waterfalls with manmade caves behind them. These secret hideaways add a sense of whimsy and mystery to any poolscape. Lew and David Akins kept these qualities in mind when designing this large infinity-edge pool with a hidden spa. “We bounced the idea of an underwater spa to the client, and he was on board,” says Lew Akins. “Then the challenge was, how do we make this work?” With the help of primary superintendent Chris Perry, the team at Ocean Quest Pools made this project a success.

What makes the spa “rise?” Technically, the spa doesn’t move at all: the water in the small upper pool around it drops about 3 inches to expose the spa and rock walkway. The water is stored in the catch pool until it is needed to refill the upper pool. “Getting this system just right took an incredible amount of detail,” says Akins. “We had to determine how the water depth would be controlled and how long it would take for the water level to drop low enough for the spa to be used.” Adjusted via remote control, the homeowner can press a button to expose or hide the spa and walkway in about three minutes. That’s one impressive disappearing act!

Builder/Designer: Lew and David Akins, Ocean Quest Pools by Lew Akins

Project location: Jonesboro, Texas


The illusion

Is this water standing on its own? The clear glass used around the vanishing edge gives the illusion that the water is uncontained and somehow defying the laws of gravity.

How it was achieved

After viewing the clear walls used on the many tanks in Sea World, designer Doug Staples was inspired to apply the same concept to his pool projects. “I broached this idea to the client after we excavated the pool,” says Staples. “Even though we had never built a pool with clear walls before, the client loved the idea.” Staples began by talking to his structural engineer and construction superintendant to find the best material, which turned out to be ¾-inch tempered glass.

The goal of his design was to make the top and sides of the pool resemble a glass cube that would mirror its surroundings. The house side of the pool is a wet edge, where the water comes right up to the deck and falls into a narrow drain via a perimeter-overflow system. The sides opposite and to the right of the house have vanishing edges in which water flows over the glass walls. “We had to level the bottom of the slots and set the sheets of glass at the precise elevation to ensure the water flow would be perfect,” says Staples. “The result was far beyond what the client and we had ever imagined.” Since completing this project, Staples has received several requests to build glass-walled pools for other clients.

Builder/Designer: Doug Staples, Cimarron Circle Construction Company

Project location: Tucson, Arizona

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