Today we’re discussing luxury pools with Scott Cummings and Benjamin Lasseter of Design Ecology in Austin, TX. This dynamic duo known throughout the pool industry has produced some incredible jaw dropping backyards over the years. We had the chance to catch up with them and got to talk shop, discussing luxury pools and the business aspect of being an elite design / build firm.
Cummings and Lasseter hit it off right away as it turns out. The partners both met back in 2006. Cummings had just relocated from Memphis and began working in Austin for the same company where Lasseter was a construction supervisor.
After collaborating on some incredibly creative and unique projects, they noticed early on how well they worked together. Lasseter developed a tremendous respect for Cummings’ design abilties. Conversely, Cummings realized that Lasseter was a seasoned and knowledgeable Construction Supervisor capable of executing sophisticated design concepts.
One of the early projects that they worked on together would include a French style estate pool and a modern lap pool hanging over Lake Austin with acryllic walls. In 2008 when the great recession hit, Cummings found himself laid off and back on the market. Lasseter remained with the company a short time before moving on as well. Lasseter would shortly work as a project manager for a landscape firm before eventually moving on to start his own landscape construction company.
Cummings had begun working for a firm that specialized entirely in pools. The firm he was working for had been contracted to build two swimming pools for a luxury hotel being built in downtown Austin.
The pools were being built 80 feet above street level and both would be incredibly technically challenging. Cummings knew the enormous workload of successfully completing both and sought out his old friend Lasseter to assist with the two projects.
Cummings convinced his boss that Lasseter had the expertise and project management skills to flawlessly execute both projects. Ultimately, this successful collaboration with Cummings and Lasseter would plant the seeds for starting their own firm together.
A New Company is Born
It was shortly after the W Austin project that Cummings and Lasseter decided to start their own Design / Build firm – Design Ecology / Design Aquatics. The venture between the two business partners officially began in 2011.
Design Ecology functions as the landscaping architecture / master planning division. Design Aquatics is the other half of the company focusing on pool construction and design. Scott Cummings is the designer / landscape architect helping bring the clients vision to life. Ben Lasseter handles the day-to-day business operations and oversees construction.
The creative energy between the two of them has led Design Ecology to become one of the leading outdoor living design and build firms in Austin, TX. When trying to define the seamless and friendly working dynamic between the two, one only has to look at the synergy on the court between Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, for comparison. These two manage to consistently wow and amaze both their clientele and the discerning eye of critics in the pool industry.
Designing Luxury Pools & Understanding the Clients Vision
Cummings, a licensed landscape architect oversees all of the design for the firm. We asked him what it is like working on luxury pools and backyards with some of the most affluent homeowners in Austin.
“It’s very easy to walk onto a job site and design something that is going to be great for me and make something that I think is perfect and going to look great.” said Cummings, “The challenge with design, especially with high end clients is they have a specific vision. You have to understand that vision and bring that to life.” continued Cummings.
“I always feel it’s important to get to know them as people and get to know their taste and their family and lifestyle.” said Cummings, who frequently shepherds the firms high end clients throughout the entire design process.
Coming up with the budget for Design Ecology’s multi-million dollar projects, is Ben Lasseter’s domain. He explained how the entire budgeting process on high end luxury builds is vastly different than your typical residential pool build.
Get Used To Throwing Out Large Numbers
“With a lot of clients, their budget is irrational to a normal person. They see something and the average person is like ‘Oh, that’s $100,000 for that statue’… the clients aren’t making buying decisions based off budget, but what they want,” said Lasseter. “they want what they saw in the picture. Obviously budget is still a concern, but they want the design and implementation of what they want executed. You have to get used to throwing out really large numbers.” continued Lasseter.
The average luxury high end build Design Ecology performs for elite homeowners can range into the millions. “We’ve worked on projects where just the tile alone in the pool costs more than a half a million dollars and that doesn’t include the pool structure.” said Lasseter.
Lasseter’s role is no less important as he focuses on budgeting, buildability studies, and the actual construction process of bringing the homeowners vision and the firms designs to life. This ying and yang of one partner focusing on sales and design and the other focusing on the business end and construction works well for the two. Their business dynamic has created the foundation for a long lasting partnership. Lasseter’s ability to implement Cummings’ incredible designs is the perfect compliment to the firms cutting edge modern design capabilities.
Planning & Preparing for a Custom Luxury Pool
“The modern design appears simple. There’s a bunch of straight and perpendicular lines and it appears simple but it’s actually quite complex.” said Lasseter, “It requires a lot of coordination between contractors and subcontractors.”
Lasseter works closely with builders, engineers and construction crews on all of the firms projects. This is no small task considering the size and scope of projects Design Ecology undertakes. Lasseter explained that during one particular project he was coordinating with the builders and homeowners 4 years prior to an actual pool being built on the site.
The nature of the project required a seamless transition of tile from the interior of the home into the pool area so Lasseter began coordinating with the general contractor years before ever beginning the project. It is this type of high end planning and design work that has helped differentiate Design Ecology from many other local firms in Austin, TX.
The amount of preparation and planning that goes into building the luxury pools Design Ecology is known for is considerable. “We do a lot of work on hill sides and cliff sides. You don’t just go and dig a hole back there. You’re working with soils engineers and structural engineers.” said Lasseter.
“It’s not like your typical pool where you have your excavator come in one day and then your forms and your rebar and your plumbing going in, we may have have six months of structurals going in before we can even get to a water holding vessel.” continued Lasseter. “If you forget one pipe, you can’t just fix it because you’re dangling off the side of a cliff or your access is no longer there because you took the scaffolding down.”
The Demand Has Never Been Higher for Custom Luxury Pools
The enormous complexity and forethought that goes into these projects can take years. The average lead time for luxury pool projects can vary dramatically depending on many factors explained Cummings. “The amount of design time can vary wildly. We’ve had some projects go from design to construction document prep in a matter of days while others can take years to plan.” said Cummings. “Right now demand is so high that we just can’t keep up so our backlog is unfortunately longer than we’d like but there’s worse problems to have than that I suppose.”
Cummings said that the Covid-19 pandemic produced an unexpected surge in demand for high end custom luxury pools.
“Covid has been an interesting phenomenon for us. There was so much uncertainty at the beginning of 2020.” said Cummings, “The city of Austin shut everybody down. They actually tried to shut us down while we were working on a high dollar project in a high end residential home. We gently reminded them that if we left the area an open construction zone for the duration of the shutdown that they’d be liable for any damages.” continued Cummings.
“After that, they insisted we continue with what we were doing. Around the time that had happened, Governor Abbot had come out and declared us to be an essential service, so we were able to continue working through most of the shutdowns.” said Cummings.
The pandemic has seen an increase in demand over the last year and a half. Cummings echoed the sentiments of many other builders when he said “We’ve seen a huge boom in the number of people who are looking to build their own oasis and essentially create a refuge at home.”
We asked if customers have struggled coming to grips with longer than average build times considering that virtually every homeowner in America wants a pool right now. “Yes and no,” said Cummings, “there are definitely people who call in and they just don’t understand. Right now we are sold out into well into the fall but we can have them swimming by 2022. They’re like ‘Well we’re not going to wait, we’re just going to go ahead and go with somebody else’ and that’s fine, they’re not the right client for us and we’re not the right designer / contractor for them.”
Educating Homeowners on the Realities
For the most part however, Cummings said that homeowners are becoming increasingly aware of the shortages effecting the pool industry and have been sympathetic and understanding that construction time can be much longer than average. Lasseter explained some of the struggles that Texas pool contractors in particular have faced this year.
“Not only did we have the Covid-19 challenge,” said Lasseter, “we experienced a catastrophic freeze in Texas that set everybody back. It took precedent over new construction. That, combined with the city offices being shut down for two weeks, we really had significant delays.” Lasseter explained that other underlying issues like supply chain delays such as the recent blockage of the Suez canal were contributing to longer than average waiting times.
Part of being an elite builder means being up front and honest with your clients explained Lasseter, “We’re up front with our clients and we don’t keep any secrets. We let them know there are shortages and delays and we’re going to do our best to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.”
Lasseter said that it’s important to manage expectations with homeowners from the outset. This is true in both luxury high end builds as well as typical residential pool construction. “Even though it may not be our original construction timeline, we try to contain those expectations with the homeowner so that we’re not constantly moving the ball and always giving them another story. We manage expectations from the construction end and everybody seems to be in a really good place.” said Lasseter.
We reminded Lasseter that his story is unique in the respect that many other builders are getting absolutely hammered with negative reviews. Ongoing shortages of equipment, essential materials and skilled labor have contributed to tremendous fallout in the media as homeowners continually complain of pools going unfinished in some cases for many months past their original deadlines. Lasseter sympathized when he said “We would love to be able to hire more people right now but it’s hard finding skilled labor. It’s incredibly busy and it’s a real challenge.”
Doing Great Work Means Hiring The Best
Design Ecology who is a member of Tributary Revelation frequently consults with the best of the best in the industry on their projects. The high end custom nature of their work entails bringing in contractors from other states such as one project with a particularly challenging pool interior. “We brought in Danilo from Art & Mosaics who is a phenomenal Italian Mosaic Artist and he has just done a spectacular job of transforming this pool into an absolute work of art. I’m really excited to show that one off real soon.”
Want to be a Luxury Pool Builder? Education is Key.
Cummings who is a RLA (Registered Landscape Architect) graduate of Mississippi State University’s Landscape Architecture program, got his education in pools working for several firms. Cummings says that he and Lasseters involvement in Tributary Revelation and Watershape University has been particularly stimulating for him in terms of helping him develop his pool accumen. Lasseter who has a BS in Horticulture from Texas A&M, has also completed the Genesis 3 program to become SWD Registered.
Lasseter said that Genesis 3 was instrumental in helping him develop his higher education pursuits. He first became aware of the program when he stumbled on an ad for the program in a trade publication. Upon attending the Genesis School in Scottsdale, AZ Lasseter said that he was exposed to real experts for the first time.
Lasseter credits his interaction with people like Brian Van Bower, Skip Phillips and Dave Penton with cementing the notion that he could have a real future in the pool industry. “That one 3 day class was eye opening to me. There was so much I learned that I didn’t know. I didn’t realize how high the ceiling really was. I thought I was doing real high end work at the time, in reality there were guys there that were just mountains and miles and ahead of me.” said Lasseter.
“It was encouraging, inspirational and enlighting.” explained Lasster, “I spent 3 days with Dave Peterson learning how water moves and I came back with this new enthusiam for pools and water and how it works and what I’m doing wrong and how I could make it better.”
Eventually Lasseter become SWD Registered and is now a faculty member for Genesis teaching classes on how to master plan and how to tie in design & construction. Lasseter also teaches for Watershape University where he offers an Advanced Applied Theory course on Construction Defect Removal and Replacement.
Design Ecology is frequently touted as a favorite among designers and builders, with notable elites of the pool industry citing their work as both inspirational and cutting edge. Cummings whose focus is primarily on landscape design, says that aside from the obvious choices like Paolo Benededtti, Brian Van Bower and Skip Phillips he particularly appreciates the work of Lee Rusell, Kurt Kraisinger, Lawrence Halprin, and E. Fay Jones, among others.
Lasseter who is more focused on the engineering and nuts and bolts of how the pool is built says that Dave Penton has been a tremendous inspiration and mentor to him. “When I look at an equipment room that is located 3 stories below the pool and how all the plumbing is done and how the pipes are labeled and how the space is planned, Dave Penton is at the top of that mountain.” Lasseter said that others like Dave Peterson, Kraisinger, and Brownlee are also some others whose incredibly detailed plans are something he admires a great deal.
Advice for Builders Looking to Get Into Luxury Pools
We asked the partners if they had any advice for aspiring builders looking to delve into the arena of Luxury Pools. “Understand the product you are selling before you sell it. My biggest issue I see with people is that I see dangerous mistakes, code violations. I wish more people would take the time to read the codes and understand the reasons for them.” said Cummings.
“Understand the need for properly sized plumbing,” continued Cummings, “spacial standards, the slopes and breaks of a pool. Lengths and protections for even basic stuff like diving are often misunderstood. If you really want to step into the real high end luxury pools you need to understand what it takes to build them safely.”
The “Business” of Luxury Pools
Cummings also mentioned the need to price things accurately, a fact which Lasseter went into greater detail on when he expressed the importance of focusing on the business side as much as the construction side. He suggested that aspiring luxury pool builders take a lesson from their own companies struggle. Lasseter explained that as more money begins to come in, it’s increasingly important to focus more and more energy managing the business side.
Lasseter expressed the importance of having oversight over financials. “Know your business. We went from watching every check that went through the bank to having millions of dollars moving through our account. We grew so fast, we didn’t know what we were. We couldn’t look at our books and say ‘Oh, we showed a profit last month.’ The forensic accounting that went into getting us on track was… IS… a three year process. Now I can look a report and it’s a click away. It’s not a guess or intuition.”
“A quarter of our time now goes on working on the business, not for the business. Constantly improving out systems.” said Lasseter. “It’s easy to get sidetracked by projects and ‘let the business run itself’ but it’s not really running itself.” Scott Cummings said that in addition, pool companies should move away from doing free designs for companies.
Say No To Free Design
There has been a ground swell in the pool industry to do away with doing free design comps as part of selling a pool. A practice that Cummings and Lasseter are definitely not fans of. “Great clients do value good design and they’re going to be willing to compensate you for that service that you’re providing. Absolutely ‘SAY NO’ to free design. That’s just devaluing yourself and the industry.”
Lasseter explained that there are recurring costs associated with running the softwares necessary to render out 3D designs and plans for homeowners. “You’re giving your time away for free and the cost for operating those software. No matter how much you make on the back end of the pool, it’s a losing proposition that drags the industry down.”
Listen to the entire interview with Scott Cummings & Benjamin Lasseter on the Pool Magazine Podcast.
Featured Photo Credit: Jimi Smith Photography
Pool Designs – 50 Luxury Pools That Will Inspire You
When discussing the world of luxury pools and pool designs, one can’t go very far in the conversation without bringing up gunite pools. Unquestionably, concrete inground pools offer the most versatility in terms of customization. Homeowners go all out tricking out their backyards with the latest outdoor living amenities to take their backyards to the next level. Consequently, they want their pool designs to have the latest state-of-the-art technology. Builders are constantly being asked to push the envelope and incorporate pool features that complement the aesthetics of the home.
Tranqulity of Moving Water
This luxury inground pool with multiple sheer descents coming from a raised retaining wall offers the tranquility of moving water and provides a tasteful and elegant focal feature in the pool area.
Outdoor Pool & Patio Design
A simple and elegant backyard that makes excellent use of the space provided to offer a classic-looking outdoor pool and patio. Cohesive and tasteful throughout the entire space.
Personal Backyard Oasis
Covered Patio & Pool Vibe
When the summer is hot, you’ll want a covered patio area to relax and beat the harmful rays of the sun. This hangout has an outdoor wet-rated ceiling fan to help circulate the air while lounging poolside on hot days.
Beach Resort Pool
This quaint backyard beach resort comes complete with a raised spa. Guests lounging poolside will want to dive right in. Nothing screams beach vibe like a giant crab on the wall.
Perfect Pool Design For A Beach House
Everything about this beach house says pool party. The minute you pull up to the house, the side entrance leads right to an elegant pool with a neatly appointed lounging area.
Classic & Contemporary
The classic look of the home with its brick columns demands a simple and contemporary pool design. Large format pool tile at the waterline of the pool help gives it color and dimension.
Freeform Designer Pool
Enclosed Inground Pool
Enclosed pool designs are extremely popular in Florida. This homeowner opted to install a rain curtain feature in the center of the pool for a breathtaking centerpiece.
Fire & Water Features
There is nothing quite so captivating as when fire and water come together. The firepots complementing the sheer descents and laminar jets work beautifully with a spillover spa.
Outdoor Living At It’s Finest
Gunite Is The Way To Go
Homeowners that want a truly custom luxury pool design 9 times out of 10 will choose a gunite pool because of the flexibility it offers pool designers in terms of materials and shapes.
Raised Wall Sheer Descents
Pool designers are opting to add elevations by building retaining walls that step down to the pool area. Adding a sheer descent that provides the sense of moving water throughout is a classic pool feature folks tend to ask for again and again.
Large Format Tiles Are Popular
One popular trend that continues to dominate pool designs is large format tiles. Homeowners are opting for beautiful grout lines and textured interesting patterns that pop.
Modern Pool Design With Retaining Wall
This modern pool design features multiple sheer descents from a huge retaining privacy wall that keeps prying eyes and nosey neighbors from checking out the raging pool party going on.
Luxury Pool Design With Mosaic Tile
This beachside mansion features a luxury pool with a perimeter overflow to a smaller pool below. The entire wall of the pool is covered in gorgeous mosaic pool tile throughout the whole length of the pool.
Southern Mansion Pool
This quaint southern mansion features a neatly appointed luxury pool area with paver tiles throughout the entire deck area. Seating is available under covered porches on multiple levels.
Garden Pool Design
Homeowners looking for the perfect garden pool design need to look no further. This exemplifies an ideal outdoor pool design down to the doll-sized change room in the garden.
Poolside Shade With Pergolas
One smart way to add a permanently shaded area is to build a pergola. This homeowner opted to build one running the length of the pool. A raised spillover spa provides the perfect accent.
Perfectly Simple Inground Pool
Not every pool design has to be overdesigned with a million dollars worth of water features in order to be the ideal perfect pool. Sometimes simple is better when it comes to designing a pool and patio. The paver decking throughout is a classic and sophisticated look.
Picture Perfect Backyard
This picture-perfect backyard has all the outdoor living amenities one could want. An outdoor fireplace, pergola, and outdoor kitchen complement a freeform pool with raised spillover spa.
Elevations Are Popular
Homes with a sloped backyard are a prime candidate for creating tasteful pool designs that incorporate exciting elevation changes. This modern pool design does that handsomely.
Luxury Outdoor Living
When discussing outdoor luxury amenities that add value to the home, a beautiful beach entry pool is definitely one that is adding to the sale price of a home. Completed backyards with a swimming pool like this one are going for top dollar in today’s real estate market.
Private Waterfront Pool Area
Luxury homeowners could want nothing more than a private waterfront pool area with easy dock access for any guests that may want to drop in for the occasional dip.
Vanishing Edge Pools
Vanishing edge pools are a luxury that homeowners investing in an outdoor pool seem to want. They add a sophisticated modern design aesthetic to areas that open up to a view.
Spillover Spas a Popular Pool Feature
Pool designers that opt to include a raised spillover spa to a complete view of the pool area will create a relaxing detached area away from children playing in the pool. This design is popular with homeowners that want an elegant pool design but still want to keep an eye on their kids.
Crafting Outdoor Living Environments
Crafting the ideal outdoor living environment that speaks to a homeowner’s lifestyle and design aesthetic can be a challenge for pool builders. The best pool designs think about the entire backyard as a whole. Considering the flow from the main home to the patio area, homeowners frequently opt to add an outdoor home theater system and seating area. This beautifully appointed outdoor fireplace is the perfect place to lounge poolside.
Pool & Firepit Area
One of the most popular backyard amenities homeowners are adding to their swimming pool is a separate fire pit area. This beautiful stacked stone fire pit with crushed blue glass perfectly accents the pool interior. Using color to combine design elements is a method outdoor living experts use to create a cohesive palette in the backyard.
Complement Your Natural Canvas
Homeowners that already have an impressive natural backdrop to build against are eager to add a pool. Adding a custom luxury pool completes the transition from the indoors to an impressive outdoor canvas. Adding small touches like moving water features creates the serenity that homeowners seek after a trying day at the office.
Add Natural Rock To Your Pool To Create An Outdoor Oasis
Natural rock immediately gives you the sense that you’re in an outdoor oasis. Pool designs that incorporate a chatter fall feature where moving water rushes down the rocks are very popular. Multiple entries are also a pool feature that creates a resort-style pool.
Rustic Southern Style
This beautiful freeform pool with a raised spa is the focal point of the backyard. A huge paver patio has an outdoor fireplace with Adirondack chairs. A covered pergola and barbecue setting area make it easy to serve food and drinks to guests poolside. Incorporate the right landscaping, trees, and plants pulls the whole pool design together in this beautiful rustic southern-style backyard.
Sheet of Glass
This pool is literally a sheet of glass. A perimeter overflow pool design with a small gap around the entire pool area allow the water to continuously recycle back into the pool. If you look closely you’ll notice a spa area got the same treatment on the other end of the backyard. Truly a modern pool design aesthetic that homeowners are gravitating towards.
Designing Pools For Narrow Spaces
This homeowner opted to build a beautiful and luxurious inground pool and spa on the side of their house instead of in their backyard where they had less square footage. It’s a unique pool design that makes the most out of the usable space.
Pool Entries Are Important
When planning a pool design, builders will often recommend a pool entry that flows seamlessly into the rest of the backyard area. Making it easy for swimmers to enter and exit the pool is important. Backyards that are on a slope are best suited for stair entry pools.
Geometric Shaped Pools
Modern pool designs tend to lean more towards geometric shapes. This simple L shaped pool design is perfectly suited with a retaining wall at the far end that creates a walkway with garden boxes on each side. The concrete decking here blends in seamlessly with the coping.
Adding a Ledge Lounger
It’s amazing what adding a ledge lounger can do to really give the pool a backyard resort style look and feel. The fact that loungers now come in a wide variety of colors make it easy to add one on and coordinate it to the rest of your outdoor palette.
Creating Seating for Guests
Creating seating for guests to be able to comfortably lounge poolside is one design element that shouldn’t be overlooked. If you do a lot of entertaining in your backyard, you’ll want to consider adding a few lounge chairs by the pool which will require a deck to place them on. Adding a tanning ledge to the pool allows swimmers to lounge in the water without actually getting in the water. Definitely a pool feature that homeowners want these days.
Pergolas consistently remain one of the top outdoor amenities that homeowners add to their swimming pool area. This simple outdoor seating area has a beautiful pergola that perfectly accents the home. It’s incredible what adding a Pergola can do to help bring the entire backyard together. A massive tanning ledge in this pool can easily be equipped with a ledge lounger.
Raised Spa With Large Format Tile
The pool designers paid attention to creating a continuous line above the waterline throughout the pool. Adding a raised spa with large format tile was a smart touch here. A huge spillover into the pool creates that waterfall sound that really makes this backyard resort feel like an oasis. A beautiful pergola and outdoor kitchen are the perfect addition to really complete this outdoor living environment.
Massive Tanning Ledge
One of the most popular pool design features that homeowners are requesting these days is a massive tanning ledge. A tanning ledge is a particularly useful feature for homeowners that have small children. Parents want a larger than average shallow area for splashing around with infants and toddlers.
Retaining Wall Water Features
The sound of moving water creates the sense of tranquility and an atmosphere of elegance. Homeowners opt to add retaining walls for a number of reasons. Whether it’s for holding the earth back from the pool area, or creating privacy, or forming elevations; builders that are able to incorporate water features into them are pushing the envelope on their pool designs.
Making The Most Of Travertine
Travertine decking is one of the more high-end materials that homeowners are choosing for their patio. Using that material on the raised detached spa was smart. Creating a channel for the water to flow into the pool and create a moving water feature was even smarter.
Popular Water Feature to Add – Deck Jets
A popular pool feature that homeowners are adding to their pool design – deck jets. The jets can be aimed to shoot a stream of water a certain distance or height and can even incorporate LED lighting to create a colored stream of light into the pool at night.
Cascading Sheer Descents & High Retaining Walls
If privacy is an issue, a high retaining wall solves a lot of problems and a good design solution if you have a lot of earth to hold back in your yard. A popular water feature these days is adding a cascading sheer descent to your pool. Water appears to flow from the top of the wall into the pool below.
No Deck Needed
Not every pool needs to be surrounded by a slab of concrete or travertine decking. Some outdoor pool designs look just as beautiful without a deck. This homeowner opted not to build a deck and has their pool surrounded by a lush green lawn. The pool design itself is very simple but stylish with a sunken channeled spillover spa.
Lounging poolside, swimmers may opt to need breaks in the pool. Builders will frequently opt to create shelves and ledges in these areas of an inground pool. This particular pool design does exactly that with a tanning ledge running along the entrance of the pool as well as along the perimeter.
Caddy Corner Spillover Spa
A popular design feature that looks spectacular on geometric-shaped pools is caddy cornered spillover spas. Positioning them smartly so that the water flow goes directly into the pool creates the sound of peacefully moving water. This is something you’ll appreciate the moment you enter the pool area.
Location, Location, Location
Having a beautiful backdrop to build a pool against creates the ultimate canvas for luxury outdoor living designs. The pool designers were inspired to create a backyard design that would handsomely complement the sprawling outdoor space and blend seamlessly with the exterior of the home.
Classic Outdoor Living
It isn’t very hard to see that this homeowner was going for a classic outdoor living environment with this pool design. This roman shaped pool design is popular with more traditional homes. The plants and landscaping the homeowner chose beautifully accent the perimeter of the pool area throughout. A pavilion towards the back of the property line provides a smartly appointed entertainment area.
Pool Design For Your Outdoor Living Environment
Cameron Rhodes, the lead designer and co-owner of Southern Poolscapes has been designing high-end outdoor living environments for the better part of a decade. When it comes to selecting a pool design, Rhodes said “It’s important to meet with a pool builder that understands your vision for the space. Many times, it takes a while to help homeowners articulate that into a design plan that accurately represents what their dream is.”
As one of the leading luxury pool builders in the South, Rhodes has his fingers on the pulse of what pool design features homeowners want in their inground pool. “Moving water is extremely popular,” said Rhodes, “There is something truly serene about coming into the backyard and hearing the sound of a waterfall or sheer descent running. That ambient sound is very peaceful and adds to the overall atmosphere and ambiance in a high-end custom pool.”
In terms of what luxury homeowners are adding to their pools, Rhodes replied, “We’ve seen more and more homeowners requesting massive tanning ledges. Many of these folks have a family with small children and these ledges provide a larger shallow area to enjoy time in the pool with younger more inexperienced swimmers. Plus when coupled with a set of ledge loungers, the effect is pretty impressive,” said Rhodes.
“We are also seeing more homeowners looking for a cleaner more refined look to their inground pool,” said Rhodes, “We’re doing a lot of perimeter overflow projects where you get that seamless sheet of glass look when the waterline is flush with the coping.”
As far as outdoor living amenities go, Rhodes says that homeowners are going all out on high-end materials, despite the rising costs that we’ve seen across the board this season.
“By and large people want a beautiful outdoor living environment,” said Rhodes, “we’re seeing more customers add on Pavilions, outdoor kitchens, firepits, and go all out on their landscaping. It goes to show their mindset; that if they’re stuck at home, they are going to make sure that their home is definitely someplace that they want to be.”
Photo Credit: Southern Poolscapes
Hot Tub Party Bus Ordered To Shut Down
The owner of one of Nashville’s famous and popular party buses, Music City Party Tub, has been ordered to stop operating a public pool without a permit, according to a complaint. The business has been operating as an alternative to traditional party buses and limo rental services.
The Tennessean reported that in a lawsuit filed last week, the Metropolitan Government of Nashville requested that the mobile tub be temporarily shut down. Next Wednesday is the date of their hearing.
Popular Hot Tub Party Bus Operating Since 2019
According to the complaint, health regulators sent a notice to Music City Party Tub on August 11 informing them of the infraction. For the past few years the party bus has been a regular sight in Nashville’s entertainment sector, boasting that it can accommodate hot tub parties of up to six or seven people at a time.
The health department claims Guy Williams visited in that month and was urged by regulators to submit pool design plans and apply for a swimming pool permit, which he did. When the trailer-mounted party tub was inspected, the inspectors told Williams a number of items needed to be fixed before it could be authorized. However, according to the lawsuit, he never returned.
The suit claims that in September 2020, health department employees saw Williams driving the party busy again and asked him about not having a pool permit. He claimed he was excluded since his hot tub lacked the “minimum volume” of a public pool by 50 gallons (190 liters).
According to the lawsuit, such exceptions do not exist. The business also has not registered with the state and has no business license, according to the complaint.
Photo Credit: Music City Party Tub
Hydrofloors, The Hidden Pool Feature Homeowners Love
One of the coolest inground pool features these days that has taken social media by storm are Hydrofloors. These incredible movable pool floor systems enable you to achieve the ultimate hidden pool. Hydrofloors were first introduced to the pool industry back in 2007. Since then they have slowly been gaining traction with builders and homeowners alike.
Movable pool floors have been around for decades. If you’ve ever seen the pool from ‘It’s Wonderful Life’, you’d recall a memorable scene involving a dance floor opening up to a swimming pool. Technology has certainly come a long way since George Bailey took the plunge. These movable floors vertically rise to fill in the pool area with usable space within minutes.
What Are Hydrofloors?
Twinscape Group is the pioneer behind this revolutionary technology that is enabling homeowners to reenvision their pool area as a dual-purpose space. It is now possible to go from an indoor gym to an indoor pool in an instant using Hydrofloors. The movable swimming pool floors can be lowered to varying depths. It can also be elevated to ground level to be utilized as a flat-top surface.
The James Bondesque pool feature isn’t just becoming more popular with luxury homeowners. Hydrofloors are also becoming a big hit with aquatic centers. The ability to raise and lower the pool floor makes it possible to hold infant swim classes at 10 am, an adult lap swim at noon, and a swim meet competition at 3pm all in the same pool.
Transforming the pool to different depths happens all by pressing a single button. Hydrofloors also have applications for creating better therapy pools. Slip-resistant, movable pool floor systems can be easily adjusted. This allows swimmers of any physical condition to enter and exit the pool with greater ease. Hydrofloors eliminate the need for slings, hoists, and access ramps.
Movable Pool Floors Are Attracting More Pool Builders
Builders like Paolo Benedetti of Aquatic Technology out of Morgan Hill, CA, have become a big fan of Hydrofloors. They enjoy the ability to do multiple depth floor systems that can accommodate popular finishes (i.e., tile, glass-mosaic, and even marble). That is accompanied by Hydrofloors’ enormous load capacity. Hydrofloors surpass a home’s conventional floor strength rating of 55 lb/ft when lifted.
Benedetti recently shared one of the most recent projects he collaborated on with Panorama Pool Builders of White Fish, MT. This incredible over the top luxury inground pool exemplifies what can be achieved in the backyard with Hydrofloor movable pool floor systems.
What is also remarkable is that a Hydrofloor pool is a 100% safe pool cover that can convert into a usable patio space within minutes. This provides the versatility to create unique pool environments that are multiuse spaces. That is perhaps the most appealing aspect for pool builders.
How Do Hydrofloors Work?
A series of cables and a pulley system with a water-based hydraulic cylinder comprise much of the technology behind Hydrofloors. Locking pins that automatically slide in the pool shell walls help achieve an incredibly high load capacity (250 kg/m2). Buoyancy packs are installed underneath the structure, which floats the pool floor to the surface. The floor is pulled down with a cable and pulley system with water-based hydraulic cylinder to the desired depth. Water passes slowly enough so that the water percolates above the floor to quickly drain away from a small gap around the perimeter.
Separating The Fantasy of Movable Pool Floors From Reality
There have been plenty of moving pool floor system videos being shared on social media lately. Some of these time-lapse videos are incredibly entertaining to watch. Quite a few of them show pool floors that disappear within seconds. Realistically you’re looking at around 8-10 minutes for a complete transformation from patio to pool.
Let’s also set realistic expectations about market penetration on these systems. While the videos are becoming popular on social media, and homeowners might be wondering if they can have one of their own; this is still a pool feature reserved for the elite. The movable pool floor system alone can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars; which can be pricey – even in terms of luxury inground pools.
How Much Does a Hydrofloor Pool Cost?
Each square foot of the movable floor system can cost anywhere from $300 to $550. This makes movable pool floors a unique but very expensive pool feature. Construction costs considered, a hidden pool with a Hydrofloor can cost millions, according to Alan Crownover of Paradise Pools and Garden. Crownover is a San Francisco-area pool builder, who’s designed at least one Hydrofloor pool so far. He said the starting price for similar projects would run someone about $2 million.
Crownover is working on another exciting Hydrofloor project. This one involves a private yacht that wants to land a helicopter on the roof. He is planning a dual-purpose landing pad/pool. The owner will be able to convert into a swimming pool and back again whenever guests drop in. Truly a unique project that we can’t wait to see get off the ground (no pun intended).
Luxury Pool Feature With a High Price Tag
The high cost associated with this particular pool feature puts it out of reach for all but the most affluent homeowners. Real estate agents have reported an uptick of homes with hidden pools hitting the market in recent years. However, this doesn’t indicate they’ve become more affordable yet. Most regular inground pools typically start at around $50,000. The starting price for a Hydrofloor is $230,000. This makes this a unique pool feature that you’ll still find in only a finite amount of residential homes.
Twinscape Group is definitely setting the bar in movable pool floors when it comes to finding exciting and innovative new ways to conceal a swimming pool. They are also pushing the envelope with movable benches, pool covers, and submersible walls and bridges.
Inexpensive Hidden Pool Projects
Want a hidden pool but can’t afford a Hydrofloor system? You might want to try the DIY approach. You can try and build your own. Gil Klar, an Israeli electrical engineer, spent three months and around $10,000 building his own hidden pool. One that is quite similar to the sliding dance floor shown in “It’s a Wonderful Life”.
Photo Credits: Twinscape Group
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