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The unsung heroes: Pool & Spa News celebrates great design for less than $60,000.

A large budget may open up limitless design options, but it doesn't guarantee an eye-pleasing aquascape. Conversely, a moderate price tag doesn't necessarily mean you're stuck with a mediocre design.

That's why Pool & Spa News decided to examine great waterscapes costing less than $60,000. It's just enough money to provide wiggle room, but not enough to get too extravagant. All of the projects are located in Texas, so we could compare apples to apples--or in this case, Texas red grapefruit to Texas red grapefruit (the official state fruit).

The price tag covers the pool and anything included in the shell, such as a spa or waterfeatures, as well as decking. Each is founded on solid design principles and dedication to a core concept. Check out the following six projects.



Acclaim Pools

The Woodlands, Texas

Of all the bidders on this project, Toth was the only contractor who didn't give the clients what they requested. They asked for a free-form, but he didn't think it would complement their Mediterranean-style home. Plus, at 25 feet wide, the yard was too narrow to accommodate ambling curves.

"Everyone was throwing free-form pools at them, when it wouldn't have worked functionally," Toth says. "I said, 'Let's give you something that's less free-form and more architecturally inclusive of the Mediterranean home.'"

He convinced the clients by telling them that a Mediterranean-inspired pool would help sell the property in the future. "If [prospective buyers] like a Mediterranean-style home, don't you think they're going to like a Mediterranean-style pool as well?" he says.

True Roman pools were rectangular, he says, but the homeowners thought that shape was too plain. As a compromise, Toth incorporated the scalloped corners usually associated with Roman design. They appear on the pool as well as on the matching spa and shallow lounging area, which the designer added for symmetry's sake.

To stay within budget, Toth added a raised bond beam with deep blue tile, white statuary and four modest waterfeatures. For the extra lift that an arbor might offer, he placed four fiberglass Doric columns behind the wall, which are available inexpensively at many home-improvement centers. Their Ionic and Corinthian counterparts, on the other hand, require custom construction. Crews created reinforced columns using Sonotubes, then covered them with the fiberglass facing.

Toth embellished the spa and shallow lounging area with removable fountains in the center. Water falls out of two fleur-delis sculptures mounted on the back wall. Miniature geysers also shoot up from the beach entry and near an angel statue at the back wall.

The clients originally wanted deck-mounted laminar jets, but opted for four pencil jet laminars to stay within budget. In place of travertine decking, they went with a spraydeck. It was more heavily textured than normal for a richer feel.

To add a few premium touches, three built-in wet bar stools sit just outside the spa. Another three were placed outside the shallow lounging area. Toth suggested a locally quarried Austin limestone coping because it would be authentic yet less expensive. The stone was gauged to maintain consistent thickness, and crews installed it with joints no wider than 3/8-inch for a formal look.

"The thing that I kept bringing them back to was that the design of the pool had to be stronger than the individual elements of it," he says. "So we focused on that first and foremost, then worried about what features we were going to add to achieve it."


Sales Designer

Pulliam Aquatech Pools

Fort Worth, Texas

This mountain-lake-shaped pool showcases elegant lines and well-coordinated, rich materials. Its longer, ellipsed curves provide the natural look the client wanted.

To enhance the organic look of the design, Fluty and his clients chose a Tennessee crab orchard flagstone deck. Though it gave the project a premium finish, the local variety is relatively inexpensive. Pius, they didn't need much--only 3 feet or so around most of the pool.

"We left decking out behind the raised wall on the back because it didn't feel like they needed to go back there," says Fluty, whose company is a Pool & Spa News Top Builder. He took advantage of an existing patio to cut down on the need for a new deck.

Normally, Fluty likes to place a raised spillover spa on the back of the lot, but the clients wanted it close to the house. Instead, he added a raised bond beam in the back and veneered it with Texas moss rock, another local variety that closely matches the deck. Crews placed a protruding piece of flagstone underneath each of the two sheet waterfalls to make them look more natural. Now the water hits the back of the rocks and spills over them rather than falling in a more formal sheet.

As an added touch, the clients opted for two deck-mounted laminar arcs to shoot into the pool. A threaded waterfeature turns the spa into a fountain. "It's a nice way to incorporate moving water sound at a lower price," Fluty says.

At the designer's urging, the homeowners decided to splurge on a pebble interior.

Fluty attributes the job's great outcome to the understated materials. "I think the way we incorporated the rock made this project a success," he says. "It all blends together nicely and nothing sticks out like it doesn't belong."


Senior Landscape Designer

Krause Landscape Contractors Inc.

Amarillo, Texas

For this pool/spa combination, Davis started by experimenting with the pool's shape. He knew he wanted a free-form, but preferred to keep it simple. "I'm particular about my curves," the designer says. "You see so many pools that have all these little squiggly lines in them, and I cannot stand them."

Davis approached this pool like all his curvilinear projects. "I start moving circles around and something falls into place," he says. "It's got to flow."

For this relatively small backyard, he came up with a simple kidney shape. The raised spa, bond beam and multilevel deck add a sense of topography. "Amarillo is flat and treeless," Davis notes.

These strategies give the backyard a firm design footing, but the materials take center stage. Arkansas cherry blend flagstone encompasses the deck, steps, raised spa and bond beam. With relatively few square feet to cover, the cost didn't get out of hand.

Davis creatively used the material to add two elegant waterfeatures. Stacking the 1 1/2-inch stone, he fashioned a 12-foot-long water wall on the back bond beam and lined the spa spillway. "It shows that you can use the same material, but make it contrast," Davis says. Plus, it provides just the right amount of sound. A bench in front of the water wall lets swimmers enjoy it up close.

He finished the pool interior with relatively inexpensive materials: a light blue plaster and a waterline of ceramic tiles that look like stone. The completed project exudes a richness and elegance.

"I think the simplicity of this pool is one of its key design features," Davis says.



Innovative Pool Design


The property owners wanted a high-end pool to match the architecture of their home. But there wasn't much space, so Rosa scaled down his design. "Sometimes smaller pools can be a little more interesting. The details stand out," he says.

Plus, he cut down on perimeter feet to reduce costs. This allowed the clients to cover the backyard with a Riviera slate. It was chosen because its color variations complement the tan-colored home while offering a healthy contrast.

Rosa also made use of a ceramic tile that looks like slate, which covers the raised back beam and waterline. "We tried to stick with the all-slate look," Rosa says. "The tile wasn't as expensive as slate, but it definitely looked like slate--and it's easier to clean." He had his crew color-match the grout.

The clients opted for an aggregate interior to make the pool pop. "It gives you a pretty light blue effect, which stands out," Rosa says. "They wanted it to contrast the darker deck."

Three sheet waterfalls and two foam jets accent the back wall. The tanning ledge adds a sense of dimension inside the pool and inexpensively helps homeowners maximize their investment.



Cody Pools & Spas

Austin, Texas

The clients wanted to take advantage of this property s prime view, which overlooks the Texas Hill Country just outside Austin. Cost was a concern, though. If Church set the pool on the hill, he would need to build it out of the ground, which was an expensive venture. Instead, he tucked it inside the "L" formed by the home.

Church wanted a mountain-lake feel, but also needed to design the pool to accommodate volleyball games. The shell's stretched-out curves provide enough length for games without impinging on the limited space. The longer radiuses also make room for the 12-foot bench the clients requested.

"They wanted the bench in the radius rather than the main pool to play volleyball," says Church, whose company is a Pool & Spa News Top Builder.

The pool bottoms out at 6 feet. It's deep enough for swimmers to be submerged, but shallow enough to comfortably play. The depth also limited costs. "In central Texas, we have mostly rock when we dig," Church says. "Going down to 8 feet can add another $3,000 in costs."

Oklahoma buff peach rock is found on the raised spa, coping and a waterfeature on the back of the pool. Church kept the feature 42 inches tall so that it wouldn't obstruct the view of the hills.

A stained concrete deck helps offset the cost of the stone. Color-changing lights and a removable table in the 10-foot spa help maximize use without pinching the wallet.


New Construction/Sales Manager

The Pool Man Inc.

Tomball, Texas

The property sits by a set of lakes created for water skiing. As a result, skiers can catch glimpses of the house's interior from several angles. The homeowners wanted a free-form pool/spa combination that offered privacy, but didn't make the space feel confined.

The designer figured that a small section of deck raised 6 inches would block the view from the sides because the lake is about a foot lower than the property. It also would enable the homeowners to see the lake from the deck. "Sometimes you don't need a lot," Ritts says. "Everyone thinks you've got to build a 4-foot wall."

A moss-rock waterfall with landscaping behind it blocks the view inside the house. For authenticity, Ritts set the falls approximately 8 feet back from the pool, with the stones gradually coming to the vessel. He capped it off at 42 inches tall.

"A lot of people have small yards and easements they can't go on, so they build a tall and skinny rock waterfall that looks like somebody just propped it up there," Ritts says. "But moss rock doesn't naturally come stacked up 8 feet tall." He blended it with the pool coping by gradually downsizing the stones as they spread out toward the vessel. Buckskin flagstone coping and an off-white acrylic deck coordinate with the rockwork.

Ritts used two techniques to minimize the perimeter feet. First, he designed the back wall in a simple are that would become more shaped with the rock waterfall. Then he balanced the spa so that it doesn't stick too far outside the pool, nor does it encroach on the swimming space.

With an eye to detail, Ritts made this mid-priced project a work of art. "You can make it look elegant without spending oodles of money on the features," he says. "You can tastefully put a minimum amount of rock for a reasonable cost without overtaking the project."
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Author:Robledo, Rebecca
Publication:Pool & Spa News
Date:Mar 13, 2006
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