HGTV -Million Dollar Rooms inground swimming pools from Platinum Poolcare Final Installment
Opening A Shell
By James Atlas
As you might also recall from the February 2008 feature, figuring out how to separate the indoor and outdoor pools proved to be a surprising challenge.
The swim channel under the clamshell was intended to allow easy access between the two pools, but the client (who knows as well as anyone how raw the winters can get in the Chicago area) wanted to be able to close the channel off when the weather turned cold.
That seemingly direct thought resulted in a three-year odyssey that led us to multiple engineers and system fabricators in quest of a workable solution. The irony is, what now appears to all the world to be a simple, retractable acrylic panel – perhaps the least visually arresting element in the entire project – was by far the most difficult effect to achieve.
The swim channel can be sealed when the weather cools off by means of a large acrylic panel that drops down into the water – a comparatively simple-seeming detail that represented months of engineering and fabrication. Outside, the channel flows beneath a small bridge that marks the start of the outdoor swimming lane.
There’s another, secluded passage from the outdoor pool that leads to a sauna inside the pool house. Closed off by a rain curtain at one end, it leads bathers through a dark corridor that opens into a cozy space decorated with tile replicas of cave drawings – perhaps the most whimsical of all the spaces in the project.
The outdoor pool is as free in form and spirit as the indoor pool is measured and controlled. With its irregular shape, the mosaic reef serving as an elaborate lane marker and a curving vanishing-edge detail, the pool is surrounded by lush plantings and beautiful hardscaping in the form of boulders and flagstone decking.
And as we fiddled and fussed with that sort of detail, we had to attend to numerous other design issues having to do with the pool house – including the task of figuring out how to fashion a swimup passage from the outdoor pool to a cave-like sauna area positioned inside the structure. This passageway, too,was finished with a striking tile mosaic that captures the spirit of prehistoric cave dwellings.
As you can see, at the same time we were being asked to deal with innumerable formal details and technical issues in some areas,we were constantly caught up in a design scheme that was remarkably fanciful and fun in other ways as well.
Among the last details we tackled was installation of a variety of sculptures both in and around the watershapes. They bring a measure of sophistication to the setting while lending the gentle sounds of moving water to the outdoor pool’s broad upper level.
This playfulness is fully on display in the free-form outdoor pool: Although the interior and exterior pools were connected by a narrow swim channel, the two vessels really couldn’t be much different in visual character. Where the indoor pool is distinctly formal and ornate, the outdoor pool and its surroundings are decidedly free-wheeling and rustic.
Once again, a prime design element of the outdoor composition came courtesy of a mosaic-tile reef by Craig Bragdy Design. This time, however, the design concept features a visual theme that fits right in with a swimming pool in the form of a coral reef teeming with fish and underwater plants. (In a more utilitarian vein, the client wanted the reef to serve as a sort of giant lane marker that would define a clear path to and from the channel connecting the two pools.)
In addition to that eye-catching detail, the outdoor pool also has a curving, 20-foot-long vanishing edge that spills into a six-foot-wide basin that defines a terrace six feet below the pool’s grade; hot and cold water hydrotherapy spas; an outdoor wading pool; a rocky cascade; and sculpture pedestals that include lighting, water and fire effects. All of this is surrounded by and interwoven with natural stonework that includes boulders, river rocks, and beautiful flagstone decking.
The final stage of our involvement in the project had to do with selection and installation of the sculptures, which by comparison to the long road we’d followed to commissioning the watershapes was a simple, straightforward process.
Indeed, dialing in the operation of this complicated set of watershapes and peripheral features is still something of an ongoing mission – one facilitated by the fact that our firm services the property.
Being on site regularly and having the opportunity to observe system performance over time has enabled us to adjust and refine countless details related to visual effects, water treatment and energy consumption.
I wouldn’t quite call it a “work in progress” at this point, but I suspect that, given the dozens of changes mandated during the approximately 1,800 days we spent designing and building the project and knowing the intensely creative nature of the client, I also wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to find ourselves back on site at some point to do more than clean filters and tweak system operation.
For now, however,we’re all happy to sit back and evaluate what we’ve done without the daily pressure of keeping up with a near-constant workflow filled by changes and expansions. Will we ever encounter a project like this again? I hope so – with or without the big clamshell.
At night, when the lights and the fire features come on, the indoor and outdoor spaces come alive with renewed drama. From the starry sky over the indoor pool to the illumination of the underside of the pearlescent clam shell and from the reflections of the fire across the water to the soft glow of the outdoor pool’s lighting system, it’s all a wonder to behold.
Thank you for staying tuned for the entire series. We appreciate your interest in our work!