There and Back
When we first covered this project in WaterShapes' February 2008 issue ("Shell Games,"Page 56),we were nearing completion and had just a few details left to consider. Our intention had always been to come forward with this follow-up look at the finished project sooner, but an unusually cold spring was followed by an equally odd wet and chilly summer that made it tough to arrange for the finished photography you see here.
As you may recall, our client is the matriarch of a large family and lives on a sprawling 140-acre estate in one of Chicago's most exclusive suburbs. The parcel includes multiple homes, a lake,woodlands and horse trails – and now an extraordinarily elaborate pool house/ watershape complex.
The clamshell that opens over the swim channel between the indoor and outdoor pools has rightfully become the project's icon, but there's much more going on in this space, including the multipurpose watershapes, the custom railings and a tile mosaic made to depict the flowing form of a chiffon scarf draped across the steps and down into the elliptical pool.
By the time we became involved, the pool house design was mostly complete: It was to be a three-level affair (two stories above grade and one below) and would feature not only an indoor swimming pool, spa, kiddie pool and sauna, but also a full array of cooking, dining and entertainment amenities (including a theater with an orchestra pit).
We'd been brought in to tackle the elliptical indoor pool and the free-form outdoor pool and had no idea in the initial stages just how extensive and intricate our participation would become: It was like peeling an onion only to discover that each successive layer involved increasingly elaborate technical and aesthetic challenges and details.
Take the indoor pool as an example: It's a simple 18-by-40-foot ellipse, but it had to be built in phases to accommodate construction of the surrounding structure – including the painting of the vivid, starrynight fresco that looms overhead on the room's arched ceiling.
As if that weren't enough,the detailing of the indoor watershapes kept changing as we moved forward. We knew going in, for instance, that the client wanted an elaborate tile mosaic of some kind inside the pool. After some back and forth,she lit on a proposal from Nick Powell of Craig Bragdy Design (Denbigh,Wales) to reproduce the flowing drapery of a huge chiffon scarf across part of the pool's wall and floor. Her choice led us to make a host of tricky onsite adjustments to accommodate the mosaic and make the illusion work visually.
Next, she let us know that she wanted to place a large clamshell structure at one end of the pool, under which she, her family and guests could access a channel connected to the outdoor pool. This object alone required many months of design, planning and fabrication and had to work structurally – no small feat given its 13-foot, cantilevered extent – as well as aesthetically: In short, if it didn't look convincingly like the top half of a truly giant clamshell,nobody (and especially not the client) would have been happy.
Nick Powell's insight again proved invaluable. Not only did he help us define many of the key structural issues, but he also came up with a tile design that lined the shell's underside with a shimmering, opalescent, mother-of-pearl finish and crusted the top with a rough surface that captures the essence of a clam's outer texture and appearance.
Stay tuned for the final chapter in this series, where we tie everything together!