Sun-shelves, infinity edge, integral spa—when planning a new pool, there are many enticing options to choose from. To make sense of all the latest features in pool design, we chatted with Greg Darvin of Pristine Pools in East Hampton.
What's the most popular feature when installing a new pool?
Right now, oversized entrance steps, large lounging benches and shallow "sunshelves" are really part of almost every new pool consultation or design. This isn't to say that every client chooses to utilize all three, but most end up with at least two of the three. We are also doing a lot of pools which are more set up for swimming laps and exercise. Clients like that their backyard swimming pool can also be part of an overall healthy lifestyle. The overall cost of the pool and ongoing maintenance is more palatable if they know it is going to replace a gym membership or enhance their overall quality of life by maintaining a higher level of fitness and more consistent low impact aerobic exercise.
What are the newest pool features you're installing?
Most of the unusual features that are being utilized today are actually structural rather than aesthetic. As development of the Hamptons continues, more often than not we are constructing in an area where a house or pool was demolished. In this scenario we will sometimes need to account for the "disturbed" soil conditions by utilizing additional structure such as grade beams, piles and/or compacted gravel. Even though this is something that most clients will never get to enjoy or appreciate visually—they will get to benefit from the proper structural work for the life of the pool by ensuring the integrity of the pool and surrounding area.
Are there any gimmicks or fads with new pools that you don't see lasting?
There are a lot of boutique pool finishes that feature an exposed aggregate. These products are marketed as being stronger and prolonging the life of the finish. This may or may not be accurate, but either way the exposed aggregate creates a rough finish on the swimming pool walls, steps and floor. This rough finish is unpleasant in bare feet and can be brutal for small children or infants. Many of the companies that were originally marketing these products are now coming out with a line of smooth finished products. In this case the economics or using these finishes don't really make sense as they are more expensive than traditional marble dust or plaster.
What's your favorite kind of pool to design?
I am most comfortable working on more modern designs, but really am most interested in working on projects where the owners are excited about the process and finished product. It is always much easier to work in a collaborative environment where the homeowner, architect, landscape designer and I are all able to share our thoughts and ideas in a really positive forum. I have no real ego where my designs are concerned, because in the end I am more interested in creating the best product possible for the client. I have often times been able to learn a great deal from other members of the construction team and always lean on the clients as my main source of information as they will ultimately be the final judge of my success or failure in creating a backyard space. Most clients don't have a clear vision of exactly what they want or the best way to get their ideas across but they do have a good sense of what they do or don't like. They really just need someone to help organize the puzzle in their minds into a clean and clear picture.
Is there a sweet spot when it comes to sizing a pool? Is bigger always better?
I don't think there is any real perfect dimension or shape for a swimming pool. The larger pools are actually much easier to design as they have the most space and therefore are the most forgiving. The smaller spaces like in East Hampton or Sag Harbor Village are always the trickiest logistically and require the most attention to detail as they have no space that can be wasted. I always compare these projects to a traditional New Orleans courtyard garden. In these scenarios everything must be very wall planned and efficient in order to be successful. A longer pool is always nicer for someone planning to swim laps and I think keeping the pool narrower rather than wide can create a lean sexy line. I also like to consider the reflective quality of the pool in any installation/design.
Anything else you want our readers to know?
When planning your pool take your time and do your homework. Meet with multiple designers and/or installers. Although price is important, personality and compatibility are as well. In most backyards, the swimming pool is going to be the anchor for that space. Give the pool and surrounding paved areas as much attention as you would to the details in your kitchen or master bath, as the outdoor space will likely be there as long or longer than both. Make sure to choose materials that you really love and don't settle based on what is easy or readily available. When looking at the cost of finished paving material keep in mind that the labor to install should be the same and the only cost difference will be that on the material alone. Try not to be overwhelmed or rushed into decisions. Making decisions is an important part of keeping the project on schedule, but after the first year you will be much more satisfied with your investment if you have allowed things to develop organically and given the project the proper time to evolve and be completed. The best advice that I can offer anyone hoping to have a completed backyard for next spring is that you must start now. Take the last few weeks of summer to help get your project off the ground or at very least moving in the right direction.
· Pristine Pools [Official]