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Is Expert Pool Maintenance a Luxury?

Consider these 3 Risks before You Decide

Too many people buy an in-ground swimming pool and then treat paying for routine water and pool maintenance as if it were an optional luxury.

I’m in the luxury design/build pool business because—let’s face it—all in-ground pools are luxuries. Yet I see too many pool owners treat their sizable investment as if routine, technically proficient and timely maintenance of water, pool, and equipment were optional. As if it’s only required when something goes wrong, or routine pool maintenance can be done by a handyman, or any pool cleaning guy. Then there are those owners who really believe they can be their own pool handyman.

Expert Pool Maintenance

Focus First on Water Balance

Things go wrong fast when you let pool water get unbalanced, and summer heat can speed up the process at an alarming rate. Yet water maintenance is the task pool owners most frequently leave to unqualified parties or attempt to do themselves. Either way, inept or inexperienced water maintenance is bound to lead to expensive—even dangerous—consequences.

3 Risks Getting Pool Water Balance Wrong

The dangers of inadequate water maintenance are clear:
1. People who get in the water are at risk
2. All pool surfaces (vinyl, plaster, tile) and the structural integrity of underlying concrete are at risk
3. Vital pool functions (pump, filters, or anything in contact with pool water) are at risk

If you think a pool’s water is safe because it looks clear, read “Clear water, clean pool? Not necessarily.” If you think routine pool maintenance is a nice-to-have option, wait until you get the bill for repairing neglected pool surfaces. Or wait even longer and suffer the consequences of an unrepairable concrete structure. You may discover you have a white elephant that you can’t easily unload when you go to sell the property.

Maybe You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

I know do-it-yourselfers who have the technical skills, time, and discipline to do pool water maintenance. Often, they enjoy the challenge. But there are far more DYI-ers who either don’t have the skill, or run out of time, and fall into the do-it-when-it’s convenient habit. They simply don’t know the risks they’re taking.

These “do it when I think of it” owners are among the last to admit they need help but the first to call in a panic when an emergency hits. Perhaps more self-destructive, are those who don’t recognize the deteriorating situation, until they’ve done permanent damage to their pools.

3 Things You Can Do to Maintain Safe Pool Water

  • Find and listen to a trusted expert: Expert help is your first line of defense against making embarrassing or irreversible mistakes. You need someone who is a trained practitioner and knows your pool.
  • Don’t just rely on Google answers and YouTube advice: It’s too easy to get wrong opinions, not enough information, or make the wrong assumptions in applying online information to your specific pool environment.
  • Pay for the right help: Even if you’re sufficiently skilled and motivated to do your own work, you can’t rely on free advice from the busy tech analyzing your water sample. If you want to be sure you’re getting it right, be prepared to pay. Get a home consultation with a pool expert. Then check back regularly with your advisor. Things can change rapidly in pool water balance. Make sure you’re keeping up.

I encourage owners to learn as much as they can about maintaining their pools. Our technicians are always happy to share information with you when servicing your pool. I also strongly encourage you to relax. Leave time to enjoy your pool, not just work on your pool.

It’s Complicated Keeping Water Balanced

It’s a hard job keeping up with the chemistry of pool water balance and understanding LSI. At Budd’s Pools & Spas, we make continuous training of our construction teams, installers, and service technicians a top priority. We also share and continue adding more information about water maintenance in social media posts, at the Budd’s Pools website, and right here on The WaterSpace blog.

A Necessity that Can Feel Luxurious

So, here is the answer to the question, “is swimming pool maintenance a luxury?” Proper, routine pool maintenance is a necessity, and keeping pool water balanced is never optional, never a job to be taken lightly.

With the right help, you can make the results of routine pool maintenance feel luxurious. You’ve enhanced your safety. You’ve gained peace of mind. Now you can simply enjoy the luxurious feeling your pool was designed to provide.

5 Steps to Make a Swimming Pool a Luxury Pool

How do you achieve that ultimate value—the luxury pool effect. In previous articles we’ve looked at the well documented benefits—physical, mental, social and spiritual—that water and swimming pools bring into a home. These health benefits—along with the fun, relaxation, and enjoyment—can add up to what I call a “Luxury Pool Effect.”

The feel of luxury is subjective, different for each of us and experienced differently from one moment to the next. The one thing we can count on is that—consciously or unconsciously—when we step into an outdoor space filled with water, our minds and bodies are drawn to its luxury effect. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the water or gathered around the water, a well-designed swimming pool and its surrounding environment conveys a sense of luxury.

Luxury Pool

A well-designed swimming pool and its surrounding environment conveys a sense of luxury

5 Steps to Value and Luxury

How do some pool owners achieve that ultimate value—the luxury pool effect—while others don’t? The answer isn’t simply spending more money. Look for “value luxury.” The secret is luxury that adds value to your home and value to the way you experience your home. Successful pool projects start with choosing a quality pool design/build firm that follows these five essential steps.

(1) Design:

Creating luxury starts with good design, and good design starts with a plan that takes the project from concept to a comprehensive design with full construction documentation. The initial plan answers a host of key questions: The size and shape of your yard and environmental conditions, such as soil, shade, sun, view. How you plan to use the pool. The size and style of your pool, and additional features that complete the plan. Colors are chosen and designs developed to fit in with your home. Movement through your outdoor space is carefully choreographed.

(2) Focus:

What you leave out of a design is as important as what you put in. Sometimes a pool design is constrained by budget, local building codes, lot size, shape, or soil conditions. When you boil down your plan to the essential elements it can feel like you’re sacrificing something, but in the long run less is more. There’s luxury in open spaces, in allowing room for focus, contrast and balance.

(3) Engineer:

Creating luxury that lasts is a design and engineering process. Before you start a pool design an environmental engineer may need to evaluate the site for soil conditions. These findings can influence design choices, such as grading and drainage, engineering of patios and structures. Engineering enters into proper sizing of piping, choosing and integrating pumps, filters, water treatment systems, heaters, and other features into a pool design. To ensure structural integrity of your pool, an engineer is onsite during construction to test and certify the durability of the concrete.

(4) Build:

Building luxury that lasts means your builder is onsite to oversee and coordinate your pool construction through the entire process. Your builder sees that piping is installed correctly, and rebar is installed to specifications. Your builder will make sure all concrete meets specs and concrete delivery is timed right. That work is performed as specified and crafted with care. That disruption and impact on the surrounding grounds are minimized.

(5) Maintain:

Maintaining luxury that lasts means your pool is designed and built with maintenance in mind. It means your builder is available to service your pool. Competent service requires sharing important knowledge about testing and water balance with pool owners. Maintainability means trained service technicians who are constantly upgrading their skills. That’s how you enjoy what you’ve created for years to come.

Value Luxury

I didn’t set out to build luxury pools. My goal has always been to design and build pools and spas that people simply enjoy. What I discovered is that our designs were creating these outdoor living areas—these WaterSpaces—that helped home owners uncover more value in their yards and homes. Everything just feels more luxurious.

Together we transform your home. With great design, careful and competent construction, and continuing maintenance your new pool adds remarkable underlying value: the luxury effect. As a client once told me, “Every time I enter this space, or simply look out at it, I feel refreshed. It’s something I’ll always value.”

LSI and Pool Water Balance Made Easier

Water balance starts with understanding LSI: the Langelier Saturation Index. I admit I’m a nut about maintaining safe and clean pool water. I know how important it is to maintain water that’s good for your pool and for the people in it. What drives me nuts is that it doesn’t have to be so complicated. You just need to know why and how to keep your balance.

Water balance gets complicated, if you let it

Too many people who are supposed to be responsible for the job think that using LSI is too complicated, that it’s easier to throw more chemicals in the water. They simply don’t understand how LSI helps keep things balanced, using fewer chemicals. Here’s the truth:

  • Water balance gets complicated when you don’t do anything about it
  • Water balance gets complicated when you do the wrong things
  • Water balance gets complicated when you get bad information on YouTube

Watch these videos about LSI, get the free app, and make maintaining your pool water far less complicated.

Whether you’re a responsible do-it-yourself pool owner, or you rely on a pool service, arm yourself with the right information about LSI. Then get the free app that makes it easier to determine the right moves to maintain your water balance. The first two-minute video explains LSI and the second shows how to use a free app. Both videos are produced by Orenda Technologies, as is the app. Orenda is to my mind the leading specialty chemical manufacturer—and educator—serving the pool industry. I think you’ll see why in these videos.

Why Measure LSI:


In this Understanding LSI video, Orenda Technologies’s Eric Knight explains why LSI is the first and most important step in pool water maintenance

Download the App, Watch the Video:

Download ORENDA in the App Store or GooglePlay then watch How to use the Orenda App and LSI Calculator. Eric Knight shows how the App’s highly accurate LSI calculator helps you adjust the water balance factors to get your LSI value as close to 0.00 as possible.

Know who you can trust

The problem of getting water balance right isn’t just a matter of unknowing or negligent owners—commercial or residential. It goes deeper to those who sell their services and pose as experts online. Too many pool services people either don’t understand or don’t want to be bothered with the time and effort to use the water testing and treatment tools available today. For DYI owners, finding trustworthy information can be a problem. You might click on the most popular link and miss the right link. The one that takes you to what you really need to know about water chemistry.

There’s more to learn

We all have more to learn about water. Eric Knight, who you saw in these videos, will be conducting a training session here in Deptford, NJ, for all our technicians. If you’ve engaged Budd’s Pools to manage your pool water maintenance, we’ll help you learn more as well. With the right information and tools, it’s easier for everyone to understand what to do, when, and why. It’s all about balance and keeping your pool water chemistry less complicated.

Following is a short list of articles about water maintenance that we’ve posted on The WaterSpace.

I also recommend the Orenda Thechnologies blog, and their catalog of educational videos.

Is It a Spa or Hot Tub, or Maybe an Ahhhhh Tub?

Do you know when to call it a spa or hot tub? For a long time the words were used interchangeably, but now there’s a clear difference: Hot Tubs are manufactured and free-standing. Spas are custom built and in-ground—often part of a larger pool project.

Hot tubs started life as a round, wood vat that holds hot water for people to soak in. The spa differentiated itself with water jets that make warm water feel even better.

But then hot tubs began to offer jets and were made of longer lasting materials. In those early days, Bull Frog Spas, our choice of the top-end hot tub manufacturers, adopted the spas name because their focus is on engineering the industry’s best water jet systems.

Today, Bull Frog and others in the industry have largely embraced the hot tub designation. At Budd’s Pools & Spas we offer both custom in-ground spas and Bull Frog’s luxury free-standing hot tubs. Whichever you choose from Budd’s— spa or hot tub—when you sink into its warm waters, you may be calling it the Ahhhhh Tub.

spa or hot tub?

We Need to Talk about Pool Construction

It’s time we had a serious conversation about pool construction. We’ve been focused for some time here at the WaterSpace blog on the elements and principles of pool design because that’s the place where you need to start. We started there because design is a topic too many new pool buyers—as well as cookie-cutter pool builders—skip over, and that’s a shame. If you haven’t yet visited our pool design series, take time to do so before you start your own pool project. You’ll come away with a clearer understanding of good design and some useful tools for getting the most value and enjoyment from your new pool investment.

The next step beyond design in your journey as a new pool buyer is all about pool construction, concrete chemistry, contractor competence, and how to spot unskilled or dishonest construction practices. Over my years in the pool business, I’ve seen too many swimming pools in need of costly concrete repairs—even pools beyond repair. You don’t want to become one of those unhappy homeowners facing costly problems because the construction didn’t meet the pool industry’s highest standards. Many of those problems start with the concrete, and so concrete will be the first topic we focus on in this series.

pool construction

Budd’s Pools only uses shotcrete—not gunite—for its custom pools.

Why an in-ground, steel reinforced concrete pool is your best value

Strength is the reason you want an in-ground pool built with steel reinforced concrete. You pay more now for its strength, durability, and longevity, and you enjoy your pool more for a longer time. And if you ever decide to sell your home and move, you’ve got an asset in your yard that adds value, rather than a hole in the ground that’s a liability.

However, to realize that value, you want to find a trustworthy builder whose concrete work follows all the procedures, based on the science, and meets or exceeds the pool industry’s highest standards. If you aren’t armed with an understanding of pool construction, your top criteria may default to the lowest bid. That’s a risky path to take when there’s so many things that can go wrong in pool construction.

Let’s dig deeper into how good pools get built

So, roll up your sleeves, get prepared to get your hands dirty, and dig deeper with me into how in-ground pools are supposed to be built. We’ll start the series with concrete construction. This is the material that forms the vessel that holds your pool water. Done right, concrete makes the strongest pool structure, the one that will last for many years to come.

In the next article we will start a journey through the construction of a custom shotcrete pool. We’ll show you why Budd’s Pools only uses shotcrete—not gunite—for its custom pools. We’ll talk about concrete construction standards and why Budd’s Pools are built to exceed pool industry standards. I promise you won’t find this story as dry as concrete. In fact, you’ll learn—among other things—why keeping concrete wet enough during the critical 30-day drying process is the secret to make pools strong and long lasting.

Connect the Dots to Achieve Unity in Your Landscape Design

Achieve Unity in Your Landscape Design

This 6th principle of landscape architecture poses a question you need to ask early and often.

The Principle of Unity can seem terribly abstract, but it’s really one simple question: Did you connect all the dots in your design?

How does your design hang together?

This is the question you don’t want to start asking after everything is built, installed, and planted. It’s the question you and your designer have to ask and answer and ask again through every step of your plan.

Your mind senses Unity, seeks out environments that feel unified—an harmonious, well designed space where all the Elements of Design work together. Youll know when your plan has achieved Unity. Your guests will feel the Unity, too, or sense its absence. People feel uncomfortable in a space where Unity is missing. They may not consciously see every design flaw, but they feel them.

Follow the principles

If you want the result to hang together, look for Unity as you follow each of the Principles of Design. You can learn more about the first five Principles in these articles:

  • Balance: You cant stand erect without balance, and you cant stand an environment that’s off balance
  • Contrast: Artful, lively contrast makes your outdoor environment more interesting and counters boredom of too much balance
  • Emphasis: Draw attention, set the stage, provide focus, create a layered experience for people to move through your space
  • Rhythm: Bring order, set the tempo, and harmonize everyone’s moment through your space
  • Movement: Movement is flow, flow is life, and unity is a measure of how well your design brings feelings of positive flow and life together

Some design principles can sometimes work against Unity. For example, high Contrast or over-the-top Emphasis, if not handled with skill, can break unity. Done well, you can use high contrast to add excitement and drama. Place strong emphasis on a feature worthy of focus, and you’ll add applause-worthy interest to your space. Done without care and purpose, too much contrast, or the wrong emphasis, and the result feels disorganized, even chaotic.

Who needs Unity? Everyone in Every Space

Unity isn’t just a principle for large properties or big budgets. It applies equally to small and big spaces, large and small budgets. In fact, smaller spaces and smaller budgets often present special challenges where creative design makes a decisive difference in the results.

Amy Fedele is a Philadelphia area graphic designer, who turned her new (first) home into a DIY laboratory of landscape design, shares everything she learns on her blog. In her article, “5 ways to create unity and flow in your landscape,” she says one of the most common problems she sees, “is the lack of connection from one part of the garden to another.”

Whatever you budget, when you make the connections, you get more satisfaction from your investment and a lot more pleasure every time you enter your space. Whether it’s a simple garden around your hot tub, or a landscaped patio surrounding your new pool, your plan should unify your home and outdoor architecture. Start with paths from home to the things your yard holds. These are visual and physical paths—to patio, to pool, to spa, to fire pit, to garden, or to an especially important feature.

Unity in flow means designs that direct the movement of eyes and bodies through your space. Create those places to start. Points to slow down. Features that invite you to pause, to rest or play, exercise or meditate, read a book, or dine with friends and family. When you design for Unity, you get positive flow. Unity creates purposeful movement. It connects the dots and invites you and your guests to simply enjoy your outdoor space.

Design for Movement in Your Outdoor Living Space

Eyes move, minds move, and people enter the flow of space.

Design for Movement in Your Outdoor Living Space

Architectural lines move minds and bodies: The rendering above illustrates how straight lines, curves and angles create a sense of movement in our minds. The dramatic lines of the lap pool show how lines create a shape that invites our bodies to join in the movement

Pools, buildings, and landscapes seem so firmly anchored to the earth that Movement—the fifth of our Six Principles of landscape and architectural design—can be hard to comprehend. Even when you don’t consciously see architectural movement, however, you’ll sense its presence, and you’ll likely find yourself getting bored if a design lacks movement.

In “The expression of movement in architecture,” (The Journal of Architecture Volume 16 Number 4, published 2011), Adam Hardy describes how built places are filled with allusions to movement: “sun and shade play across the walls,” he says, and “the breeze wafts through” a space. Sometimes, he adds, things actually move, as when “foundations settle.”

In most cases, Hardy says, “it’s not the architecture” that’s moving but the mind’s perception: “A staircase rises… a corridor snakes, a spire soars. Everybody knows, of course, that they all stay still: it is the eye and the mind that rise or run.”

People need movement

Make water move and people feel the movement. Add a lap lane (or lap line) to your pool, and people are more likely to swim. But even sitting still, people look for movement. When you think about and plan for movement in design, you’re paying attention to how people will feel, act and react in your space.

A single line helps us get physical, turning this informal curvilinear pool into a swimmer’s lap lane.

Movement In and Through Space

Move slow: Stones slow your pace and your gaze.

A lap lane is like a path in water. Designs with movement also create paths and patterns in our minds. Movement prompts people to look in a certain direction and perhaps move in a certain way. Some design features, like the lap lane, literally move us:
◦ Down a path leading to a pool, spa, garden, or other feature
◦ Along a line of trees, bushes or low plants that direct us through a space
◦ Through an arch, columns, or a doorway that opens onto a view we want to visit

Lines, Textures and Movement

Eyes follow Movement the way feet follow paths. Your eyes move along a line until you see an end point. Like walking along a path, your eyes move faster when the line is straight. Your gaze slows a bit when you encounter a slight angle or gentle curve and slows more for a long or sharp curve.

In landscapes, plants can direct eye movement and help define lines. Low and rounded plants prompt your eye follow a line. A taller tree or shrub placed along the line will cause your eyes to pause or stop.

Just as texture underfoot affects our speed along a path, the texture and colors of plants and building materials affect how quickly our eyes travel along a visual path. Smooth surfaces move eyes faster. The rougher the texture, the slower the pace for eyes and feet.

Movement engages all our senses

Step by step: Steppingstones direct you along a path. When crossing water as above, you may find yourself feeling your way along.

“So much of how we perceive the world is unconscious,” Nina Kraus writes in “Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World.”

Krause explains how hearing developed out of the need to sense movement. “The ear arose,” she says, “from organs designed to perceive gravity and an organism’s place in space with the goal of achieving movement.”

As Krause points out, simply listening to speech “activates the motor cortex as well as our own speaking muscles. Just listening to rhythm patterns or piano melodies activates the brain’s motor system.”

The same could be said of the movement, rhythm and patterns created in our designed spaces.

We may not be aware of just how much our senses are engaged when see, hear or feel movement. But the effects of movement created by design are real. Designing for movement is an essential part of what people perceive and how they react in a built space.

As we described in our discussion of the Blue Mind, there is something about water that draws us to it. And when it’s moving water—a gentle trickle of a small fountain, a rushing stream, an ocean tide, or a powerful waterfall—our attention turns to feelings ranging from peace to awe to joy. That’s the goal of the WaterSpaces we build: for you to simply enjoy.

Rhythm Brings Order to Your Outdoor Space

How Landscape and Architecture Set the Tempo in Space

Classic modern pool design: You can feel the sophisticated rhythm in the balanced symphony of pool and patio shapes. Even the lounges join in the conversation of straight lines and right angles. The
umbrellas, set in a graceful arc, offer a counterpoint with their triangular, not-quite circular shapes.

Much as Emphasis sets the stage and brings focus to your WaterSpace, Rhythm—the fourth of Six Principles of Design—helps to coordinate all the pieces. Rhythm provides an underlying tempo that people sense. Without rhythm the world around is chaos.

Space as a place of comfort and order

When you plan a landscape, you use Rhythm to bring order to all the elements. Rhythm eliminates confusion. It helps guide us on our journey through a space. Its effect is physical and mental—like a green light, a stop sign, or crosswalk directing drivers and pedestrians.

We’ll discuss motion in greater detail in the next installment on Movement, the fifth Principle of Design. The two principles are so closely related they are often lumped together. For both rhythm and movement, the hardest part is applying familiar musical ideas in unfamiliar ways to landscapes and architecture:

• Sensing Rhythm beyond its sounds
• Seeing Movement in a medley of structural and natural elements that stand still

An Invitation to Dance

The rhythm you create in your space sets the tempo. The beat can be fast, slow, moderate, or change from one location to another within a designed space.
Like dance music, the rhythm of a space provides signals people intuitively comprehend. You simply feel the rhythm. As you follow the beat, you unconsciously synchronize your feelings and thoughts to harmonize with the space. You may even find yourself coordinating your movements with others who occupy the space.

Natural stone and falling water: In contrast to the formal tone and straight lines of classic modernism, this WaterSpace sets an informal, natural tone with circles and curvilinear forms found in nature.

How Landscape and Architectural Rhythm Set the Tempo in Space

Rhythm is repetition. Like good dance music, rhythmic landscape architecture needs a repetitive, consistent beat that sets the tempo. You achieve consistency in the way you place elements and how they relate to one another. To keep the beat, you repeat the relationship you’ve established using the same elements. You can also employ different elements that relate in the same manner.

Note how the entire composition in the above design is held together through the colors and texture of natural stone. The smooth patio tile and coping at the pool’s edge repeat the colors of the rough textured stone. The fire pit at far right repeats the circular shaped spa area. The natural shapes of the large boulders—and the complete assemblage of of stones that create the waterfall—all repeat the pool’s informal curves.

Remember that you’re designing in three dimensions. The rhythms you create need to repeat up and down, left and right, near and far. You also need to account for how your composition’s look and feel changes in tone and character as you move through it.

Rhythm, Movement and the Music of Space

Some say rhythm is movement. But it’s a special kind of movement: movement synchronized by the space you’re occupying in a particular moment, by the path you’re following, and in coordination with those who have joined the journey. It’s the music of space. A silent rhythm that sets a spacial tone.

Rhythm in stone and water: Boulders rise from the ground to lift a waterfall high above the pool. Note how the design creates a rhythmic wave in stone, rising and falling in harmony with the falling water.

A hidden path: To the left of the falls facing the pool a hidden path takes you to a second waterfall.

To a hidden grotto: Your path takes you through the falling water and inside to a grotto, hidden behind two walls of falling water—except when the falls are turned off for our photographer.

As we described in our discussion of the Blue Mind, there is something about water that draws us to it. And when it’s moving water—a gentle trickle of a small fountain, a rushing stream, an ocean tide, or a powerful waterfall—our attention turns to feelings ranging from peace to awe to joy. That’s the goal of the WaterSpaces we build: for you to simply enjoy.

How Emphasis Sets the Scene for a Large Country WaterSpace

Emphasis: Setting the Stage for Outdoor Entertaining

You feel the good mood approaching as you enter the covered porch at the rear of this country home. Whether you’ve arrived for a daytime pool party or an evening dinner, you’ll likely be greeted by enticing aromas rising from the food prep area—set below ground level so as not to obstruct your view. This is the view that sets the scene, that assures you this is going to be a  delicious experience.

Emphasis Sets the Scene

An invitation to enjoy: your first view sets the scene for an entertaining experience

How Emphasis Focuses Attention

You may recall this scene from a previous article, “The Art of Emphasis: How Focus Adds Appeal to Your Outdoor Living Space.” Center stage you see a spa rising from the far end of the pool. Note how the spa is emphasized by its black tile set against a light, creamy wall. Like buttery French cream sitting atop a mug of dark black iced coffee, this is how contrast makes things livelier in your outdoor living design. Contrast is just one of the tools of emphasis employed in this design.

The power of emphasis also directs your eye by framing the view with the white roof you’re standing under, two white pillars on either side, and a black marble countertop completing the frame. Emphasis is at work through the repetition of a shape—the spa, the creamy wall, and the frame all repeat the same rectangular shape. Color is repeated in the black spa and marble counters. Repetition is the key element here in creating rhythm. As in music, rhythm in design keeps all the pieces playing together in an orderly manner. We will be discussing rhythm more in the next installment of our series on the six principles of design.

Rhythm suggests movement. One of the most powerful forms of movement in water design is reflection. In the above picture, notice how the pool reflects the shapes of the spa and wall behind it. Note how the pattern of light reflecting off the pool is repeated in shiny black marble counters and how reflection adds a touch of blue pool color to the white roof and pillars.

This is a scene where your mind says, “go explore.”

The Setting

At this point you may find yourself wanting to get a closer look, but first, let’s go overhead to  view the major elements of this design.

A stage set for entertaining

A stage set for entertaining: 1: Covered porch 2: Infinity Edge Spa 3: Lawn and patio 4: Outdoor living room with large TV, bathroom, shower, and storage 5: Food prep area and swim up bar 6. Swimming pool with sun shelfs on two sides

Designing Space for Entertaining

The homeowners wanted a pool design that enhances their large outdoor space, which they use frequently for entertaining. They had initially thought of putting a large pool horizontal to the home, but this would have created a barrier to accessing the rest of the yard.

By turning the pool perpendicular to the yard, they gained better flow and accessibility. The spa, originally thought to be placed near the entrance to the home, could then be placed at the far end of the pool, creating a dramatic focal point, as we saw above in the first photo (above).

When entertaining larger groups, tables are placed on the patio and in tents erected on the lawn. For small, informal occasions, guests can take a seat at a bar in the kitchen area or on   swim up bar stools (below).

Food prep area: Includes full kitchen facilities and grill for the chef, plus a swim up bar with stools, and a table area for those who prefer to stay dry

A Space for Reflections

The Spa Up Close: Water from the infinity edge spa spills into the adjoining pool

At the opposite end of the home’s WaterSpace, a black tiled infinity edge spa provides this mirror-like surface (above) that reflects trees and sky. Set off from the entertainment area, the spa also provides a spot for peaceful reflection and relaxation.

Harmony in Water, Space and Built Places

You may recognize the design style: formal and yet modern and contemporary, in concert with the home’s architecture. Even if you didn’t think consciously in those design terms, your mind would recognize and feel comfortable in this balanced space. In “Creating Harmony Through Architecture, Water and Space,” we explored ancient ideas about using water and outdoor space to create harmonious spaces in homes. It’s worth repeating a quote from Winston Churchill that appeared in that article:We shape our buildings, and thereafter they shape us.” The same can be said of the space we create that brings outdoor living into our homes.

In her book, “The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain,” science writer Annie Murphy Paul devotes a chapter to “Thinking with Built Spaces” and another to “Thinking with Natural Spaces.” She discusses the emerging scientific evidence—along with millennia of human experience—that demonstrate how humans need harmonious settings, indoors and outdoors. Human joy and creativity thrive in environments that help set our minds free.

Paul cites Christopher Alexander, an architect and emeritus professor at U.C. Berkeley. He is author of “A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction” (1977) and wrote, “a person is so far formed by his surroundings, that his state of harmony depends entirely on his harmony with his surroundings.”

When we entertain the idea of creating our own WaterSpace, we have the possibility of bringing our outdoor space—the natural space—and our indoor space—the built space—into harmony. It turns out that when you build a more humanly enjoyable space, you’ve created a place where people think more creatively and interact more productively with other people.

The Art of Emphasis: How Focus Adds Appeal to Your Outdoor Living Space

The Art of Emphasis

Emphasis: It’s like creating a stage for the stars of your WaterSpace Design. If you’ve recently sold or read about selling a house, you’re probably familiar with the growing use of professional staging to lift a property’s value. The secret of staging rests in part on the art of Emphasis, the third of the six principles of design in our series.

When you set the scene by spotlighting a star in your design, you add luster to the entire environment. It’s a matter of focused appeal. Finding your emphasis may require adding something new, but just as often your design team can help you discover, develop and highlight a star attraction that could have been overlooked.

Focus and the Art of Emphasis

The art in Emphasis is not just calling attention to a star feature but rewarding the viewer’s focused attention. You want to create a layered experience akin to viewing a work of art. There’s the striking view from the distance and the greater detail to be seen up close. The more viewers move in closer to focus on the art, the more rewarded they feel.

In a previous article on the Design Principle of Contrast we looked at how contrast adds interest in water oriented outdoor living spaces. You’ll notice how both Contrast and Emphasis set out to make a design more interesting. Both are quite good at their jobs. But where contrast draws momentary attention, emphasis captures and holds attention.

Indeed, Contrast may be noticed only unconsciously. Even with High Contrast, the viewer’s attention is more diffuse than with Emphasis. You may notice the contrasting elements of a design—the nicely placed accent piece, the pleasing interplay of light and dark, of colors and textures and shapes—but none of it is intended to hold your eye. Emphasis, on the other hand, is about capturing, holding, and rewarding attention.

When considering the elements for emphasis, be sure to consider both space and movement through the larger space. For your “performing art” to receive proper emphasis, it needs artful placement in its space. But what you’ll see in your space—what role each element plays—changes with movement.

Different Stars for Different Scenes

Like in the movies, there can be more than one player in a starring role. As a play or a movie moves forward, settings and scenes change, and the role each actor plays grows, diminishes or even disappears. As you move though a well planned and executed outdoor design, you’ll discover it has more than one setting—a different point of emphasis, a different star to entertain your attention from each new perspective.

Coming up next: Stars, Stage and Mood

In choosing your stars and creating your space, look beyond technique and think about the mood you want to create. All three—star, stage (space), and mood—need to work together.
In the next edition we’ll look at the elements of emphasis, the art of placement, and the moods they engender. Water features, artistic works, architectural features, the natural setting, the things you plant, and the colors and materials you employ all play important supporting roles—some may even become stars. It’s all a matter of Emphasis.