Making a splash

Dazzling water features, dramatic lighting and new low-maintenance systems give these pools their `wow' factor.


Damon Stone, co-owner of the local Pinch-a-Penny franchise, sits with daughter Ashton and wife Danielle as their son Taylor shows off his acrobatics after leaping from the diving board.

ROB C. WITZEL/Gainesville Magazine
Published: Wednesday, June 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 31, 2005 at 11:17 a.m.

When the Summer horizon becomes a black puddle of bleary road tar, having a bright, blue crystalline pool at your toetips is as soothing to the mind as it is to the body.

"The difference in pools now, compared to when I got started, is like man playing with fire versus man walking on the moon," says Damon Stone, 43, who co-owns the two Pincha-Penny stores in Gainesville with his wife Danielle Stone, 48, and has been in the pool industry for 25 years.

"Materials and knowledge have come so far," Damon explains, "as have the available products and accessories. People have become much more creative than they were many years ago. The power falls, the sheer descents - which are the things that get built into the wall of the pool that make a sheet of water - they didn't have them 25 years ago."

Tom Solberg, president and owner of Paradise Pools since 1983, identifies four predominate pool motifs: the basic "water-in-a-bucket" pool, the tropical pool, the Mediterranean pool, and the modern pool. The water-in-a-bucket pool is no frills, "pretty much a hole in the ground with some water in it," Solberg says. The tropical pool incorporates a lot of planters, waterfalls and misting or fogging features; the contemporary pool is comprised almost entirely of right angles; and the Mediterranean pool uses more Romanesque accents, including a lot of granite, topiaries, statues and pedestals.

Solberg says the pool industry in Gainesville is about five years behind other areas in Florida in terms of the lavish, out-of-the-bucket pool styles.

"Really, what it boils down to is that the majority of the customers are not aware of the things that are available," says Solberg, who believes that home owners here are getting a bit more pool savvy. Solberg says without question that a home including a pool with many extras is worth more on the market.

THE STONES

Instead of a waterfall or sheer descent, Damon elected a rain function, "which gets this really neat reflection in the sun with all these sparkles, and it also keeps the width of the fall entering the pool as wide as the water leaving the fall." Stone says he designed their 37,000-gallon home pool with a lot of water features, because he enjoys the calming sound and sight of moving water.

On one arm of the 1,000-square-foot, L-shaped pool is a spa, elevated three feet above the rest of the pool. The spillovers of most elevated spas are created by cutting out a portion of the spa's shell, but the Stones had their spa's shell sculpted to look like serving pitchers, from which water pours into bronze shells and then cascades down into the pool.

On the opposing wall, five showers create the aforementioned misty rainfall. ("I didn't want to do a waterfall in the traditional effect with a pile of rocks, because they're extremely high maintenance," Damon explains.)

Upward-pumping jets in the extreme edge of the pool floor can be turned on to make the pool bubble like a natural spring, and fountainheads from the wall in the deep end of the pool, near the diving board, create another shower effect.

The pool's lights and pumps and its spa are all computerized, with controls inside the house as well as on the deck.

The landscaping includes an excess of palms, flowers and potted plants.

With advances in pool construction, pools have not only become more detailed but also easier to maintain, says Damon, who engineered his pool to be self-maintaining; he only has to clean it about four times a year. "I'm into low maintenance," he explains. Another big advancement in pool construction is the production of effective chlorine-self-generating salt-water pool systems, one of which the Stones use. Damon designed his pool with a saltwater chlorinator. Salt water circulates throughout the pool, which is outfitted with titanium plates. When the salt (NaCl) comes in contact with the titanium, a natural chemical reaction retains the sodium in the salt and releases the remaining chloride into the water, resulting in clean water that, Damon says, feels "softer" to swim through than chemically chlorinated pool water. You can barely taste the salt, and no chlorine whatsoever.

"If you open your eyes under water, it doesn't feel as brash," says Damon, who also oversized the piping and the filter, but not the pump.

To limit your maintenance, Danielle suggests tripling the capacity of filtration after buying an adequate, but not oversized, pump.

The Stones are constantly entertaining around their pool. Their 10-year-old daughter, Ashton, and 13-year-old son, Taylor, bring friends over. (For safety, the Stones believe children should be taught to swim as early as possible.) Damon likes to sit poolside with a cigar and a frosty drink while he grills out. For their annual Christmas party, the Stones bring out three space heaters and float votive candles across the pool's surface.

Danielle adds, "Being outside at night with the stars and a cool breeze adds more ambience. You get a subdued, tranquil feeling."

If you wanted to recreate the Stones' pool in your own backyard, it would cost you upwards of $100,000. Is the cost worth it? The Stones say absolutely.

"We have a lot of windows that face the pool. When it's nice outside, we open them and hear the sound of the water all throughout the house," Damon says.

"Even when you walk in the front door and open the blinds, you see the pool area and it's just gorgeous," Danielle says. "It makes the house."

THE MCINTYRES

Don and Pam McIntyre think of their pool as a "little oasis." "I like sitting by it and listening to the sounds of the water while I read," says Pam, 37, co-owner of A-1 Sewing.

Don, 47, manager of the Hunter's Crossing Publix, says, "It's like another room." Sometimes, after work or on the weekends, Don will throw on a Tshirt and a pair of shorts, fix himself a Margarita and a Cohiba and then sit out by the pool to relax. "Getting in the water is not as big a deal as being out by the water," Don says.

The couple's Pomeranian barks at the hot tub when it's running. Don, who has had several back surgeries, appreciates the hot tub's therapeutic utility.

The 15,000-gallon pool is rectangular (30' x 15') with an elevated hot tub. In 2003, Pam and Don both helped apply the blue tile inside and around the pool. The couple says they chose the color, because they were looking for a more "dramatic effect."

The pool features a solar heating unit, a multi-colored lighting system as well as a unique brass spillover from the hot tub into the pool. Pam landscaped with a lot of palms, including Sago and Rafis palms, as well as day lilies and potted bougainvilleas.

Damon Stone helped them to design the pool, and, like the Stones', the McIntyres' is a saltwater pool. "It's as simple to keep up as any one can be," Don says. "I can go a month without testing the water; when I do, it's almos right where it should be." Though the couple has no children, they designed the pool to be "kid-friendly and safe."

"The deep end is in the middle of the pool," Don explains. "You can pretty much walk across the whole thing." One of their neighbors sometimes brings her children over to swim, reminding Don of his own childhood. "As a kid in South Florida, all the neighbors had pools, and we didn't, so I used to bang on doors to go swimming."

The McIntyres also installed an outdoor summer kitchen near the pool. When asked what she likes most about cooking outdoors, Pam replies, "My husband does it."

THE EVANSES

Neither Lori Evans nor her husband Phil Evans, co-owners of Evans Building and Design, had a pool when they were children. Now with four kids of their own, the Evanses call their 18' x 36' tropically-inspired pool "a dream come true."

It's a dream they've been planning for three years, ever since they built their home. Because of their professions - Phil, 36, builds homes and Lori, 30, designs interiors - the couple have been traveling for years to various cities' Parade of Homes, where they amassed ideas for their own perfect pool, which is now a reality that includes a hot tub, three waterfalls, jets and a raised wall at the back of the pool "so the kids can jump off it," Phil says.

With a new baby, the Evanses also wanted an area of the pool that would accommodate a small child. The result is "Olivia's Beach" (named after 18-monthold Olivia), a shallow, easily sloping area of the pool built to hold six inches of water. Small jets shoot gentle streams of water into Olivia's Beach. Ironically, it's become a favorite big-person hang out. "It's where everybody congregates," Lori says. "We all sit and put our feet in there."

The color scheme is "classic tan and black," says Lori, who installed 5-feet-tall Ukrainian wrought iron statues bought from a local antiques dealer.

Lori focused on the landscaping of the pool with nostalgic zeal. A native of the Florida Keys, Lori wanted the pool to look as much like home as possible. She worked with Chris Gillyard of Reasonable Rates Lawn Care and Landscaping. During a trip to the Keys, Lori took dozens of photos of the indigenous landscape, then compiled them into a folder of nearly 60 shots that she gave to Gillyard and said, "I want it to look exactly like this." Gainesville's climate disqualified many of the plants in the photos, but ultimately, Gillyard was able to get the job done. "He was able to take my wants, the look and style I wanted, and translate that into plants that will grow here," Lori says.

When the Evanses, working with Paradise Pools, constructed the pool, they also made provisions for an extensive screen that would enclose some of the yard behind the pool and along the side of the house. There, Phil likes to grill out, and the family sits down for dinner at a long outdoor dining table. Lori's mother, who hobbies in butterfly gardening, is going to plant butterfly-friendly plants on the green space along the side of the house as well.

If you're looking to construct a pool of the same caliber as the Evanses', Tom Solberg of Paradise Pools says you should be prepared to spend no less than $80,000 on the pool, and then no less than $20,000 on the screen enclosure.

The pool has only been finished since mid-April, but the kids have been in it almost everyday after school, Phil says.

Mom and Dad have been using the hot tub just as regularly, "once the kids have gone to bed," says Lori, who adds that the couple is by the pool just as often when Bryan, 12, Bradley 10, Brooke, 8, and Olivia are hankering for a dip.

"It's really relaxing. We put on music outside and watch the kids have fun," Lori says. "It's really nice for our family. The pool is pretty and fancy, and that's all great, but us going outside together is why we did it."

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