Natural-inspired pool encourages relaxation

By Amy Diehl | Photos by Johan Roetz
Reprinted from Housetrends Online Link to article

Cheryl and Jim Bender moved to the Odessa countryside after several years of living on the beach, they knew exactly what they wanted. “It has always been our dream to have a negative edge pool,” Cheryl explains. They couldn’t build their dream pool at their beachfront property, so when they built this spacious home in the country with a large rear lawn leading down to a small lake, they knew they had found the perfect spot for this long-delayed wish.

Creating visual interest

The pool is the focal point of the Benders’ lovely backyard living space. The free-form design naturally curves and undulates around planter beds, twin beach entries and the curving walls of the raised spa. The stacked stone face of the spa overflows into the pool, creating the gentle music of running water. The far end of the pool culminates in a dramatic negative edge, which cascades into the moat below. It is flanked on either side by flaming fire pots with water spouts.

Cheryl was an active participant in designing this pool. “I spent days on the internet going through photos of pools,” she says. “I took ideas from many different sources and put them together.”

Her collaborator on this project was Pat O’Connell of Landmark Pools who had also built their previous pool. “She’s on a lake setting but has a big yard,” O’Connell says. “They moved from the Gulf to the country and we wanted something real natural looking back there.”

Unlike most pools, this pool is situated perpendicular to the house as opposed to the standard horizontal style running lengthwise across the back. “It really worked well because it leads the eye down the length of the pool to the negative edge feature and past, to the lake beyond,” Cheryl says.

O’Connell points out that a negative edge pool does not have to have water behind it to work. “I have so many people come to me and say ‘I’d love a negative edge pool but I’m not on water.’ It doesn’t matter because it’s about the visual element. This pool flows down into a trough with landscaping behind it, which works great. Or, you can create your own negative edge by going from pool to pool,” he adds.

Up and coming trends

According to O’Connell, the next big thing with pools is the No Edge pool; also called a Perimeter Overflow Pool. With these pools, all the water spills into a hidden trough on all sides and is pumped back in. There is no direct suction on the pool. It is all gravity-fed. “It’s kind of cool looking. I did one recently that looked like it was suspended in air,” he says.

Cheryl and Jim’s pool is on a salt chlorinator. O’Connell predicts that soon all pools will be using this technology. “It makes the water more comfortable for swimming and it is better for you. You use less chlorine and it kills bacteria evenly 24/7,” he says.

The pool patio area was actually built up during the construction process to create a higher platform for the pool itself. Patio tiles of Leonardo tumbled travertine used throughout give the area a rich look. A recently completed, screened-in, outdoor kitchen is directly adjacent to the pool. Featuring a full cooking area, a two-sided gas fireplace and plenty of seating, this space offers a wonderful retreat for dining al fresco in comfort. “The mosquitoes here will eat you alive, so this is a favorite spot,” Cheryl jokes.

Lush surroundings

A lush, green lawn of Zoysia grass runs around the pool and down to the lakefront. As the owners of two rambunctious young Irish Setters, Cheryl and Jim wanted a grass that would hold up to all the abuse that two boisterous dogs can dish out. With the Zoysia grass, they found it. “St. Augustine gets too many bugs and Bahia would be trampled. Zoysia is the most expensive but the most durable. We are so happy with it. They haven’t been able to destroy it yet,” she laughs.

Zoysia grass is a thick turf with fine, soft blades. It is a slow grower that takes full sun, needs less water once established and can be cut very low.

Tommy Todd, of Tommy Todd Landscape & Design, did all of the landscape and grounds work. He says the Zoysia grass also complements the equestrian-inspired façade of the home. “The Benders did a great job of making the home fit the community with a more traditional feel in front. We wanted a fine-textured bluegrass look like you would find up north versus St. Augustine which goes with a more Mediterranean style,” he says.

Todd, who has also worked on previous homes for the Benders, focused on colorful but more traditional plantings along the front of the home and a more tropical pallet in the rear to fit the pool. Colorful, low maintenance plantings enhance the yard and pool area. Specimen palms are combined with colorful plantings of plumbago, spider lily, Mexican petunias and other varieties for a lovely mix that does not shed leaves in the pool.

Along the edges of the yard, specimen trees and lower border plants are used to add interest and structure to the space as well as camouflage the pool pump area. One of the highlights is a clump of lovely Dura Heat River Birch trees, which adds interesting texture and design.

Planning for the future

Cheryl’s plan to include a pair of sunning platforms is a testament to her vision. “I pictured myself in a lounge chair on one of them, watching my future grandchildren play on the other,” she says.

While she didn’t have grandchildren at the time, Cheryl and Jim recently received the happy news that they were going to be grandparents, turning her vision into reality.

Builder: Gray Homes; Pool: Landmark Pools; Landscape and plantings: Tommy Todd Landscape & Design