The shape, size and features in a custom pool are limited only by imagination and budget.
Would you like it angular or curved? Long enough for swimming laps or just big enough for a cooling dip? How about a spa, fountain, fire feature or waterfall?
And let's not forget the associated amenities: sunning deck, outdoor kitchen, wet bar, fire pit, projection TV, lighting and landscaping.
Here's a sampling of Central Florida pools. Each is distinctively different. But each, in the words of one homeowner, "is like having a mini-resort in your own backyard."
A backyard resortRay and Katherine Scott's Maitland pool is large, extensively landscaped and multipurpose.
Aesthetically, it is scaled to fit the size of the 1.2-acre property, says Ray Scott, an Orlando architect. It has a lot of angles and organic curves to fit in with the shape of the yard, and the "bluish-greenish-gray" Pebble Tec color blends with the landscaping.
"The fountain centers on the axis of the house, so it can be seen from the front door," he says. "And we can see the pool and hear the fountain from most rooms in the house."
Essentially, the pool is a 66-foot lap pool (40 laps to the mile), flanked by a wide, shallow bay on one side and an extra-deep pool on the other. Katherine Scott, a teacher at Lake Eola Charter School, is the lap-swimmer. The couple's adult children enjoy the deep pool. Their young grandchildren play on the shallow platform, which is equipped with a large sun umbrella for shade in summer.
Pool company: Great White Pool Construction, Winter Park.
Features: Lap pool with directional tiles on the bottom, shallow "beach" platform, salt system, heating and cooling systems, fountain, waterfall, plastic cover to conserve heat in winter.
Cost: Approximately $50,000.
What you enjoy most about your pool: It's very serene and resortlike, says Ray. "We have a lot of lawn-and-garden events, my office parties, our daughters' bridal showers. It's like having a mini vacation every weekend."
Features you would add, change, omit: Have already installed a coquina-type deck in place of flagstones and gravel, which became uneven and gravel washed into the pool. Ten-foot depth requires too much water, heavier equipment and is intimidating for young swimmers. Lack of screen is visually pleasing, but makes keeping pool free of leaves and bugs more challenging.
It feels like FloridaA large, rectangular pool with a sandy beach at one end and towering tropical foliage on the other three sides is at the heart of Alexis Lopez's home in St. Cloud.
"I wanted a home that reflected Florida," says Lopez, a Realtor who moved here from Chicago four years ago.
His U-shaped house forms a spacious, private courtyard. The 80-by-50-foot pool and oversized spa lie in the center, ringed by lush landscaping and shady lanais. A high screen arches overhead. From the house, 22 doors open into the pool area.
Pool company: Freestyle Pools, St. Cloud.
Features: Solar heating, large spa, waterfall, fountain, sandy beach, screen high enough to accommodate full-grown palm trees, tropical landscaping.
Cost: $35,000, plus $14,000 screen.
What you enjoy most about your pool: "It's an oasis, a tranquil place to kick back and relax. I can see it from every window in the house."
Features you would add, change or omit: "Nothing. I love it the way it is."
Build it yourselfSince 1988, Rick and Lisa Surphlis of DeLand have been building houses, living in them for a while, then selling and starting over again.
"This is our third pool, but it's the first one we've built ourselves," says Lisa, a graphic designer with Universal Orlando, who also has a residential contractor's license. Her husband is the owner of Creative Design, a cabinetry business in DeLand.
"We figured if we could build a house, we could build a pool — although there has been a learning curve," says Lisa, who did the design work and pulled the pool permit.
With guidance from a pool-contractor friend, they hired subcontractors to dig the pool and install the rebar work, gunite lining, plumbing, wiring, paving, stonework and outdoor kitchen. Rick built the bar, embedding thousands of copper BB pellets in its resin-covered surface.
The entire pool enclosure has become a favorite hangout of the couple, their teenage son and their friends.
Pool company: Built by homeowners.
Features: Hot tub, water spouts, pavers, natural materials that blend with wooded yard, summer kitchen with bar.
What you enjoy most about your pool: "It feels like a natural body of water at a secluded private resort. It looks awesome at night. It has made the house a complete package."
Features you would add, change or omit: Will add a fire pit.
A showpieceFor Heather McCormack, it was love at first sight. The moment she spotted the multicolored Italian glass tiles, she knew they would be the perfect accent for the pool she and her husband, Sean, were building at their Windermere home.
She was right. A low wall covered in the tiny, iridescent tiles forms a striking backdrop to the pool, which was designed to echo the angles of the house — and fit into the home's narrow side yard. A privacy screen set with opaque plastic "windows" helps isolate the pool area from the neighboring property.
Heather, the owner of a consulting business for biomedical research, and Sean, a sergeant with the D.A.R.E. program at the Orange County Sheriff's Office, use the 33-foot length of the pool for swimming laps. They play volleyball in the deep end and splash with their daughters, ages 6 and 1, in the wide, shallow "beach" area at the opposite end.
"Our older daughter loves to have 'dive-in movies' with her friends on summer nights. We put a movie on the projector — the screen is about 10-by-15 feet — and they can swim and watch a movie at the same time. But the best seat is in the hot tub," says Heather.
Even their dogs, a great Dane and a Labrador, enjoy being near the pool, she says.
Pool company: Bella Pools, Orlando.
Features: Automated salt system, custom Pebble Tec color, shallow "beach" area, water spout, Italian glass tiles, free-standing hot tub, projection TV with wireless outdoor speakers.
Cost: Approximately $90,000.
What you enjoy most about your pool: Privacy offered by enclosed courtyard; pool views from most rooms in the house; playing volleyball.
Features you would add, change or omit: Plan to add a waterfall and other amenities over time. And more Italian glass tile.
For workout, playtimeA raised spa flanked by fire bowls adds drama to the rectangular pool of Bill and Danielle Johnson, who live in Orlando's College Park neighborhood.
Water cascades down the series of wide steps from the spa into the pool, which is deepest in the middle. Designed with lap-swimming in mind, the 34-foot-long pool has steps in the center, not at the ends, where the water is 4.5 feet deep — features that make flip-turning easy.
Danielle, who is assistant vice president of cardiovascular services at Florida Hospital, is the lap-swimmer. Her husband, who provides support for the hospital's scheduling system, prefers to relax in the pool. Their two teenage sons enjoy all the amenities with their Edgewater High School friends.
"It's the best all-purpose pool," says Danielle.
Pool company: All Seasons Pools, Sanford.
Features: Midnight-blue color, flame bowls, two side entrances, deep in the center and shallow at each end for laps-swimming, raised hot tub with multicolored tile walls and spillway.
What you enjoy most about your pool: Swimming laps, the kids jumping into the deep middle section, the ambience from the sound of the spillway and the sight of the flaming bowls.
Features you would add, change or omit: "Nothing. We love it just the way it is."
Jean Patteson can be reached at 407-420-5158 or email@example.com.