Best-In Show pool

This best-in-show pool is distinguished by costly Italian glass tile that lines the pool and spa, and Turkish travertine for the deck (Florida Swimming Pool Association / February 29, 2008)

This is the stuff that swimming-pool dreams are made of.

It has a vanishing edge that seems to disappear into Lake Apopka and a water level that gives the impression that it's even with the Turkish travertine deck. And it's lined with one-inch pieces of imported Italian glass tile that sparkles and shimmers.

The separate spa has a remote-controlled rain curtain that gives the feeling of a soft rainfall encircling the waters. Both pool and spa can be lit at night with fiber optics and streams of lighted water.

It's no wonder this breath-taking swimming pool built by Southern Pool Designs in Sanford at the upscale Bella Collina community in Lake County's Montverde took top honors from the Florida Swimming Pool Association's annual design contest.

The pool was given the title "best of show" among the 72 entries statewide in the contest.

Richard Moseley, chairman of the association's design committee and vice president of Champagne Pools in Sanford, said one word sums up the best-of-show winner: "spectacular."

"It could be the cover of any magazine," he said. "It's not an easy pool to build. It was not a pool I'd put in someone's backyard in five or six weeks."

John Kirkland, a co-owner of Southern Pool and a pool builder for 10 years, said the $600,000 pool took 1 1/2 years to build. It was extremely complicated because the pool area was on an incline, so the pool shell and separate spa had to be built before the house was constructed. Because the water level on the pool was to be even with the surrounding deck, the construction had to be perfect.

The pool is 23,500 gallons with 837 square feet of water surface. The dimensions are 16 feet by 54 feet. At its deepest point, it's 5 feet.

"A large part of the cost of the pool was the tile work," Kirkland said, adding that the Italian glass tile that lines the pool and spa and Turkish travertine for the deck cost between $60,000 and $70,000.

There are hand-held and fixed remote controls that allow the homeowner to operate all the water and light features.

"It was a very hard pool [to build] just from the pure engineering and hydraulics," he said. "The pool has a lot of really neat features."

For the contest, builders from across the state paid $85 per entry. In addition to sending in the design details, the pool builders also submitted photos and optional narratives from the pool owners. The judging, which took about three weeks, was finalized in December. The awards were given on Feb. 21 at the Florida Pool & Spa Show in Orlando.

In many of the categories, which included residential pool-spa combinations and semi-public pools, there were gold, silver, bronze and awards of merit. Each winner received a plaque with a mounted color print of the winning entry and an engraved plate with the winner's name.

Other Central Florida winners include Tropical Pools & Spas in Maitland, which won a gold, two silver and a merit award in categories that include residential pool-spa combination and residential shotcrete/gunite vanishing edge.

Erickson Pools of Leesburg won a merit award in the residential pool-spa combination category.

Southern Pool Designs also captured a gold award in the residential shotcrete/gunite vanishing-edge category and two silver awards in other categories.

Kirkland said the best-of-show pool was gratifying to build. "The whole idea here was to do something that was a show stealer," he said, adding that the homeowners live part-time in California. "There are very, very few people in Florida who do this type of glass and price point."