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For The Home

Off the Deep End

Author: Sally J. Clasen
Issue: September, 2017, Page 86
Photo by Garrett Cook

Kids—and adults—at play is the main function of this backyard landscape. Three pools accommodate a number of family-friendly activities, including swimming, diving, working out and entertaining.
Innovative Design Turns an Empty Backyard Into an Extreme Water World

Rick and Regina Steele had just a few requests for the pool they were adding to their newly built custom 10,500-square-foot home in Gilbert: Make it big and useable. And for Rick, there was one non-negotiable design stipulation: no massive boulders with waterfalls.

The 94,000-gallon pool features 3,000 square feet of water surface space with an upper infinity pool, a relaxation deck, a “chill” pool for laps, and a perimeter overflow spa, finished in French grey pebble technology and iridescent glass tiles.
Other than that, the Steeles gave pool builder Jeromey Naugle free reign to create a modern residential waterscape that worked for their family’s active lifestyle and suited their quest for backyard frolic. “I’ve had many clients say that they were leaving the design up to me, but this project was the first time a client meant it,” he says.

“The idea was to make us feel like we were at a resort or waterpark without leaving home,” says Rick. Regina concurs. “We wanted an oversized pool that was different and extreme; one with all the bells and whistles so we could have fun,” she adds. “We’re an outdoor family.”

And that’s exactly what the couple and their four children, ages 4 to 16, got. Naugle took the blank slate and delivered an 94,000-gallon over-the-top yet practical pool with distinct zones that consumes most of the backyard and allows the family to swim, play and entertain—and even work out—as if they were on a continual vacation.

To strike a balance between the Steeles’ Spanish colonial home aesthetic and his own vision for a contemporary pool, Naugle used an eclectic mix of materials and elements to insert warmth into the striking angles that are prominent throughout the design.

The new backyard pool turns every day into a vacation for Rick and Regina Steele and their four children.
The pool is finished in a French gray pebble texture with splashes of multicolored, iridescent glass tiles and includes three vessels that support a range of activities. At 67 feet long by 18 feet wide, the upper infinity lap pool was designed for serious kids’ play and swimming; it’s also where Rick, an extreme athlete who competes in high-level fitness events, trains.

The pool spills over onto a tiled lounge deck where four contemporary white chaises hold minimalist court in 6 inches of water. The serene oasis, which cascades into the lower pool, is meant to be a visual focal point that connects the continuous flow of water between the two zones, according to Naugle. 

The lower “chill” pool, at 71 feet long by 26 feet wide, features a plant island and the traditional resort-style swim-up bar. But this backyard pool adaptation has a twist. Three concrete chairs built for two are suspended with heavy-duty ropes in front of the bar—the perfect water apparatus for pool play.

Three horizontal, cantilevered concrete waterfalls with stainless steel spillways add a bold, modern statement along the edge of the upper infinity pool. They serve as unique sculptural elements and as useful diving boards for the kids.
Another quirky distinction—and an eye-catching conversation piece—is the swim-up bar’s countertop made of moisture-resistant glulam timber that required a dozen stages of sanding, buffing and epoxy applications to make it waterproof. “Using the wood helped break up all the concrete,” says Naugle of the unusual choice of material for a feature that is just inches from the water’s surface. The three-sided bar divides the lower pool and a 600-square-foot sunken living space

The pool’s modern angles are tempered by a rustic, pitched ramada with exposed beams and brick columns that protect the lounge. An outdoor dining and kitchen area features a wood-fired pizza oven; commercial grill; weathered, corrugated tin cabinet doors; and polished colored concrete countertops embedded with pieces of green glass for a touch of whimsy.

The sunken lounge, kitchen and dining space are well-used by the entire family. The parents find the combined area to be the perfect spot to host outdoor social gatherings, and the entire pool layout makes the backyard a popular destination for play dates since most of the couple’s friends have young children too.  

The 600-square-foot sunken lounge and outdoor kitchen space is protected by a rustic ramada with exposed beams. The patio covering repeats some of the architectural details used in the Spanish colonial-style home, such as columns  made of repurposed Germantown bricks.
While boulders and waterfalls are nowhere to be found, Naugle added six cantilevered concrete waterfalls—three at the end of the upper pool and three along the lower pool—that appear to suspend freely from the pool’s edge due to cleverly concealed mounting. The sculptural features bring a bold punch of ultra-modernism to the landscape—and serve double duty in the upper pool as diving boards.

While the project was a design dream for Naugle, being given carte blanche for decision-making didn’t eliminate challenges. The odd-shape of the triangular backyard required the builder to draw up five plans before finding one that would work in the unusual space, and a 2-foot drop-off between the house and the yard meant the entire area had to be backfilled before construction could even begin. “The size of the lot and scale of the project required a lot of time to put the plan together,” he explains. “It was all up to the imagination because the yard just wasn’t giving us anything.”

The swim-up bar features three floating concrete chairs built for two that are suspended by heavy-duty rope and a custom, waterproof three-sided wood countertop made with marine-grade glulam.
Yet in the end, it has become one of his favorite pool projects he’s ever done. “It’s completely off-the-wall. There’s a lot going on, but it works,” he notes.

The Steeles couldn’t agree more. “He nailed it,” says Rick. “He considered the lay of the land, and he mirrored details from our home with a lot of imaginative ideas.”

The pool is unlike anything the couple has seen before, but the design will stand up to growing kids and changing tastes in exterior decor, believes Regina. “Kids test the limits of breaking things. We wanted something that we could use, that was timeless and that we didn’t have to redo,” she says. “We didn’t want a museum.” With all of the lifestyle and activity options their new poolscape offers, the Steeles needn’t worry, as they can look forward to years of recreation and family fun.

The homeowners wanted the pool to be large, useable and fun—and filled with elements that make the family feel as though they are at a waterpark without ever leaving home.

The outdoor dining area includes seating for six, while the kitchen features a commercial grill and wood-fired pizza oven. Polished concrete countertops and corrugated tin cabinet doors add a touch of rustic elegance.
The new poolscape is a favorite spot of the Steele’s four children, ages 4 to 16, who use it for swimming, playing and entertaining.


The lounge deck is covered in 2-inch-square multicolored iridescent glass tiles, which mimic finishing touches used in resort-style pools.

An awkward lot configuration required builder Jeromey Naugle to draw up multiple plans before finding a design that worked for the large space and mirrored certain decorative elements of the Spanish colonial-style home. The pool’s unique shape results in an unobstructed view of the water from every patio window of the house.


Four modern lounge chairs sit in 6 inches of water on a relaxation deck that was designed to provide a resting spot from pool activity but which also serves as a visual focal point connecting the continuous flow of water between the upper and lower pool areas.

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