The Beautiful World of Pool & Spa Combos

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Many years ago, in the early days of what was then known as Genesis 3, co-founder Skip Phillips of Questar Pools was delivering a lecture about water-in-transit design. Part of his discussion centered on what he saw as the lack of creativity and design ingenuity when it comes to attached spas.

Paraphrasing, he explained it was a shame so many builders simply create unimaginative vessels that, his words, "indiscriminately puke water" from the spa into the pool. A rather vivid description, but he certainly made his point.

In the ensuing years, Phillips and others who feel the same way have been proven right time and time again. That's especially true when considering the creative treatments that have, in fact, blossomed by a generation of designers and builders who have taken seriously the challenge of exploring the possibilities that reside in the classic pool/spa combo.


The critique of the industry has also been readily apparent in unremarkable pool-and-spa installations. Many do look very similar, however, many builders of mid-range pools and package pools will rightfully point out that not every design has to be markedly creative. When all is said and done, if the customer is happy with their multi-use aquatic space, all is well.

For others, including the designers and builders whose work is represented in this pictorial, combining a spa with a pool can be among the most exciting parts of the project. Not only does the presence of a spa add an enduringly enjoyable dimension to the space, there are infinite ways to make the two separate, yet conjoined bodies of water work in tandem in a beautiful way.

"I always enjoy working with combinations," says designer/builder Mike Farley. "It's a part of the project where you can oftentimes be the most creative. These days, almost all of the pool and spa combinations we design and build are very different from project to project."

Indeed, the location of the spa relative to the pool alone offers a variety of options. The spa can be hidden within the pool with dam walls that virtually disappear. By contrast, many spas are prominently perched on the edge of the pool in the familiar raised-spa profile, or they can be completely separate from the pool, connected only by the circulation system or via water features.

Then there are the ways that water transits from the spa into the pool. The simple weir has evolved into a spectrum of transitional scuppers, runnels, channels, streams, laminar jets and many other variations.

Stylistically speaking, in some cases the spa perfectly harmonizes with the pool's architecture, while in others it provides a visual contrast, to the point the spa works as a separate sculptural or naturalistic waterfeature. Some such spas look like ponds, while others look like fountains.

Finally, there are any number of schemes for entry and egress from the spa and how people can transition between the hotwater and the cooler pool water.


As we celebrate the birth of AQUA's antecedent publication Spa and Sauna with our exploration of the hot water facet of the aquatics industry, the following sampling delves into the creative combo concepts that result when some of the industry's finest bring hot and cold together.



Modern Mastery

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In this striking project, the client wanted a contemporary design that was both "urban and festive," says designer Kirk Bianchi. To hit those notes, Bianchi turned to the influences of master Mexican architects Ricardo Legoretta and Luis Barragan, who mastered the art of combining stark modern architectural shapes with vivid colors.

The result in this case is a pool/spa combination that not only makes a vivid visual statement, but also blends beautifully with the surrounding Arizona desert.



Architectural Organic

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This beautiful pool and spa combo by Texas designer/builder Michael Logsdon of Land Design works in a variety of interesting ways. The client asked for something different that both harmonized with the home's rectilinear architecture while still conveying a naturalist look.

Logsdon found the design solution in the use of robust "rough hewn" Oklahoma sandstone slabs in the spa construction, most prominently in the inventive spillover treatment. The design generates soothing sounds of flowing water and shows off the rich natural material, all the while adhering to the architectural design program.



Natural Grace

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Designer Mike Farley went all natural on this project, creating a spa that was designed to look like a smaller upper pool cascading into the larger lower pool. He oversized the concrete shell to create a broad shelf that accommodates the dramatic rockwork, which makes the spa appear larger relative to the actual volume of the spa itself.

The spa is roughly 8 by 8 feet across, designed to comfortably seat six to eight people. In an unusual twist, a second attached hot water vessel is located just above this spa. The result is a cascading set of naturalistic bodies of water that echo a natural stream and waterfall setting.



Overflowing With Comfort

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This simple, yet elegant spa is part of a project by Skip Phillips, Questar Pools, that features a pool with a vanishing-edge and Lautner edge water-in-transit details. The spa harmonizes with its own perimeter overflow design on three sides, nestled against a slightly offset fire feature on the fourth.



Inside Moves

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One of the more recent additions to the spectrum of pool/spa combination designs has involved locating the spa inside the pool itself, creating a subtle visual effect through which the spa almost disappears. In this project from Christopher Anderson of Custom Design Pools (Houston, Texas), the edges of the spa are slightly raised to echo the pool shape, and matching finish colors create an inviting inside-the-pool silhouette.



Graceful Contours

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This elegant, award-winning combo offers a wonderful example of tasteful balance that in some respects betrays the design complexity.

Designed and built by Regal Pools' Joshua Buzzell, on a functional level, the pool and spa can be operated as completely separate circulation systems or as a classic overflow. The undulating lines of the pool shape are subtly echoed in the spa's shape and spillover. The rich travertine material unifies the decking, pool, spa and surrounding structures, creating an inviting waterfront space.



Power Through Restraint

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This raised perimeter overflow spa from designer Kirk Bianchi uses subdued colors and subtle textures to create a distinct artistic statement that also harmonizes with the setting. The result is "a quiet space that speaks clearly yet softly to the soul," Bianchi says.

The design echoes the adjacent fire feature and surrounding deck design. The dark tile both contrasts and complements the subtle earth tones in the home's finish materials.



Geometric Connections

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Steve Swanson of the Pool Company worked the angles on this starkly geometric, octagonal attached spa. By using three separate spillways on the angled dam walls, Swanson added visual interest from different viewpoints around the pool and at the same time took advantage of the spa's distinct shape.

"I appreciate the way that a raised spa provides seating and views over the pool and can also function as an attached waterfeature," he says.

In this case, copper Sheer Descent spillways and a deep, multicolored Oceanside Glass Tile mosaic complete the scene.


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