2022 Awards of Excellence: Gold Winners | AQUA Magazine

2022 Awards of Excellence: Gold Winners

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Welcome to the Pool Builder's Art Gallery

Some pools and spas are true works of art. Each year, the PHTA Awards of Excellence program recognizes a few of the most imaginative and skillful installations from around the world. From hundreds of entries, a select group is picked to be featured in AQUA Magazine and honored at a special Awards Reception.

In this day and age, pool and spa professionals are dealing with supply shortages, labor shortages, and price increases, all while trying to manage a substantial increase in demand. It’s more than anyone’s fair share of stress — but this year’s magnificent lineup of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Merit winners attest that passion and creativity carry on in the face of obstacles. Over the month of October, we will take some time to savor the exquisite masterpieces, similar to how one would enjoy an exhibit at an art museum. 

We begin our coverage with the Gold award-winning projects below.


Category: Pools With a Vanishing Edge By: Morris Pools, Mesa, Ariz.Category: Pools With a Vanishing Edge By: Morris Pools, Mesa, Ariz.

Morris Pools

Mesa, Ariz.

Pool Interior Finish: Wet Edge

Pool designers have to work with the space provided, taking advantage of every opportunity it may offer for aesthetics and utility. In this case, the home’s natural landscape provided a spectacular view of an Arizona desert valley, with mountains in the distance, so the mission was to maximize the effect of that stunning backdrop. Considering sight angles and framing, this design from Morris Pools, completed last year, does just that.

The 35-foot vanishing-edge pool provides the pedestal for the impressive vista, a foundational support for visual ascent to the blue sky, along with the arcing laminar jets which reflect and diffract the ever present desert illumination. The freestanding pavilion puts a frame around sunsets on distant mountains and of course, provides shelter from the sharp noonday sun. Natural stone and impervious deck material holds up well under the harsh conditions and blends beautifully with the rock work waterfall on the deep end.    


Category: Pools With a Vanishing Edge By: J. Brownlee Design, Franklin, Tenn.Category: Pools With a Vanishing Edge By: J. Brownlee Design, Franklin, Tenn.

J. Brownlee Design

Franklin, Tenn.

Decking Material: Indiana Limestone

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Jason Brownlee of J.Brownlee Design partnered with Chad Christenson and Watermark Pools to bring this creative project to life. Extensive detail and precision was necessary given the property’s aggressive site setback line partnered with an extensive, existing cross-slope grade.

The arc-and-tangent pool design works to create functional and aesthetic terraces with unique, dedicated uses on each terraced platform. Defining features include a curved Lautner Slot Edge for the main pool vessel, five scupper water features, and a forward overflow edge on the front spillover wall to a covered basin with an arched linear fire pit for a fire-water visual experience. Other fire features include multiple automatic ignition fire bowls, which add drama and intrigue as the day transitions to night-time entertainment.

Swimmers can also enjoy the spa, located across from the swimming pool. The spa spills over into a gravity line connected to the surge basin below. The project is completed with beautiful landscape lighting, positioned underneath the backyard trees, that further helps to illuminate the space at night.    


Category: Pools With a Vanishing Edge By: Ryan Hughes Design Build, Tampa, Fla.Category: Pools With a Vanishing Edge By: Ryan Hughes Design Build, Tampa, Fla.

Ryan Hughes Design Build

Tampa, Fla.

Decking Material: Travertine Pavers

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This project, coined the Bluff View, was created to blend a traditional style pool with a more modern, relaxing one. The design is perfect for outdoor gatherings, inviting people of all generations to seamlessly blend together. The seating areas, curves and circular elements of this 1,200-square-foot pool were expertly placed throughout by the RHD team. Featured on the natural, rocky grotto is a slide to enjoy on a warm summer day. A multi-layered, vanishing-edge sun shelf bleeds into a beautiful view of Florida’s intracoastal waterway.     


Category: Traditional By: Ryan Hughes Design Build, Tampa, Fla.Category: Traditional By: Ryan Hughes Design Build, Tampa, Fla.

Ryan Hughes Design Build

Tampa, Fla.

Decking Material: Travertine Pavers

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This well-executed project is meant to capitalize on the architecture and layout of the property’s Mediterranean Villa-like home. While the design accents the layout of the house, the materials, fire bowls and colors follow the traditional vibe of the architecture.

The design for the pool starts long and narrow, then bends around a sunken fire pit. Permanent outdoor seating offers a cozy environment near the fire, complemented by a television that the homeowner intended for family movie night. From the fire pit, guests can see the raised, all glass tile spa in the pool, which is nestled next to another television.

Professional space planning made the project all possible within the unique shape of the house. Throughout the enclave of the house, the design allowed for different areas to be defined with varying materials.   


Category: Traditional By: Claffey Pools, Southlake, TexasCategory: Traditional By: Claffey Pools, Southlake, Texas

Claffey Pools

Southlake, Texas

Decking Material: Noble Tile Porcelain Discovery White

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Located next to the sleek fire pit, an LED lighted splash pad replaced an old pool and sunken cabana, and became a kid-friendly zone for this family of nine. A glass railing separates the splash pad from the new pool, spa and dual cabanas. Designer Mike Farley created this pool layout, centered on the master bedroom sight line, so the two parents can enjoy the view of their seven kids playing outside while relaxing in bed. The custom slide is hidden by a green wall of synthetic boxwood. Behind this, a gate is located and leads to the kids’ top-secret playroom. The front drive was removed and reinstalled with drainage swale and bridge to fix previous drainage issues, but now, this family can enjoy their unique paradise.     


Category: Traditional By: Keith Zars Pools, San Antonio, TexasCategory: Traditional By: Keith Zars Pools, San Antonio, Texas

Keith Zars Pools

San Antonio, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Designer Curt Collier created a pool that captures the stunning view of the country hillside over the horizon, while also mirroring the modern-style home in the background. The theme for this design was simple elegance with a touch of dramatic flair. This idea is emphasized in the glass tiled spa, lounge seating, fire bowls and grotto water feature. The blue, cream and white colors of the pool and deck, paired with the orange glow of the fire pits, further enhance the natural and exquisite surroundings. From sunrise to sunset, this unique pool design endlessly radiates serenity and exuberance.    


Category: Geometric By: Radelli Design Build, Oak Point, TexasCategory: Geometric By: Radelli Design Build, Oak Point, Texas

Radelli Design Build

Oak Point, Texas

Decking Material: Concrete and Aluminum

Geometry plays a central role in this 26-by-13-foot geometric pool from Radelli Design Build, completed at the start of this year.

Concrete and aluminum interlocking decking, with grid lines accentuated by lush green sod, create a sense of order and alignment using the most natural of materials, while the framing provided by the rain curtain at the far end adds a strong right angle and a bold focal point from all points of view — while again, at the same time, using natural substance to soften the impact. The six fire features use the same approach to dramatic effect.

A sunken seating area surrounded by water offers a cool lounging option, while the raised perimeter overflow spa gives the family a chance to warm up. A large outdoor kitchen and dining area provide fuel without going inside, while a bocce court and putting green offer active entertainment outside the pool.    


Category: Geometric By: Ozzie Kraft Enterprises, Las Vegas, Nev.Category: Geometric By: Ozzie Kraft Enterprises, Las Vegas, Nev.

Ozzie Kraft Enterprises

Las Vegas, Nev.

Decking Material: Tile

Pool Interior Finish: Wet Edge

The sharp angles of this swimming pool and spa, designed by Clayton Miller, give the project an ultra modern feel. The water spills over variegated stone to the front and black tile to the back, disappearing into the landscape rock below. Swimmers can move from the pool to the spa quickly. The spa is set 3/8 of an inch higher than the pool level, which can be lowered slightly with a lower speed setting on the infinity-edge pump. The swimming pool also has two feature walls. The first has three custom scuppers, a small element that elevates the project nicely. The other is a 10-foot fire bar, which is great for those cool, desert-like evenings.    


Category: Geometric By: Venture Custom Pools, Plano, TexasCategory: Geometric By: Venture Custom Pools, Plano, Texas

Venture Custom Pools

Plano, Texas

Decking Material: 1472 Travertine Pavers

For this project, it was important for designer Gregg Whitely to capture the elegance of the owner’s modern Tudor style home with its clean lines, classic arches and captivating brick-color variations. The design approach began by incorporating various radius points on the pool to visually pair with the home’s arches. Builder Steven Deering used a classic two-toned travertine paver deck design to further make the transition from indoor to outdoor a seamless experience.

The pair designed and created a tier fountain on the back wall, anchored with sheer descents and a stunning fire feature, to add warmth and beauty to the space in the evenings. Floating stones lead to a linear raised spa with two spillways, further blending the modern and traditional aesthetics together. An intimate lounging area, complete with a television and rain curtain, separates the spaces and adds a soothing element to the backyard design.    


Category: Geometric By: Shasta Pools, Phoenix, Ariz.Category: Geometric By: Shasta Pools, Phoenix, Ariz.

Shasta Pools

Phoenix, Ariz.

Decking Material: QDI Philadelphia Travertine & Arizona Tile More Wood/Noce

The collaboration between designers Troy Grondahl and Wally Dykert resulted in a beautiful “cross” shape pool dominated by water and fire. The unique design directs traffic through the pool to a lounging area, complete with a fire pit, spa and shade structure. The floating steps inside the pool provide access to various areas like the shade structure, which has a breathtaking view of Four Peaks. A wall with fire niches and a rain curtain, located near the back of the pool, further accentuate the space.     


Category: Elevated Pool And/Or Spa Structure By: Regal Pools, Tomball, TexasCategory: Elevated Pool And/Or Spa Structure By: Regal Pools, Tomball, Texas

Regal Pools

Tomball, Texas

Decking Material: Porcelain

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This elevated pool from Regal Pools in Tomball, Texas, heightens standards for craftsmanship in the pool building itself. Note the use of fire and reflected light throughout the project, using not only water (arcing in laminars, rising up in bubblers, quiescent on the pool surface, and trickling down the vertical wall feature) but acrylic and porcelain as reflective surfaces.    


Category: Fiberglass Pools By: Goodall Pools, Camp Hill, Pa.Category: Fiberglass Pools By: Goodall Pools, Camp Hill, Pa.

Goodall Pools & Spas

Camp Hill, PA.

Decking Material: Pavers

This lovely 16-by-35-foot fiberglass gem from Goodall Pools & Spas in Pennsylvania shows off the low-radius curves that are possible with today’s fiberglass pools. The multiple inflection points along the freeform walls are executed with factory level precision, as are the angles required for the sunshelves and steps.

Of particular interest in this design is the artistic, freeform shape-within-a-shape — the pool shell within the outline of the paver decking. The layout provides ample room for the family’s required casual furnishings, and a focal point for the entire backyard, which features a fire pit, spa and tidy poolhouse.    


Category: Freeform By: Texas Pools, The Woodlands, TexasCategory: Freeform By: Texas Pools, The Woodlands, Texas

Texas Pools

The Woodlands, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This natural and seductive masterpiece comes from Texas Pools in the Woodlands, and makes use of the arboreal setting to create a backyard with a powerful, natural effect. The travertine decking, classy stonework, planting beds, and natural waterfall inform the forest-like landscape with a rich, aquatic feel. The pool itself has a Pebble Tec finish and features a unique, terraced, spillover spa, along with ample sun ledges and matched, opposing access steps.    


Category: Freeform By: Dal Pino Quality Pools, Auburn, Calif.Category: Freeform By: Dal Pino Quality Pools, Auburn, Calif.

Dal Pino Quality Pools

Auburn, Calif.

Decking Material: Texture Stamped With Integral Mesa Buff Color

Pool Interior Finish: Wet Edge

When dreaming up their backyard oasis, the owners of this California property wanted a unique space to enjoy quality family time. The result has different elements for both the children, who are very active, and adults.

The swimming pool was designed with a slide envelope and separate diving envelope for the jump boulder. A 7-foot-tall waterfall on an engineered base was constructed using native rocks from the Sierra Nevada Foothills to integrate the Garden Ride slide with the landscaping. Since the project was completed five years ago, the family has been adding small boulders to their waterfall from family trips throughout the U.S. and Europe.

For adult time, behind the raised pool wall is an elevated deck with a loveseat swing, which has afternoon shade from the Redwood trees. For larger gatherings in the evening, there is a Yardesty shade structure with lighting controlled by the swimming pool automation. A built-in grill area was added near the house for year-round use. There is also an 18-inch deep Caribbean shelf in the swimming pool, which was covered in quartz flagstone to not only bring a stone element to the pool, but also provide a durable finish for in-pool furniture.

In the cooler weather, a flagstone fire pit with an automated Grand Effects burner provides a warm gathering place. The location is in a windy valley, so the automated burner was a necessary safety feature in case the flame is blown out by the nightly wind. Multiple Pentair GloBrite lights also provide a safety element, creating a nighttime swimming environment while also showcasing beautiful watercolors.    


Category: Vinyl-Lined Pools By: J&M Pool Company, Senoia, Ga.Category: Vinyl-Lined Pools By: J&M Pool Company, Senoia, Ga.

J&M Pool Company

Senoia, GA.

Decking Material: Mortex Kool Deck

This winner in the vinyl-lined pool category proves the point builders have been making for the last two decades — that a well-executed vinyl-liner pool can be as stately and attractive as a concrete one. The fit on this pool is exceptional, and its clean lines can be seen even from photographic distance. The design features a sun shelf and spillover spa, along with a slide that swishes kids through green plantings and into the water below. The light-colored decking material is a concrete topping from Mortex Kool Deck, which is a colored, textured cement surface that lowers surface temperature and helps withstand thermal expansion and cracking.    


Category: Screened Enclosed Pools By: Ryan Hughes Design Build, Tampa, Fla.Category: Screened Enclosed Pools By: Ryan Hughes Design Build, Tampa, Fla.

Ryan Hughes Design Build

Tampa, Fla.

Decking Material: Porcelain Pavers

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Calm, chic and peaceful captures the aesthetic of this modern pool design. A cool, walk-in pool combined with a fire-side infinity spa creates the perfect space for year-round serenity. Added lounging areas are positioned throughout the glass-enclosed structure to encourage gatherings with family and friends. The blue tones of the tile, mixed with the green of the plants, the orange of the fire and the tan of the tiles, further strengthens the soothing tone of this contemporary pool design.


Category: Technical/Engineering Achievement By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, TexasCategory: Technical/Engineering Achievement By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, Texas

Cascade Custom Pools

Austin, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Although the saying “beauty is pain” typically refers to a person, it also represents the journey of how this daring swimming pool was built. The breathtaking views are attributed to a 65-degree cliff overlooking Lake Travis in Austin, Texas; however, the cliff demanded caution when using the tractor and other essential equipment. After a successful cradle slab cut, builder Hank Thompson drilled 18-inch piers into the limestone, along with several horizontal nails into the cliffside. Once the piers and cradle were poured, work began on the pool and retaining walls using the snap tie method of poured-in-place concrete. This method gave the exterior walls and cantilever a decorative concrete look. Following the completion of the swimming pool, spa and automatic pool cover, the lower, 10- foot cradle space was utilized as a wine cellar. In total, the team used over 12 tons of rebar, poured over 500 yards of concrete and luckily, didn’t lose a single piece of equipment to the foreboding cliff.


Category: Pool Renovations By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, TexasCategory: Pool Renovations By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, Texas

Cascade Custom Pools

Austin, Texas

Decking Material: Natural Flagstone

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This pool renovation was especially exciting for builder Hank Thompson and designer TJ Thompson because the client gave them complete artistic control in terms of materials and design. The only request of the client was to keep the space natural by building around the existing palm trees. To achieve this vision, they replaced pool beams with heavy-duty, cantilevered rock lugs, as well as old limestone decking with new Oklahoma decking. They added in three grotto caves, a creek, and waterfall consisting of hand-picked Oklahoma boulders. They also re-plumed the entire pool and replaced all the pool lights and equipment. Lastly, the deep end was converted into a self-contained plunge pool separated by a gunite wall with its own filtration and automation systems.    


Category: Pools with Automatic Covers By: Ozzie Kraft Enterprises, Las Vegas, Nev.Category: Pools with Automatic Covers By: Ozzie Kraft Enterprises, Las Vegas, Nev.

Ozzie Kraft Enterprises

Las Vegas, Nev.

Decking Material: Porcelain Tile

The modern architecture of this Las Vegas, Nev.-based home, located near the mountainside, is one-of-a-kind. Not only does the home boast a curved roof with energy-efficient solar panels, it offers many different options to enjoy the view — large windows, multiple decks and ample patio space allow the outdoors to feel like a natural extension of the home.

At the center of it all is a stunning swimming pool, designed by Kevin Kraft. The infinity-edge pool and spa has many fine details: a custom stainless steel fire bar, six retractable fountains, four laminar fountains and five laminar flow fountains that flow into the spa. Swimmers can enjoy the swim-up bar with six custom, stainless steel bar stools. The infinity-edge catch basin is covered with a fiberglass grating section and river rock to protect against access from the homeowner’s grandchildren. To complete the project and help with water loss — as wind is common in high altitudes; multiple retractable video screens also act as windbreaks, for example — an automatic pool cover with a custom-tiled lid was installed.    


Category: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: Atkinson Pools, Charleston, S.C.Category: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: Atkinson Pools, Charleston, S.C.

Atkinson Pools

Charleston, S.C.

Decking Material: Textured, Colored Concrete

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

This artistic creation from Atkinson Pools in South Carolina achieves its dramatic curvaceous effect with multiple radii and no straight edges, with aesthetic accents provided by the hot tub, shade structures and plantings. From all angles, but particularly overhead, the design is as delightful and daring as a Picasso in the Prado. At the same time, it’s just a fun splash scene for kids sprinting down its beach entry into the clear refreshing water.    


Category: Spoas Built in Conjunction with Swimming Pools By: Shehan Pools, Florence, KY.Category: Spoas Built in Conjunction with Swimming Pools By: Shehan Pools, Florence, KY.

Shehan Pools

Florence, KY.

Decking Material: Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

Exquisite rock work distinguishes this plaster-finish pool from Shehan Pools in Florence, KY. Multiple outcroppings of artificial rock blend with the travertine deck to create the feel of a secluded tropical swimming spot, accentuated by jets, delicate lighting and especially the spa, whose exterior walls integrate with the surfaces throughout the project.    


Category: Swim Spas By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, TexasCategory: Swim Spas By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, Texas

Cascade Custom Pools

Austin, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This project proves that you can still achieve a luxury design among a small space — it’s all about the details. Completed in 2021, the courtyard spool marks the second pool that Cascade Custom Pools built for this particular client, who asked that the spool not only incorporate the landscape, but that it be a therapy/swim spool. As such, it has a Waterway Tri-Jet System with an A&A in-floor cleaning system for year-round enjoyment. The raised Lueder coping with a travertine deck also includes a FX step light for soothing, nighttime relaxation and exercise.

The client also asked for a standing area along the vanishing edge, which then spills into an underground trough covered with river rock and custom FX lighting — to give the illusion the negative-edge water is flowing naturally into the earth.     


Category: Commercial Water Features By: Claffey Pools, Southlake, TexasCategory: Commercial Water Features By: Claffey Pools, Southlake, Texas

Claffey Pools

Southlake, Texas

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This entrance, designed by Brian Claffey, was made to add a certain “wow factor” to the client’s place of business. The idea was to show off just how amazing it would be to walk through two water walls for not only the visual appeal, but for the tranquil sound of water as it softly trickles down.

Both water walls span 14 feet wide and 7 feet tall, and are veneered in a glass SICIS penny round table. In efforts to control water consistency, a series of sheer descents were fabricated and installed. Each wall also has its own water basin that is illuminated by a Pal LED lighting strip. Spanning over the top of each wall is one large gabled cedar structure. Within the structure, there are soft, LED down lights, which work to illuminate the water throughout the day and into the evening hours.    


Category: Residential Water Features By The Green Scene, Chatsworth, Calif.Category: Residential Water Features By The Green Scene, Chatsworth, Calif.

The Green Scene

Chatsworth, Calif.

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Dusk brings out the best in this stunning entry, tucked into the backyard of a Chatsworth, Calif., home.

The thoughtfully arranged space is a prime example of what can be done to elevate a smaller yard area. Plenty of special elements catch the eye, but the showstopper here is the water feature: In contrast to warmer lighting on the far side of the deck, it glows in a mesmerizing, cool-toned violet.

An infinity-edge fountain adds some height and ambient sound, while other parts of the water playfully catch the light of the fire beyond. And the best part? Floor-to-ceiling windows offer a perfect view of the whole scene, from the comfort of a quaint living room space indoors. 


This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue of AQUA Magazine — the top resource for retailers, builders and service pros in the pool and spa industry. Subscriptions to the print magazine are free to all industry professionals. Click here to subscribe.

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