By Popular Demand

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Last summer, pool and spa builders from across the country sent us their best work for our twelfth annual Design Awards contest.

Readers chose their favorites and now we're ready to present the winning projects. To the winners: Congratulations! Your work has helped to raise industry standards and your projects demonstrate creativity and technical knowhow that inspires others. To all those who entered, thank you for making the decisions so difficult! Whether or not you entered this year's competition, take a minute to browse the winning entries. Perhaps your next client will want one of the special twists he or she sees in these inspirational projects. And finally, because they are never at a loss for an opinion, the editors chose their own favorite projects.

Thanks again to all the companies that entered this year's competition.

We look forward to seeing what you've got in store for next year.

— K.E.

Kirstin Pires Editor

Aqua Pool & Patio

East Windsor, Conn.

I love how the simplicity of the pool's shape allows the abundance of natural materials to show off their colors and textures. The soft sea-green color of the water is soothing, and I would add plantings of lavender and other aromatics to complete the environment. Then I'd spend afternoons lounging lizard-like on a sunny rock.

When I want to relax or unwind after a difficult day, I usually do one of three things. I'll go for a long swim, ride my bike to get out into the countryside or wander through the botanical garden next to my house. This pool, with its secluded setting and abundant plantings would be the perfect escape for me. I can easily imagine walking through the woods with my dogs for company and arriving at this lovely oasis.

Barrett Kilmer Managing Editor

Aqua Pool & Patio

East Windsor, Conn.

I guess you could say I'm a follower of the less-is-more aesthetic, and that's why I chose this project as my favorite. The overall look is anything but natural. In fact, it's aggressively unnatural, but that's what I like about it. It's as austere and elegant as pools get, while at the same time it appeals to all of the reasons I like swimming pools. It's length is perfect for a novice underwater swimmer like myself, who could, with practice, probably get from one side to the other without taking a single breath. And with a little more practice, I could probably do it the long way, too.

I'm also the father of a 4-year-old son, and I can picture the two of us practicing breathing and kicking, then taking a timeout on one of the simple, triangular benches on either side of non-spa end of the pool. But above all, I love the granite coping and the way the lawn comes to within a couple of feet of the water. The pool may fill with grass clippings (I guess they probably use a bagger), but since it's not really my pool, coolness wins out over convenience.

Karen Erstad Senior Editor 

Downes Swimming Pool Company Wheeling, Ill.

When I picture the ideal spa environment, this gets close. It's just beautiful. The only thing missing is an ocean view, and those are pretty hard to come by in Illinois. But just as with people, with pools and spas, beauty may only be skin deep. Because poor hydraulics equal a murky spa and an unhappy owner. But coming from Downes, I know this gem of a spa is well constructed and sound. And as the mother of an infant, I have little time to relax and I often daydream about a Calgon moment in a warm, quiet spa. So my fixation on great places to unwind plus Downes' solid reputation and outstanding work on this spa make this project my editor's pick.

Emily Fuger Assistant Editor

San Juan Fiberglass Pools of Charlotte Charlotte, N.C.

When I was told the editors of AQUA got to each choose a Design Awards project based on personal tastes and desires, I eagerly jumped to the task. I didn't realize how hard it would be to choose just one favorite design. After paging through the entries, I finally chose a fiberglass pool project built by San Juan Fiberglass Pools of Charlotte.

I love to entertain but because I live in a small apartment I rarely get the chance. This project features both a pool and a fireplace, but what really caught my eye was the comfortable and sophisticated feeling of the overall project, which I'm certain looks beautiful day and night thanks to the candles resting on random bricks jutting out of the walls. I think a hot tub and a built-in kitchen would also look wonderful as part of this project, but I guess I'll have to wait for my own backyard before I start making requests!

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