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2021 Awards of Excellence: Gold Winners

Category: Elevated Pool and/or Spa Structure By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, Texas
Category: Elevated Pool and/or Spa Structure By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, Texas

The backyard is more important to homeowners than ever before, so it feels especially important to honor the builders and designers who breathe life into each cherished space. This year, in the face of countless uncertainties and obstacles, the resilient men and women of the building community battled supply shortages, wrangled timelines and worked around the clock to meet the biggest demand surge the industry has ever seen. As they say, diamonds are made under pressure — and this carefully curated selection of pools may just be the best yet.

The PHTA International Awards of Excellence celebrates the remarkable work of the best in the business. But these pools are more than just masterpieces of aquatic architecture. They’re also a testament to the passion, dedication and expertise of the pool professionals who put their heart and soul into the process, every single day. Take a few moment to enjoy this year's Gold-winning projects below. 


 

Category: Pools with a Vanishing Edge By: Platinum Pools, Houston, TexasCategory: Pools with a Vanishing Edge By: Platinum Pools, Houston, Texas

Platinum Pools

Houston, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine Pavers

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Elegant aesthetics were a primary goal behind this stunning aquatic masterpiece placed like a perfect shell along the seashore. Some of the details that make this project shine include a vanishing edge overflowing fine tile, a raised spa echoing an opposite side sun shelf, and four winged statues about to take flight over the Gulf of Mexico. The pool itself is larger than appears in this photo, a full 37 feet long, lined in Pebble Tec and surrounded by Travertine. The glass bead fire pit in the foreground provides the perspective from which to view this piece of hardscape art.

 


 

Category: Pools with a Vanishing Edge By: Cosgrove Custom Pools, Rocklin, Calif.Category: Pools with a Vanishing Edge By: Cosgrove Custom Pools, Rocklin, Calif.

Cosgrove Custom Pools

Rocklin, Calif.

Decking Material: Concrete, Light Broom Finish

Pool Interior Finish: Wet Edge

Designer Mason Cosgrove was determined to add a "visual exclamation mark" to this new-build, mountain-modern-style home. The perimeter overflow pool boasts 1,931 sq. ft. of combined surface and a stunning backdrop of oak trees as far as the eye can see. Seventeen color-changing lights set the water aglow when the sun goes down.

Multiple layers and special elements make this installation perfect for entertaining guests of all ages. A standing bar across both sides of the spa is sure to keep the adults happy, while the kids can enjoy a 12-inch-deep play area on the lower pool or the plunge pool with jumping areas from 3 to 6 feet. Other features include five bubblers, two 4-inch sheers extruding from the spa wall, a 26-foot Dolphin water slide, a deep-standing ledge to take in the view and a commercial-size Caribbean ledge for lounging.

 


 

Category: Pools with a Vanishing Edge By: Van Kirk & Sons Pools & Spas, Deerfield Beach, Fla.Category: Pools with a Vanishing Edge By: Van Kirk & Sons Pools & Spas, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Van Kirk & Sons Pools & Spas

Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Decking Material: Marble

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This homeowner wanted a modern, sleek and seamless pool and spa combination. Right on target, the Van Kirk team designed a vanishing wet edge that falls beautifully into a fully tiled basin along the entire length of the pool. In addition, the spa has a 360 spill infinity ledge.

A full-length swim out bench is noteworthy, but the pool's sunken shelf and floating marble LED stepping stones are simply spectacular. The shelf and the rest of the pool were crafted with two-toned Pebble Tec material.

 


 

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

Claffey Pools

Southlake, Texas

Decking Material: Classic White Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Wet Edge

This contemporary Mediterranean beauty did not come without challenges. The initial concept was designed with the understanding that the backyard level was flat: It wasn't until home construction began that the builders were able to visit the site and discover a 4-foot drop off of the back patio. This meant that massive amounts of earth had to be brought in and compacted to get to the patio level.

Even without the grading challenge, in order to correctly construct the perimeter overflow design of the pool, a complete substructure of piers and crushed boxes was necessary. In addition, a fiberglass tank had to be set underground at the base of the project for all the plumbing for the perimeter overflow. It was a major struggle to get the tank to its location, and not long after, a torrential rain nearly sent it sliding into a nearby creek.

Ultimately, what made this installation so tricky was extremely limited accessibility into the backyard. Maneuvering equipment and stage materials within the space proved almost impossible. In the end, the stunning monochromatic pool glimmers thanks to "a major orchestration of trades."

 


 

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

Claffey Pools

Southlake, Texas

Decking Material: Colored and Textured Concrete

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Traditional design factors in the precision of the axis and cross axis — ideally, the architecture and property align along the two. That wasn't the case for this client's yard, and the Claffey team had to adjust for view symmetry.

The house center line was placed between the family room/front door view and the kitchen/dining view, as both were of equal importance. The pool, spa, water features, fire bowls and trees were placed on that sight line. Meanwhile, the cross axis balances the arbor, plants, pots and entrance to the lower lawn terrace.

Limestone coping matches the existing porch and provides contrast to the dark blue of the pool. An understated water wall creates white noise to counter a nearby freeway, and fire features add a visual "wow" factor.

The view from just about anywhere — loungers, the day bed, the spa or even the inside couch and table — entices guests to get up and enjoy every part of the surrounding garden.

 


 

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

Claffey Pools

Southlake, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine Pavers

Pool Interior Finish: Wet Edge

This swimming pool, designed by Mike Farley, was built to bridge the amazing architecture of the client's home and its seven acres of wooded lawn area. The design was understated and scaled so as not to take away from the setting, a combination of rolling trees and fields of grass. Existing oak trees, for example, are reflected off the pool's dark blue water.

Special features include a sunken kitchen — a tricky request that was built safely in collaboration with an engineer — an Ipe wood cabana, centered on the existing structure and mounted television, and a large steel fireplace. The pool features a vanishing edge, swim-up bar and glass-tiled tanning ledge, built to accommodate four Ledge Loungers. A spa, not far from the home's master bedroom, is also included. Travertine pavers and wall veneers, which blend in with the house's stone, add a cohesive finishing touch.

 


 

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

Texas Pools

The Woodlands, Texas

Decking Material: Porcelain

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This striking installation is a perfect example of the power of incorporating a home's color palette into the pool design. Black coping mirrors the dark roof and thick window frames of the house, adding definition to the pool.

An elevated spa spilling over multiple tiers shimmers with glass tile, while two elegant fire features tie everything together. A cohesive view of the outdoor space is easily enjoyed from multiple perspectives indoors, thanks to full-length custom windows.

 


 

Category: Geometric By: Van Kirk & Sons Pools & Spas, Deerfield Beach, Fla.Category: Geometric By: Van Kirk & Sons Pools & Spas, Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Van Kirk & Sons Pools & Spas

Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Decking Material: Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

This project, finished earlier this year, included two side-by-side townhome pools, creating a remarkably perfect mirror image about a plane dividing the entire site, right down to the landscaping and trees, using a sleek and contemporary design.

Each pool includes a flush 360 spa, a swim-out bench, a raised wall with watersheer and LED stepping stones, surrounded by turf grass and a rustic wood deck to lounge on.

 


 

Category: Geometric By: Ike's Carter Pools, Oakland Park, Fla.Category: Geometric By: Ike's Carter Pools, Oakland Park, Fla.

Ike's Carter Pools

Oakland Park, Fla.

Decking Material: Ivory Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

This cozy adventurous design seats the clients in a perfect position to enjoy conversation across a flickering fire, just far enough away to hear the delightful audio-play from the twin cantilevered rain curtains but not be overwhelmed by it.

Lighting has been placed in multiple locations in the pool, the cabanas and fire features to provide an especially lush, inviting outdoor experience at night.

The rectangular modern pool features twin bubblers at both ends and an attached 360-degree spillover spa tiled in shades of blue. Tying everything together are the tropical plants that hang from the framework, nestle behind the couches and surround the pool area providing a variety of texture and shades of color.

 


 

Category: Geometric By: Tipton Spires Design Build, Houston, TexasCategory: Geometric By: Tipton Spires Design Build, Houston, Texas

Tipton Spires Design Build

Houston, Texas

Decking Material: Natural Stone; Peacock Pavers

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Geometry was central in Tipton Spires' design of this gulf bay paradise. An angular pool mirrors the modern architecture of this Texas home, overlooking the bay channel and spilling into a lower lounge basin.

An adjacent custom, copper-scuppered waterfall spills down over backlit glass tile, accentuating walls of Brazilian hardwood ipe and cypress wood lined with mosaic and recessed niches. However, in this instance, it's the features of the full-jet spa — bar stool seating, a table and booth — that steal the show.

Additionally, this project was designed with pets in mind. To match the main pool, a beach-entry pool just for dogs is lined in natural stone and custom pebble blend interior. Not to mention a section of the underside of the piling home was designated as a canine play area with artificial turf flooring.

 


 

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

Claffey Pools

Southlake, Texas

Decking Material: Smoke Lueders Limestone

Pool Interior Finish: Wet Edge

This stunning swimming pool and hot tub was built to match — and be a natural extension of — the client's ultra modern home, which was designed around sharp edges, angles and straight lines.

An additional goal was to take advantage of the lake view and considerable elevation change from the back of the house down to the waterfront. With this in mind, the Claffey team — with designers Charlie Claffey and Philip Kent — included multiple levels and a negative-edge pool to capture the view of the lake.

The backyard also features a fire pit, complimented by built-in seating with blue hues to match the pool's tile, which is bordered by blue rocks. A putting green and two-story patio finish off this high-end project.

 


 

Category: Elevated Pool and/or Spa Structure By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, TexasCategory: Elevated Pool and/or Spa Structure By: Cascade Custom Pools, Austin, Texas

Cascade Custom Pools

Austin, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This homeowner requested a modern perimeter edge pool and spa with a catch basin to complement their home's architecture. Due to the significant elevation of the pool – 15 feet above grade, Cascade Custom Pools suggested utilizing some of the space underneath the 5,000 sq. ft. of above-grade decking for a game room or storage.

The client opted for a game room and indoor shooting range instead — a first for Cascade. The walls of the game room and 90-foot shooting range are made up by three sides of the pool. This design required a very watertight pool shell, so extra waterproofing measures were employed even before pebble sheen was installed. Decking is supported with red iron structural steel and poured waterproof concrete, and capped with modular cut Lueder stone.

 


 

Category: Fiberglass Pools By: Aquatic Leisure Technologies, Perth, Western AustraliaCategory: Fiberglass Pools By: Aquatic Leisure Technologies, Perth, Western Australia

Aquatic Leisure Technologies

Perth, Western Australia

Decking Material: Paving

This project transformed a plain, grassy backyard into a luxurious outdoor living area perfect for entertaining family and friends or just unwinding after a long day.

Due to the client's desired pool location — an adjoining wall had to be chemically grout-injected to maintain the integrity of the area — they had to acquire formal consent from a neighbor. Luckily, it was granted, and this particular pool/spa combo was selected for functionality. The pool's vibrant blue hue intentionally complements the light palette of the house, as well as the white and coral blue furniture accents.

To keep the tones cool and refreshing, the clients added some potted greenery and a waterfall feature. The lush, vine-covered roof can be opened for fresh air and sunlight in the summer months.

 


 

Category: Freeform By: Sunfish Pools, Jacksboro, TexasCategory: Freeform By: Sunfish Pools, Jacksboro, Texas

Sunfish Pools

Jacksboro, Texas

Decking Material: Travertine

When dreaming up their backyard oasis, the owners of this Texas ranch property wanted the backyard to not only maintain their home's rugged beauty but have a variety of features to suit every person in their large family. The end result — by builder Jake Hettinger and designer Crystal Hettinger — mirrors a full-scale luxury retreat with many options for outdoor adventures and relaxation.

Swimmers can float down the fully functioning lazy river and stop for a drink at the swim up bar and sunken tiki hut. An oversized hot tub is also included, complete with an elevated tanning ledge to soak in the summer sun. For younger explorers, the swim-under grotto and attached waterslide add an extra element of fun.

Relaxation can also be found via the swim-under bridge, which gives access to an island. The island boasts a beach sand area with hammocks under a palm tree — the perfect location for an afternoon nap. And come evening time, the group can migrate to the sunken fire pit for warmth and conversation.

For added activity outside of the pool, an expansive putting green allows users to perfect their golf game — while basketball fans shoot hoops at the sports court. The family can also enjoy dinners outside with the backyard's outdoor kitchen and courtyard, seated under white hanging lights.

 


 

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 Dove Gray Kool Deck

Pool Interior Finish: Latham Blue Mosaic Liner

Every detail of this decadent vinyl pool, completed in June 2020 by J&M Pool Company, was carefully selected. Built to complement the slope of the homeowner's yard, a 2-foot exposed wall lines the full length of the pool, boosting its aesthetic appeal.

Inside the pool, a plethora of steps and benches create seating options to accommodate multiple swimmers. Perhaps the most enticing of these is a 6-foot tanning ledge with two bubblers. The pool is also combined with a Latham fiberglass spillover spa, built to match the same brick as the house.

 


 

Category: Technical/Engineering Achievement By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-MaritimesCategory: Technical/Engineering Achievement By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Diffazur Piscines

Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Decking Material: Stone

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

This gravity-defying installation is supported by a multitude of stilts, allowing the clients to literally walk under water. It's not uncommon to see an elevated pool, but the columns supporting this one are a true feat of engineering and contribute an attractive feature to the design as well.

Overall, the minimalist approach adds emphasis to each solitary element, such as the poolside planter, the bistro table and of course, the pool itself. The use of white-marbled coating throughout the project keeps things cohesive and elegant, seamlessly blending everything into the open-concept home.

 


 

Category: Pool Renovations By: Ike’s Carter Pools, Oakland Park, Fla.Category: Pool Renovations By: Ike’s Carter Pools, Oakland Park, Fla.

Ike's Carter Pools

Oakland Park, Fla.

Decking Material: Porcelain

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

This stunning renovation project in South Florida was designed to create an expansive aesthetic with open hardscape under an open sky, all while retaining a clean modern feel with a broad porcelain deck and beautifully complementary outdoor lounge furniture.

Reflected in the classic lines of the pool — measuring a full 60 feet in length — are a raised, tiled water feature flanked by two encased fire features, which shimmer on the surface along with the rays of the setting sun, providing a focal point from every viewpoint of the home. Just visible at the far end of the pool is an elegant spillover spa that rises just inches above the pool waterline.

 


 

Category: Pools with Automatic Covers By: Claffey Pools, Southlake, TexasCategory: Pools with Automatic Covers By: Claffey Pools, Southlake, Texas

Claffey Pools

Southlake, Texas

Decking Material: Lueders Limestone

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

This backyard oasis was built to blend beauty with entertainment, while prioritizing the client's wish for privacy from surrounding neighbors.

Claffey Pools started the project by installing an automatic cover on the existing pool. A great amount of thought went into the cover box: Walk on lids, for example, were incorporated with limestone coping and decks to make the box as seamless as possible, which was placed on the house side to keep the pool's water features, LED gushers, intact. Tanning ledges and modified steps — a designated kid's play area — were added when guniting the cover box. The tiled weir between the box and the pool was also covered with blue, glass tile, as was the rest of the pool to be as seamless as possible. A channel was created between the pool and spa, so the spa spillway would not fall on the cover when closed.

Around the pool, walkways incorporate artificial turf to continue the project's clean, tailored look. A lower terrace was created for the table and outdoor kitchen, which allowed for bar stools next to the spa. Tall plants shelter the elaborate space from neighbors, which flows into a contemporary outdoor room, perfect for family and guests.

 


 

Category: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-MaritimesCategory: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Diffazur Piscines

Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Decking Material: Exposed Aggregate Concrete

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

Completed in 2019, this colorful water park on the French Riviera welcomes visitors all year long, thanks to heaters. The plaster-finished pool is over 9,500 sq. ft. in area, and hosts a variety of amusements for kids and adults alike including slides, beaches, giant bucket equipment, a walking river, a spa and a designated kids' play area.

 


 

Category: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-MaritimesCategory: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Diffazur Piscines

Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Decking Material: Exposed Aggregate Concrete

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

This massive indoor/outdoor waterpark extravaganza spans 5,000 meters, with five unique areas to explore. For all-season fun, the indoor segment features a lazy river, two slides and a jacuzzi area. Outdoors, an exterior pool has two overflows and an independent massage area. A special winding river stretches over 90 meters.

 


 

Category: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-MaritimesCategory: Recreation/Leisure Pools By: DIFFAZUR PISCINES, Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Diffazur Piscines

Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Decking Material: Exposed Aggregate Concrete

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

This outdoor funpark offers plenty of spots to relax, sunbathe and swim. More adventurous visitors can venture up to the slides, if they dare: The Kamikaze, a curvy, 60-foot-long thrill ride is the choice for adrenaline seekers, while the Pentagliss racer is perfect for challenging friends. A special kids' area also features a variety of water games.

 


 

2 T 1021 Aq 10039 Dp Lg

Diffazur Piscines

Saint-Laurent-Du-Var, Alpes-Maritimes

Decking Material: Wood; Grass

Pool Interior Finish: Plaster

For this enchanting installation, Diffazur Piscines sought to evoke the feel of a lagoon. The pool's unique free shape was designed to follow the boundaries of the property, in order to make the most of the space.

Unique aesthetic finishes — from mosaic and enamel to Jerusalem stone and exotic wood — give this glowing project its character and define the surrounding space. In the heart of the garden, a thalasso area flows into the pool, boasting four massage benches with over 200 jets and optic fiber lighting. The pool also has a semi-submerged beach.

Iridescent enamels for the spa were deliberately chosen in a contrasting color to set it apart. Other yard features include an exotic wood patio and small fish pond.

 


 

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 (raised deck); Artificial Grass (lower deck)

Pool Interior Finish: Pebble Tec

Beautifully integrated into the landscape of the courtyard, this therapy/swim installation is the second pool commissioned by a repeat Claffey client. This client specifically requested a standing area along the vanishing edge of the pool, which then spills into an underground trough concealed by river rock. Custom FX lighting creates the illusion that the negative edge water is flowing naturally into the earth.

This "spool" features a Waterway tri-jet swim system with an A&A in-floor cleaning system for year-round swimming. The raised Lueder coping with a Travertine deck includes an FX step light for soothing nighttime relaxation.

Beautifully integrated into the landscape of the courtyard, this therapy/swim installation is the second pool commissioned by a repeat Claffey client. This client specifically requested a standing area along the vanishing edge of the pool, which then spills into an underground trough concealed by river rock. Custom FX lighting creates the illusion that the negative edge water is flowing naturally into the earth.

This "spool" features a Waterway tri-jet swim system with an A&A in-floor cleaning system for year-round swimming. The raised Lueder coping with a Travertine deck includes an FX step light for soothing nighttime relaxation.

 


 

Category: Commercial Water Features By: Shasta Pools, Phoenix, Ariz.Category: Commercial Water Features By: Shasta Pools, Phoenix, Ariz.

Shasta Pools

Phoenix, Ariz.

For this project, Shasta Pools worked with architects early on to design a water feature that would complement the entrance to the overall structure. With a surface area of just under 10,000 sq. ft., this is the largest water feature ever completed by the company.

The installation brings together three natural stones: The entire exterior is finished in granite and sandstone, while the main wall down the middle is finished in travertine. The stones were selected to enhance both each other and the surrounding desert landscape. In addition, glass tiles are incorporated into the waterfall, allowing the water to dance and shimmer.

Two hundred individual cactus planters — acting as individual weirs — create the illusion that the succulents are growing right out of the water feature. The larger weirs on each level are lit with LED lights, illuminating clusters of cacti during the night.

 


 

Category: Competition Pools By: High-Tech Pools, North Olmsted, OhioCategory: Competition Pools By: High-Tech Pools, North Olmsted, Ohio

High-Tech Pools

North Olmsted, Ohio

The students of Seneca Valley have something to celebrate with this new competition swimming pool, completed in January 2021 by High-Tech Pools. With multiple racing lanes, the facility is well-equipped to accommodate swimming meets — with multiple levels of bleachers for attendees to cheer on swimmers. Also included is a water polo court.

On the equipment side, the pool has a regenerative filter to deliver safe and superior water quality along with operational savings for the district.

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