The Theory of Evolution

Viewed from one year to the next, the patterns printed on vinyl liners don't differ greatly. Manufacturers and fabricators certainly try to come up with new and interesting looks that will stand out from the plainer patterns, but the changes tend to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

Over time, however, design patterns begin to emerge. Ten years ago, for example, bright shades of red, orange and yellow joined the traditional blues and muted earth tones in catalogs. Fast forward to today, and you'll see that traditional color combinations are back in vogue, though the hues have been getting darker.

"This is my 27th year making patterns, and what I have seen over that period of time is that any shift in trends in pool interior colors is usually very slow," says Kevin Shea, senior vice president for Vyn-All Pool Products in Newmarket, N.H. "There aren't really knee-jerk reactions where in a given year a certain color all of a sudden becomes a rage.

"I will say that the use of non-traditional base colors is starting to become a little more mainstream. Beige and gray vinyl are starting to find their way into the marketplace on a larger scale than I have seen in the past."

At least one manufacturer, Canadian General-Tower, is doubling down in hopes that this trend continues by introducing a pattern printed on black film.

"A lot of the new pools going in and ones that are being refurbished are getting a lot of stone, so the entire deck and the landscape has that dark look," says Dennis Chamberlain, marketing manager for CGT's pool division. "So our design team decided to come out with something other than bright colors, and we went with a black liner on one stock pattern."

When Chamberlain started in the business almost 30 years ago, plain colors were the norm, he says. Then, one year early in his career, he saw a liner that incorporated a little bit of peach into a tile border.

"I was like, 'Wow! What's going on here?'" he recalls. "We sold a ton of that stuff, and from then on it was just more colors and more details."

Chamberlain is optimistic about the black liner's prospects, but he's been around long enough to know that there are no sure things when it comes to new liner patterns.

"I saw it in a pool and it looked fabulous," he says. "But you never know until the industry has had it for a couple of years. So, all I can say is time will tell."

Shea thinks the liner's appeal will be limited, adding that if it makes it into some dealer demos and people get a look at it, it might catch on and grow beyond niche status.

"Most liners are purchased at the kitchen table looking at swatches, or in a showroom hanging on a display," he says. "But there's a certain percentage that are purchased at the pool store because the customer saw a pattern in a display pool. You really can't picture what the end result of a color like black - or gray or tan - is going to look like unless it's in water."

Both Shea and Chamberlain say the effect of the darker liners depends on the time of day, the angle of the sun and the level of cloud cover overhead. Bright sun behind a viewer's back renders a tropical turquoise hue, while lower light can make it look like a deep, dark pool of beautiful black water.

"There are some people that are going to be attracted to that," Shea says.

Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail [email protected].

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