These days custom pools really let homeowners
Last summer Matthew J. Cody, a
former general partner of the market maker firm Spear, Leeds & Kellogg,
and his wife commissioned a 2,000-square-foot pool for their home in the
Long Island town of Belle Terre. Cody, whose company was purchased last
year by Goldman Sachs (nyse: GS
for $6.5 billion, wanted a pool that would conjure up images of the lost
island of Atlantis. Their pool, which holds 69,000 gallons of water, has
cascading waterfalls, fountains, a 14-foot-diameter island in the center,
sculpted fish that spit out water, hand-painted iron gates and an 18-foot
bridge over the pool. The price tag? $1.7 million.
While this amount may seem all wet to some people, the Codys aren't the
only people who are spending the kind of money usually reserved for home
purchases on elaborate swimming pools to suit their fanciful whims or entertaining
needs. Those in the pool business say they are being commissioned to build
pools with limestone, 24-carat gold, imported tiles, coquina and much more.
As one Palo Alto, Calif., homeowner, Dieter Mees, says, "I didn't
want anything that somebody else already had."
The construction of swimming pools is big business. According to the National
Spa & Pool Institute, it's a $9 billion industry, a 70% increase from
1998, which is in keeping with the steady rise of disposable income that
has allowed for such extras as swimming pools. In 1998, there were 7 million
residential pools across the country. Since then, the trade association
estimates another 500,000 have been added.
|Ex-Baywatch beauty Anderson can practice
her lifeguard techniques in her custom pool.
Swimming pool designers say their high-end clients
are looking at their pools as a water element on their properties rather
than just a place to take a dip. The outside environment is considered
another room or an extension of the house. "People are putting in waterfalls,
cook centers, koi ponds and secret gardens that will complement their pools,''
says Lee Shelbourne, a Los Angeles landscape architect whose eclectic celebrity
client roster includes such names as actor Jack Lemmon, singer Lou Rawls
and former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson.
The man who built the Codys' pool, Southampton, N.Y.-based John Tortorella,
says his clients are coming to him asking for thematic pools. He has designs
for Roman and Greek empire pools, which feature limestone columns and aqueducts,
as well as ones with Aztec, Stonehenge and Egyptian motifs.
Certainly, some people still want to swim
in their pools, not just look at them. Jonathan Deitcher commissioned
landscape architect Mario Nievera to design a pool for his Palm
Beach residence that would allow for swimming laps. "But he didn't want
a high school gymnasium pool,'' says Nievera, whose clients have included
the Lauder family, socialite Terry Allen Kramer, and Michael Ainsley, former
chief executive of Sotheby's (nyse: BID
At a cost of $150,000, Nievera built Deitcher a 75-foot pool where the
water is deep on both ends to allow for flip turns. But it's not a typical
rectangular pool--it's narrower in some sections and wider in others. Along
the pool's perimeter are garden beds. "It's the perfect combination of
form and function, which is what successful design is,'' says Deitcher,
a director with Montreal-based RBC Dominion Securities, the investment
arm of the Royal Bank of Canada, who spends his winters in Palm Beach.
Mees, the Palo Alto homeowner who is a
businessman with interests in automotive dealerships and land development,
wanted "something unusual and classical.''
Mees, who worked with Shelbourne, the Los Angeles landscape architect,
took his inspiration from the indoor pool at Hearst Castle and imported
cobalt blue tiles with 24-carat gold inlays from the Italian island of
Murano. The tiles alone cost $80,000, while the tab for the entire pool
ran upwards of $350,000. The pool area also feature Corinthian columns
and an elaborate gazebo with a built-in iron table, heaters, lighting and
However, Mees says his pool is not just
for show. "I go swimming at least three times a week,'' he says. "And I'm
German, so the colder the water, the better.''
Pamela Anderson image by Newsmakers