Hearthbeat: Pool Houses Across the Eastern Shore
Updated: Mar 2
During my first trip to California, I visited Hearst Castle, designed by the architect Julia Morgan. Morgan was one of my heroines because she was the first woman to be admitted to l’École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris to study architecture. The site is spectacular. The castle is perched on a high hill, and the Neptune pool, which has 20,000 Grecian-style marble floor tiles, has panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. Not many Talbot County residents need a 165-foot long pool like Hearst, nor do we have the Pacific Ocean as a backdrop; however, the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers, creeks and inlets provide a tranquil backdrop for summer fun.
Pool design has evolved over the years to include more than a rectangular pool and a shed for pool equipment. Pool sizes and shapes are limited only by one’s imagination and budget. The pool surround can expand to include hot tubs and spacious hardscaped areas for sunbathing, seating and dining. Pergolas and pavilions provide an escape from the heat of summer.
Lauren Dianich and her Atelier 11 project team’s design for a client’s pool area in Easton first added a pergola as a portal between the house and the garage to define the entry to the pool area from the driveway and to unify the existing structures. Just beyond the pergola, steps with lighting incorporated into the stair risers and deep grass treads edged in stone lead down to the pool area. The pool surround expands into a spacious hardscaped terrace to offer a variety of areas for relaxing after a dip in the pool or a sojourn in the sauna. One area has Adirondack chairs grouped around a firepit; another has a circular table and umbrella for poolside snacks or meals. Chaise lounges with umbrellas are strategically arranged around the pool for sunbathing.
Between the pool area and the waterside deck (with a pizza oven and grill built into a stone wall) is a free-standing screened pavilion with a cupola infilled with glazing. The pavilion is furnished as an outdoor dining and living room and the focal point of the dining area is the tabletop inlaid with Italian tiles. A mix of rattan and iron chairs with cushions around a coffee table create a very comfortable space for catching the summer breezes. An outdoor Bocce ball court and extensive landscaping completes the design.
Another Atelier 11 collaboration, with the owners of a property in Royal Oak, began with the transformation of the main house into an exquisite Craftsman-styled gem. The new pool house was designed to complement the main house by setting it at an angle to break down the massing. The brick sidewalk between the two buildings passes by the herb garden and meets the stained and scored concrete pool terrace. The center wing of the pool house has a high pitched ceiling with three pairs of French doors for access to the pool area beyond. On the opposite wall, long windows with transoms are aligned with the French doors and transoms between walls painted a warm terra cotta. One of the owner’s grandparents was Italian, and the beautiful interior design reminded me of an Italian villa with a rattan and cushioned seating group, colorful accent pillows, wood accent chairs and Italian ceramics. With the TV hutch at one end and a kitchen area on the opposite wall, this room is a perfect space to relax with family and friends after an afternoon by the pool.
Two side wings telescope down from the center wing; one is an open porch above the pizza oven area and the other is a full bath and storage. Perpendicular to the pool house is a long pergola with two tables that can accommodate up to twenty guests for al fresco pizza parties. I have been fortunate to attend two of these pizza parties that began in the late afternoon and extended into the early evening, delightful celebrations of food and fellowship.
Designer and builder Clint Wadsworth and landscape designer Jan Kirsh collaborated on a pool house for a client whose waterfront site has broad vistas to the Choptank River. On a breezy day, the wind chimes add their music to the sound of the birds as you drive up to the house unaware that the pool house and pool are hidden behind mature landscaping and plantings. Jan has a special talent for hardscapes, and a staggered path of stone pavers leads from the entry drive to the pool area. The pool house has all the amenities one needs for spending the day by the pool, a seating area with a sink and undercounter refrigerator for drinks and snacks, a changing area, restroom and a door to the outdoor shower. The fencing around the shower and the pool equipment has weathered a beautiful gray that is enhanced by cascades of clematis. Half of the pool house’s front entry gable has exposed rafters that cast playful shadows on the deck and pool house wall and filter sunlight through the accent window below the ridge of the roof. The other half of the gable has roofing to provide shade from the sun. The property boundary is infilled with mature landscaping for complete privacy.
Whether your architectural style preference is cottage, Craftsman, Georgian, rancher or any other style, thoughtful design of your pool and landscape by a design professional can create wonderful outdoor spaces for family fun all summer long.