Modern Hamptons Pool Design Includes Space for Entertaining
By Michelle Trauring
As far as Greg Darvin is concerned, the swimming pool world of the 1990s should be considered the Dark Ages.
Pools were nothing more than rectangular holes in the ground surrounded by a wooden deck. There was not much care, thought or design invested, and they were often slapped down in an arbitrary place within a certain distance of the house.
But not anymore, he said.
In the 25 years since he entered the industry, the owner of Pristine Pools in East Hampton has seen a complete shift in not only pools, but outdoor entertainment areas as a whole.
“We’re building fun spaces for people,” he said. “At the end of the day, there is only so much you can do with a swimming pool, so the roots and bones are still there, but the finishes — the stones, the tile, the things that make them special or spectacular — and entertainment areas have changed. And the budget has changed. People are much more willing to spend on them than in the past.”
This is aided by ease of travel for many East End residents, according to Ian Fyffe, owner of Sparkling Pools in Sag Harbor. They come back from trips, both domestic and abroad, with stacks of ideas from villas and resorts — including infinity edges, acrylic walls and inserts to make windows, he said.
“It used to be a square, a pool pump and a heater. Now, it’s architecture. It’s high design — and we’re doing some really cool stuff,” Fyffe said. “We use 3D design software and, soon, a virtual reality headset, so our clients can literally experience their backyard before we build anything. With virtual reality, you can be in your backyard before anything is built.”
With budgets that are somewhat conservative to completely over the top, nearly any outdoor entertainment area is possible, with the pool being much more of an anchor point than it was in the past, Darvin said.
“The industry has changed, where the design and layout of the exterior space has become just as important as the interior,” he said. “I think, generally, rectangle still seems to be the predominant style for pools. People are maybe playing with the scale of them a little bit. They’re larger, and definitely more complicated.”
Pristine’s Deep View Court project features a pool and spa connected by a bench, and a large shelf designed for lounging chairs with flush, mounted umbrella sleeves to provide shade outside of the outdoor entertainment area, which are more like living rooms these days, Darvin said.
Practically incomplete without a barbecue, television, kitchen, bar and even a fireplace, these spaces have revolutionized outdoor living. An Atlantic Avenue project in Amagansett features an oversized slate black Jacuzzi centered on a blackened steel fireplace in the outdoor living room, while its long, lean pool design has a beach entrance, shallow lounging area and a banquet-style space for swimming or socializing, as well as a 60-foot-long lap lane.
“We tend to set the table, but it’s the landscape and the finished details people bring into it that can make it really great,” Darvin said, noting a Hedges Banks Drive pool in East Hampton that helps frame a sunken living room area and its custom stone fireplace. “The spaces are a bit more modern. People are going with much cleaner, less cluttered spaces. They’re being furnished impeccably. Going back five, 10, 15 years, they aren’t even close to as sophisticated as they are today.”
It is safe to say the Dark Ages are over, though now, more than ever, it is extremely important for homeowners to be involved with the development. Otherwise, it can be long and tedious for all parties, Darvin said.
“What I say to my clients is, you’re going to spend a fixed amount of money, but since you’re spending that amount anyway, it’s worthwhile and smart to take the time and go through the process,” Darvin said. “Understand the size and shape of the pool and why you’re using that size and shape. Understand why it’s being placed where, how much room that leaves you for lounge chairs and the barbecue.
“Take an active role in what’s being built,” he continued. “It makes it more fun and makes you appreciate the space better. And it’ll give you more of a vested feeling in your finished project. When your friends are there, when you’re entertaining, you’ll have much more insight and you’ll be able to talk about it — and show off a little bit.”