written by:
photos by:
January 4, 2011
Originally published in Rethink Recycling

In Santa Monica, California, where pools are plenty but not always eye-pleasing, Padraic Cassidy lifted one 30 inches off the ground­—dramatically elevating its aesthetic appeal.

Tiled pool with descending wood plank
The final, layered look of the pool and its surroundings—which mitigates a 30-inch drop from house to guesthouse—was completed in 2008.
Photo by 
1 / 10
Modern green design pool house
Cassidy used the pool as an anchor for an overarching backyard master plan that pulled the parts together.
Photo by 
2 / 10
Modern pool house in Santa Monica
Before the addition of the approximately 750-square-foot pool (and its 65-square-foot hot tub), the lot was a scramble of structures: the house in one corner and the guesthouse and the office each occupying another.
Photo by 
3 / 10
Open space backyard with pool
Running alongside the home is a stretch of grass, the "obvious place" for the pool during initial planning. The client, however, opted to keep the space open as a miniature soccer field for her son.
Photo by 
4 / 10
Modern pool house with seeded concrete walkway
A seeded concrete walkway leads from the rear driveway—the entrance used most often—and into the yard. To create the look, each river rock was hand-placed in the wet concrete.
Photo by 
5 / 10
Modern pool house with rock garden
Across the path is the resident's favorite spot from which to take in the aquatic tableau: a rock garden and sitting area created by landscape designer Tory Polone. Chairs rest near the a hidden grade-level gas fire pit—an on-demand campfire.
Photo by 
6 / 10
Modern pool house with seeded concrete walkway
The wall that wraps around the sunken pool was completed—like the seeded concrete pathway—with painstaking precision. The tiles were custom designed with Mission Tile West to hit a pea-green hue and sized specifically to top the narrow walls.
Photo by 
7 / 10
Modern pool deck with epoxy lining
The deck off of the house acts like a dock sticking into a lake. Cassidy opted for a midnight-black earthquake-friendly epoxy lining. "It adds that little extra heat and emphasizes the lagoon feeling," he says.
Photo by 
8 / 10
Modern pool house in Santa Monica
Once in the pool, however, it feels more like the ocean. As with a shelf, the bottom drops quickly from three feet to the nine-foot deep end. A set of three long, shallow steps sits above the middle depth like a sandbar at high tide, the top tread covered with just a few inches of water.
Photo by 
9 / 10
Backyard view of modern pool house
The resulting effect is a backyard with a pool at the center that is as nice to look at as to be in.
Photo by 
10 / 10
Tiled pool with descending wood plank
The final, layered look of the pool and its surroundings—which mitigates a 30-inch drop from house to guesthouse—was completed in 2008.

Fly into one of Southern California’s smaller airports—–Burbank, Ontario, or Long Beach—–and as the plane makes its final descent over densely packed enclaves you’ll notice impossible numbers of cobalt kidneys and cerulean quadrangles flecking the arid terrain. Though backyard pools are plentiful here, few live up to their initial promise—–dreams of spa-like splendor fade into the stench of neglected chlorine—–and ubiquity doesn’t necessarily translate to beauty. So rather than add yet another aqueous eyesore to an unassuming backyard in Santa Monica, architect Padraic Cassidy took a recent opportunity to make a seemingly simple pool the centerpiece of a larger backyard master plan.

Modern green design pool house
Cassidy used the pool as an anchor for an overarching backyard master plan that pulled the parts together.

The brief for the project was succinct: The client wanted a pool that was as big and as deep as possible. The property, however, proved problematic. The rectangular lot already housed a two-story wood-shingled home, a guesthouse, and a separate office structure. “The questions were: How close to the house could we put the pool, and how big could we make it without it feeling cramped?” says Cassidy, a Gehry Partners alumnus who launched his own eponymous firm in 1995. After casting away ideas of a lap pool along a long stretch of lawn, he divined a solution that, in hindsight, seems like the only viable option.

Modern pool house in Santa Monica
Before the addition of the approximately 750-square-foot pool (and its 65-square-foot hot tub), the lot was a scramble of structures: the house in one corner and the guesthouse and the office each occupying another.

From the rear driveway, the entrance used most often, a tall gate opens to a path of seeded concrete, and the yard unfolds in an elegant hierarchy. To the left, a narrow lane leads to the office; to the right, a walkway turns toward  the guesthouse. Straight ahead, the promenade ushers visitors to the main attraction: the large pool anchored at the edge of the home.

Open space backyard with pool
Running alongside the home is a stretch of grass, the "obvious place" for the pool during initial planning. The client, however, opted to keep the space open as a miniature soccer field for her son.

An ipe ramp climbs 30 inches from the path to the deck, which wraps around two sides of the pool. Inside, the water laps against the edges of the 29-by-31.5-foot rectangle, save for a corner notch and built-in hot tub. “The classic Neutra pools are very small, as little as 10- or 15-feet wide,” Cassidy says. “When making a pool with that as the reference, anything else is bigger.”

A solar-thermal system of black PVC pipes mounted on the roof heats the saline-treated pool—–with a bit of help from a midnight-black earthquake-friendly epoxy lining. “It adds that little extra heat and emphasizes the lagoon feeling,” Cassidy says. Looking out from just inside the back doors of the house, the sensation is heightened, the dark water rippling beyond the wooden “dock.”

Once in the pool, however, it feels a little more like the ocean. As with a shelf, the bottom drops quickly from three feet to the nine-foot deep end. A set of three long, shallow steps sits above the middle depth like a sandbar at high tide, the top tread covered with just a few inches of water. The two sides of the pool not edged by the deck stand as 8-inch-wide, 30-inch-tall tiled walls, which mitigate the grade change from the back of the home to the front of the guesthouse. Nearest the visitors’ quarters, the wall also acts to cordon off an outdoor foyer. “If the pool was on ground level, you’d open the guesthouse door and be forced to be part of what’s going on in the water,” Cassidy says. “Because the pool is at waist height, the wall creates a private space for the visitor.”

Across the path in the remaining yard, rocks and boulders flank a fire pit and outdoor lounge by landscape designer Tory Polone. The seats encircling the grade-level gas fire pit—–an on-demand campfire­—–have become the resident’s favorite spot from which to take in the tableau. And, there, across the lawn, at the center of it all, is the pool—–that rare sight that is as nice to look at as to be in.
 

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016