No matter how low e-commerce retailers price their products, brick-and-mortar retailers have a big...
At the height of pool season, there’s nothing more valuable than time. Pool professionals,...
On March 1, Eileen Benjamin started her role as the executive director for The California Pool &...
Our company is quickly earning a reputation for taking old things — stuff that many would consider junk – and repurposing them in a new way.
We do this not because we're part of the green movement, although there is certainly nothing wrong with that way of thinking. We don't do it to save money – on the contrary, it's often an expensive proposition to properly use reclaimed materials in our designs.
We do it for the simple reason that everything carries energy.
All the stuff in life, all the material that goes into the things we build, has its own energy. Everything carries a sense of where it came from and the history it has witnessed. It is this history, this sense of past, that helps create a rich and complex atmosphere in our projects.
Take barn wood for example. In my travels around Michigan, I often come across really old barns – 100 or 200 years old – in danger of collapse. I enjoy talking to the owners and seeing if they'd be willing to part with the wood. I make it clear that I'm not going to burn it or destroy it, but rather lovingly and respectfully incorporate that material into a new project.
When we use this type of material, which by its very nature is a limited resource, we don't have the luxury of cutting it up any way we want and treating it carelessly. We can't just run to Home Depot and get more if we make a mistake.
Using these old materials makes us more prudent and present with the project. As an artist, it forces me to think the project through in a caring manner, respecting the energy of the material and what it brings while limiting waste as much as possible.
Some people we've talked to ask how we can assure the quality of the reclaimed materials we use. Isn't it "safer" from a quality perspective to buy brand new materials?
If you think about quality from a strictly scientific perspective, maybe . . . but then again, just because something is new doesn't mean it is well-made. Look at how quickly those expensive phones break down and become garbage.
Quality, to me, comes from the emotional connection we have to the materials we use. It's an esoteric kind of quality, not measurable with scientific instruments, but with the heart.
The weathered and worn feel of reclaimed material has a richness and warmth that can't be replicated with new materials. I believe this kind of craftsmanship can truly enrich our customers' lives.
The idealist in me likes the idea of taking something that's outlived its useful life and giving it a new purpose – like the old ship's lantern that we found taking up space on a collector's shelf. We wired it with low voltage lighting and built it into a project, which returns it to its original purpose of lighting a particular space, but with a modern treatment that makes it practical and highly functional.
Our aim is to create a backyard environment that has character. I remember when I was a kid; the family room was for family and daily living while the living room was for guests only, with its plastic-covered furniture that screamed "don't get too close."
We don't create our pools for company; we create them for hanging out, for the family. We like our pool environments to say "come and play with me, come enjoy me."
Which is a different goal than pure exquisite beauty. Some stunning high end pools are absolutely gorgeous to look at but don't do much to invite us in to play, linger and relax. Using reclaimed items helps us create that old style of comfort that draws our homeowners in and beckons them to experience the entire pool.
For example, we recently built an old ship porthole into the back of a grotto that you can actually open and stick your hand through. It allows natural light into the grotto and adds an interactive element unlike anything we've done before.
We design our pools to be an organic experience from the start, which gives us the flexibility to create room for just the right piece. In our latest project, we initially proposed a "theming" budget to our customers, but the homeowner didn't really understand what that meant and decided not to add it in. As the project began to take shape – especially the waterfall and grotto features – the homeowners were able to walk into the grotto and have a look.
They were immediately reminded of a favorite childhood movie, "The Goonies," and mentioned it to our team. This got the creativity flowing, and we began to look at the grotto as a hideout for shipwrecked pirates who used the timbers from their ship to support the walls of a cave so they could live there.
Hand-carved cement "timbers," old rum barrels, even a custom-crafted treasure chest complete with lighted "jewels" (part of the low-voltage lighting) turn the grotto into a magical experience for kids young and old!
We are mid-way through our pirate adventure and the homeowners are excited about their "themed" grotto, which they more clearly understand now that they can see how it is seamlessly incorporated into the overall design.
While our team was absent from the project for a couple days to travel to the PSP Expo, we planted a pirate flag in our absence as a fun surprise and point of conversation while we were away. It's a small thing, but a sign of the magic – the relationship with our customers – that is the end result of the all the creative energy we pour into our work.
Comments or thoughts on this article? Please e-mail email@example.com.
Pool rails serve an essential purpose in the backyard: to ensure safe entry and egress from the water. But as important as they are, Larry Williams noticed something: In terms of design, they are often overlooked.
“When my parents were building their dream home, the builder encouraged them not to put in a swimming pool handrail because it would take away from the beauty of their yard,” Williams says. “When my mother got older, she was unable to get in and out of the...
When Sherry Lauter, wife of Master Spas' CEO Bob Lauter and former teacher, first discovered NAZ Children's Centre in Montego Bay, Jamaica, she was shocked by the condition of the elementary school.
"[The students] were on top of each other. These rooms didn't even have walls up to the ceiling....
The future of the industry has long been a concern in the pool and spa industry, but over the past couple years in particular, the issue has reached a boiling point. Who will take over from the greying generation of pros who are itching to retire? How will we find young people interested in getting their hands dirty in service and building?
Those concerns are merited. However, while putting our Next Generation Issue together,...
Planning succession is one of the greatest challenges business owners face — even more so for smaller companies where the owner, founder, CEO or head honcho often remain integral to daily operations. Finding, grooming and handing over control to the right person or set of people requires careful forethought and deliberate action over years. How you approach that all-encompassing process is at the heart of building a legacy.
That’s the core message in “ read more