Juliet Wood and her fiancée Manuel Diaz see great opportunity in the world of pools and spas. This project, located in Duluth, Ga., an upscale suburb of Atlanta, presented a golden chance to demonstrate some design flair.

The home features a Mediterranean design with a tile roof and stucco walls. The yard measured approximately 40 by 75 feet, relatively small given the client's wish list.

Despite the fact that the space now includes a large cabana complete with a kitchen, dining area and fireplace, and the freeform pool, which measures approximately 20 by 40 feet, the space feels balanced and uncluttered. The pool itself has an unusual, almost lyrical shape that conforms to a large wall on one side with straight lines and a curved contour on the deck side, which creates a graceful flow around the pool and spa.


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"You have to respond to the client and the property," Wood says. "I want all of my designs to be unique. This pool wouldn't be right any place else, but here it makes the most of the space and fits with the Mediterranean style of the home."

"It has a very soft and feminine line to it," says builder Mike Nantz, Wood's instructor for her Genesis coursework, who served as design consultant on the project. "It's something only she could and would design."

On one end of the pool, Wood placed a large, raised circular spa with a sculptural 360-degree overflow detail. It's adjacent to the cabana, creating an inviting space perfect for entertaining either large groups or intimate gatherings. On the other, a wide tanning shelf is located adjacent to an unusual flowing radial staircase that leads from a second balcony to the shallow end and deck.

"The staircase was the only detail that was mine," Nantz says. "The client wanted to get down from the second floor balcony to the pool area without going through the house, but we had very little space to work with. I originally suggested a spiral staircase idea that morphed into the final design. Beyond that, my input was really more about construction. I tweaked some of the details, but the concepts were all Juliet."

As is true of many if not most high-end projects, the client's ideas played a major role. For example, he insisted on using blue hues in the color palette. While a questionable choice given the color scheme of the house, Wood ingeniously incorporated blue tints in the custom Pebble Tec finish, a combination of black onyx and aquamarine dyes that give the pool a rich appearance that blends beautifully with other material choices, such as the dark, irridescent glass tile from Oceanside Glass Tile, used on the spa.


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Diaz was also a key player in this project, particularly when it came to setting up the project's ambitious modular water-wall feature, which was inspired by the water wall at the iconic Aria hotel in Las Vegas. The water wall grew out of a need to deal with what was arguably the site's most limiting feature: a large CMU wall, which gave the space an almost claustrophobic feel. In discussing ways to treat the wall and organize the space, the client liked Wood's idea of creating a water wall similar to the one found at the Aria.

"That was a good start," Wood says, "but if you had a solid water wall there, it would've created the same problem of confining the area."

Instead, she explains, she developed a feature that would be broken into four pieces and graduate in size, left to right. The result is a design that includes four different sized water wall segments ranging in size from the smallest at 2 ½ wide by 5 feet high, to the largest, which is 20 feet wide by 9 feet high. Each wall is angled at 15 degrees. As the water flows down, it crosses over a textured finish of 1-by-1 inch black granite tiles of varying thicknesses, which adds an additional visual element to the panels.

"I wanted the water to dance as it flows down the wall," Wood explains.

The water flow is programmable, flowing from left to right with the pattern sequentially "leaping" from panel to panel. Recreating the complex movements of the Aria water wall proved prohibitively expensive, but working together, Diaz and Nantz were able to develop a system that offers visual interest beyond a uniform flow at a fraction of the cost.

In order to soften the overall appearance of the wall treatment, Wood made creative use of various succulents to cover the spaces between the water wall panels with variegated shades of green. The resulting composition takes the visual barrier and turns it into an intriguing mix of moving water, sculptural hardscape and plant material.

Similarly interesting artistic touches are woven throughout the project, including the custom wrought-iron railing on the staircase and limestone decking, among others.

"In one respect this is a straightforward residential pool/spa combination with an outbuilding and water feature," Nantz says. "What makes it so special is how Juliet put it all together. It fits perfectly with the client's taste while at the same time it's a beautiful expression of her own design instincts. I'm excited to see what she'll do next." 

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Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.