A Tale of Two Pools
Taking the plunge in backyard design
Photos by Ryan Lavine
Whether it’s rectangular, oval, or kidney-shaped, that backyard vessel known as a pool has always been a status symbol. Prior to the advent of using gunite to build one, a pool was a toy for the very wealthy, yet practically every American wanted one. Romans were the builders of the first pools, and not much changed in construction until the 1940s. Once gunite was in use, pool production quadrupled in America and prices went down—still, an in-ground pool was and always will be a luxury. As Ernest Hemingway once quipped to his wife—when he placed a penny in the drying concrete at the end of his outrageously expensive pool in Key West—“Pauline, you’ve spent all but my last penny, so you might as well have that one, too.”
The average cost of a vinyl-lined pool in Connecticut is $30,000 to $40,000, and gunite pools start higher, around $50,000. It is a much-loved addition to the backyard—just ask anyone who has one. Pam Foarde, a realtor with Al Filippone Associates, says that a well-maintained pool and backyard area add to the value of a home, as it becomes another “desirable living space.” We found two we covet—one in Southport and one in Greenfield Hill, and learned more about the joy that pool ownership brings to the families who own them.
“We needed to bring our pool out of the ’70s and into the 21st century,” says Ginny Stanco of Greenfield Hill. Thinking they would just reline it, the Stancos set out to give their dated pool a makeover, working with Marquee Pool. “We realized pretty quickly we needed a whole new look for the backyard, starting with the pool.” Dianna Cutler and her team at Sasco Farms Landscape Design, known around town for their dazzling backyard makeovers, became instrumental in designing a new look for the area. “Dianna gave us a whole new vision for the yard and pool,” explains Stanco.
Cutler suggested taking away the old fencing around the pool and opening up the yard. “For each project, we consider the property as a whole, rather than in sections,” explains Cutler. “Ginny’s pool was its own floating entity penned in by a fence that cut the area off from the lush, flat property.” By considering the back of the house as a whole, Sasco Farms removed the fence around the pool, remolded the patio area, and created new seating and entertaining areas. The new design allows the family use of the entire backyard and not chunks at a time. The property is now fenced in at the property line, allowing expansive views of the newly planted beds from both outside and inside the home. “The overall effect is more aesthetically pleasing,” says Cutler.
Especially pretty is the new view from inside the kitchen of the pool and the surrounding lilacs, hydrangea, and manicured boxwoods. “The goal was to keep the look crisp and easy to maintain,” says Cutler. Below the stone wall, English laurel has been planted, and the entire patio has been redone with bluestone. “We recommend bluestone because it weathers well in our climate and is more affordable than other options such as granite,” says Cutler. “By installing the bluestone with no concrete joints, it will also last much longer than a traditional patio.”
The addition of the sleek contemporary furniture from West Elm and Brown Jordan completed the look. A small shed that used to house pool equipment was turned into a small bar housing a refrigerator and a television. With an interior décor by Hillside Designs and construction by Marek Bil of Old World Construction, the bar, along with its TV, creates another fun place to hang out near the pool while adding interest to the overall look of the area. “This is our oasis in the middle of the woods, ” says Stanco.
The Little Resort
“In the summer, Jerry and I feel like we’re at our own little vacation resort,” says Stephanie Guterl, referring to how she and her husband feel about their luxurious pool and poolhouse. Originally they didn’t plan for a pool to accompany their new-construction 7,300-square-foot home in Southport. “But the more we thought about it, the more it seemed like a great idea.”
In everything related to their home, the Guterls are very hands on, designing much of it in collaboration with Tallman Segerson Builders of Fairfield. Indeed, they amassed a huge file of ideas for the pool of their dreams before having it created by Pools by Al.
The Guterls’ 480-square-foot poolhouse was added later—a charming cottage outbuilding with columns holding a covered cedar-roofed porch, mini kitchen, full bathroom, and changing area. “I hadn’t thought of having a poolhouse,” explains Guterl. “But my uncle—David Lazer—who has a beautiful pool and pool house in the Hamptons—insisted that I have one too, and presented it as a gift to us.”
Guterl has always been close with her uncle, executive producer of “The Muppet Show,” most of the Muppet movies, and Labyrinth.
“We enjoy our pool every day in the summer, as do our teenagers,” says Guterl. Recently Guterl celebrated her husband’s 50th birthday al fresco around the pool and poolhouse. With the theme of “haute barbeque,” about 100 guests enjoyed the summer night, fried chicken, and grilled corn.
The patio furniture, from Restoration Hardware, is neutral in color and design, with simple, clean lines. Guterl has always had a green thumb, and being very creative, always does her own flower arrangements for her home and for parties. When she needs more extensive landscaping, she uses Cypress Landscape and Tuff Lawn.