One on One With Elite Pool Designer

I have seen a lot of ‘great new ideas’ come into our industry and I have been on the ground floor to help work on them. I’ve helped in the field development as I was trying to incorporate these great new ideas into my own projects.

Ideas such as therapy spas that were created in my little town of Lafayette by Jacuzzi for one of their family members, or working with the very first robotic pool cleaners that were created by Andy Pansini or Howard Arneson, right here in the bay area. Or maybe it was being the first person to introduce the Bay Area to fiberglass spas along with being part of the Redwood hot tub craze that was started right in northern California by Bill Brown, whose grandfather started building redwood water tanks in the East Bay over 125 years ago. 

The fact is, I have seen and been part of what is next and cutting edge in of our industry almost from day one when I decided this was what I wanted to do for a craft for the rest of my life. I have seen some great new ideas come into our industry and I am forever keeping my eye out for what is just around the bend. 

Nicco and Chuck Baumann of Creative Environments

With that being said, I recall a conversation that my son, Nicco, asked me about 5 years ago. He asked, “just how sustainable is the pool industry?”. I said that there always seems to be the next great idea around the bend that rejuvenates our industry. Innovations that take us to the next level, come along every so many years. I reminded him that our family had been building pools in our local market since 1955 and that we’ve never been without work because the pool industry is forever evolving.

With some of this history in mind, I want to tell any of you that are reading this article what I’ve noticed as the next big trend in our industry for those of us that build swimming pools. About 15-20 years ago I started to hear about companies that were specializing in pulling out pools instead of building new ones. It became such a big market that it was not uncommon for excavation companies to remove over 100 pools a year. I started to worry that maybe the lifestyle of owning a swimming pool in your backyard was changing. Was this the moment that enjoying a luxury pool in the privacy of your own backyard might be passing? Was our society was no longer interested in the lifestyle of owning your own pool?

As the momentum grew for pool removal I started to notice that some people weren’t just pulling their pool out because they didn’t have an interest in having a pool in their backyard. What was happening is that they were doing some major remodeling to their home and the pool didn’t fit their needs in its current location, however they still wanted a pool as part of their yard. 

I thought our market was getting saturated and that all the good pool sites were built on already. Were all the good pool sites gone? With fewer and fewer lots to build a pool on, is this how the pool-building market ends in my corner of the country?

Instead, along comes this great new opportunity. If you don’t like your pool or if the cost to repair it is too expensive, then invest your money in the new backyard of your dreams. 

At first, I thought how wild a concept this was. I remember when my father was building pools back in the ’50s and ’60s that his average pool was $2,000 all in. As we continued to get calls to remove a homeowner’s old pool, I didn’t want others to know that I was actually throwing away an old pool to replace it with another “state of the art” new well engineered, and hydraulic-designed swimming pool with all the latest and greatest innovations that we use on all of our projects today. 

Old backyard to be renovated by Creative Environments. Photo credit: Creative Environments

Along with the idea of building a new pool came the need to also redesign the entire backyard. That led to scrapping the backyard so that everything was gone and we had a fresh new canvas to design on. The idea caught on like wildfire and before I knew it we were involved in building much higher-priced projects. Not only were we building state-of-the-art swimming pools but also the latest and greatest concrete designs and patterns. Now we could incorporate a gas fire pit in the yard next to the pool. We would design and build a bocce court as another entertainment area. Building a solid roof pavilion with an outdoor fireplace, bar, BBQ, dining room, and a TV above the fireplace; was now possible We could accomplish that in our builds as custom pool builders in our new backyard designs. 

Old pool removed by the demo crew. Photo credit: Creative Environments

Almost every client that I showed the possibilities to seemed to share the vision. Now the opportunity to personalize their very own backyard with a new swimming pool was possible. All you need is a creative mind and a willing client that believes in your ability to help transform their backyard. They also need a budget big enough to fund their dreams. It no longer became a conversation about what they could do once the old pool was removed, it then became what are all of their possibilities. This new mentality has become such a big part of our business. We no longer talk about just the pool and now focus on the entire backyard. 

My son and I are part of a team of artisans that have all figured out that together we can create some beautiful artwork as we all work together for the common goal of building the entire backyard. In most of our projects, I become the project manager by helping bring in the other team players in coordination with building the swimming pool. It used to be that I would look in various magazines for pool ideas. I would be in awe of the elaborate yard designs that we are now seeing in our industry. Now Nicco and I are the ones that are building these elaborate entertainment backyards. Working alongside our landscape designer to help set the theme of the backyard.  

What I have come to realize is that we aren’t the only ones across the country that have seen this change coming to our industry. I am a member of the Carecraft Pool Professional Buying Group and as I talked to other top professionals in our group, they too are starting to see the designs of the full backyard growing by removing the old pool and installing a new complete backyard entertainment area. 

New pool construction in full effect. Photo credit: Creative Environments

Most of the pools we remove are typically from the previous generation of the ’60s and ’70s. Not that they were poorly built, but most of the architecture of those swimming pools were based on templated design. This was just before the era of the custom design pool that started in the late ’70s to early ’80s.

1979 was the year that many of us custom builders seem to get our start as we transitioned from the basic pool design to the unique one-of-a-kind, personalized pool designs that you see today. This was the beginning of such builders as David Tisherman, Lew Aikens, Skip Philips and Brian Van Bower.

This was the beginning of a new era of pool design and building. One where we talked about taking our building skills to the next level or raising the bar for our industry. Our generation ushered in the creation of the vanishing edge or the negative edge pool design. This time period seemed to be the era of the rising tide that would lift all boats.

In the ’80s builders like Geremia Pools and Aquarius Pools in Sacramento seemed to be the trendsetters for natural lagoon pools that incorporate the beauty of the landscape into a swimming pool that was personalized for each homeowner. Gone were the days of basic pool template designs. Now there was the freedom of expression to create your own pool design each time you designed and built a swimming pool.  

There have been numerous ups and downs in our industry. Whether it be the economy or whatever shortage was in our market that year, the pool industry seems to have not only survived but thrived in those moments of sunshine. I truly feel that this trend of removing old pools and building all-new backyards is going to be a big part of our industry. The value of our homes seems to only be going up and I am seeing clients realize that if they are going to stay home more then ought to improve their property. 

Beautifully updated backyard paradise. Photo credit: Creative Environments

The photos in this article are one of seven projects we have completed this year where the focus was removing an old outdated pool and installing a whole new entertainment area in our clients backyard.

On 3 of our “Extreme Backyard Make Overs” we found a buried, half-removed pool that was full of broken concrete and capped with dirt. Fortunately, we own all of our own equipment and have our own in-house crew that were well aware of how to remove the old buried pool and prepare the site for a new vessel. 

I highly recommend that if you do take on removal projects like this that you always consult with a soil expert and structural engineer. There is little room for error and you have to prepare the bottom of the pool properly before you put a new, state-of-the-art pool on top of it. 

Building custom swimming pools has been a passion of our family for the past 3 generations. As I slow down to reflect on my career, I could not be prouder of the advances and direction my son Nicco, has already taken our company, since he became part owner. I attribute a lot of the advances to his attending many of the higher level education courses that are now being taught on pool construction by Watershape University and GENESIS.

In my day, you learned on the job from the experience gained by just doing what needed to get done and by sharing ideas with other designers and professionals in the pool industry. Joining together with other like-minded pool professionals has made a big difference in the success of our work and in our reputation. Nicco and other young pool builders have the benefit of learning from generations of pool builders like myself that continue to expand their horizons and raise the bar. 

Creative Environments
P.O. Box, 586, Alamo, CA 94507
Email [email protected]
Phone (925) 837-2715

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