Laps of Luxury

Custom-pool expert Nicole Ashton explains what to expect during the design-and-construction process

Written by Kristen Hampshire | Photography by Meg Shupe

Ready to take the plunge into a custom, luxury pool project— or a full-scale outdoor living space that incorporates water and fire features, grilling and dining areas, and serves as an ideal extension of your indoors?

What’s “out” is in. Especially along the coast, outdoor spaces can capitalize on views and provide space for relaxing and entertaining on the water. And more than ever, adding a luxury pool to the picture is a priority. From family-friendly freeform designs that include features like a slide or waterfall to intimate cocktail pools designed for dipping and sipping, the possibilities are endless with custom-designed pools.

You might be wondering what’s involved in the pool-design-and-construction process. How long will it take, and who is involved in completing the work? How does a project go from idea to installation?

Here, Nicole Ashton, owner of Ashton Pools by Design, shares what to expect when building a custom pool.

Imagine the Possibilities
A custom pool starts with inspiration and vision — a wish list of wants and needs that requires some homework, Ashton said. “We ask for photos, and we can identify trends, such as maybe all of the photos have waterfalls, firepits or outdoor kitchens,” she related. “Maybe they all have tanning ledges or infinity edges.”

Sites like Houzz and Pinterest, along with galleries from pool companies, can serve as important conversation starters as a pool builder gets to know your preferences. “We set up uninterrupted time to talk about how clients will use the pool and who will use the pool,” Ashton said. “Are you going to be standing in the pool, talking to a friend with a cocktail, or diving in to swim with family?” Another critical part of this initial process is understanding the pool project scope and client’s address. “In our area, there are some lot coverage restrictions, and we want to look at a land survey,” Ashton noted, adding that plot plans identify wetlands you can’t necessarily see when you step on-site.

Budget also comes into play. This way, the pool designer can help prioritize features and tailor a custom pool that aligns with the vision and investment. “If a pool design includes six different components, do we take one out? What could be completed at a later time, in phases?” Ashton shared.

From Idea to Installation
With 3D modeling design software, a formal design comes to life —a rendering that acts as a master plan for the outdoor living space and pool. No two jobs are alike in the custom pool arena, Ashton emphasized. 

“Once we have the scope of work, we can provide a timeline for the pool and other elements,” she said. “That helps clients understand how long we will be on-site. 

”A timeline also sets expectations for which specialists will be on-site to complete every component of the project. At Ashton Pools by Design, a multitalented team, which includes professionals experienced in all aspects of pool installation, allows the company to manage the entire project in-house. The benefit for clients: a single point of contact and a cohesive, seamless, pool-construction experience. 

When a company subcontracts many aspects of the work, there tends to be a lot of stop-and-go during installation, Ashton pointed out. “Here, we can control the schedule. Our team digs about 30pools a year, so they are accustomed to the variables that can happen on a coastal build in Maryland and Delaware, with our sandy soils and flooded-out sites,” she explained. 

Also, Ashton Pools by Design has a Pebble Tec specialist who installs the aggregate pool finish that is durable, elegant and available in 64 different colors. “You can go from classic white to rich blue; also trending are darker colors,” she said. 

There are more than 400 different waterline pool tile options. “These include solid colors, glass tiles, recycled tiles, large format and mosaics — it’s definitely custom,” Ashton said. “You can select colors that accent the house, to have a collaborative feel between the indoors and outdoors. 

”During the pool-building process, ongoing communication keeps everyone in the loop. And after completion and final inspections, the custom pool not only provides enjoyment and extends the living space to the outdoors, it also increases property value. 

Ashton said, “We love building one-of-a-kind outdoor living spaces for our clients.”

Joe & Nicole Ashton

Nicole’s Tips for Diving into a Successful Pool Project

Go local. “When you are dealing with national companies that are located elsewhere, they are not necessarily used to our sandy soils and coastal variables,” Ashton pointed out. Also, partner with a professional who understands local building restrictions and zoning as they relate to lot coverage and wetlands.

Think big picture. A swimming pool and spa are part of an overall outdoor living environment. Consider a multiphase project, if necessary. But, start with a comprehensive plan, so you can prioritize your investments.

The case for custom. From selecting tile to choosing a pool finish — from the pool shape, depth and size to features like an infinity edge, tanning ledge and LED color-changing lighting, you can truly have it your way with a custom pool design, Ashton said. “By going custom, we can create anything you can imagine.” CS

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