Nantucket’s Newfound Penchant for Pools

by: Leslie Linsley

photography by: Nicole Harnishfeger

Who can resist the lure of a swimming pool, just steps from your back door? Lounging by the pool on a hot summer day, entertaining poolside, swimming laps or taking a quick dip provides us with exercise and an extended use of our homes.

Who doesn’t dream of floating on a raft with a book and a drink in hand with the sounds of nature, or perhaps piped-in music, in the background? And a pool is a lot easier than packing up the kids and all that gear for a day at the beach.

Today’s Nantucket pools are designed to fit seamlessly into the landscape, bringing the indoors and outdoors together.

Town officials estimate there are roughly 900 pools on Nantucket today, and more are being built every year. It’s hard to believe this is the case on an island where the beach is no more than 10 minutes away in any direction.

“We can’t keep up with the demand,” said Caci Amaral, who with her husband Stephen owns the Nantucket Pool & Spa Center, a year-round local business with a retail storefront. Stephen is a longtime Nantucket resident who worked for his father and brother before starting his own pool company 11 years ago. He has 35 years of experience in the pool business.

“If you’re thinking about putting in a pool, the first thing to do is contact a landscape architect and then bring the design to us to discuss the details of installation,” said Caci, who confirmed that, when possible, most newly-built homes today include a pool in the landscape design to expand the vacation experience.

“The explosion of newly-built homes almost always includes a pool, more for increasing the value of the property and as a desirable rental, than for personal use,” she said.

As more and more pools are being built on the island, they are becoming more interesting-looking as well as beautiful. A well-designed pool fits the landscape, sometimes overlooking open space, often with a view of the ocean or harbor in the distance. There are all shapes and sizes, and especially-beautiful infinity pools where the water spills seamlessly over the edges. Water features like fountains provide the soothing sound of a waterfall. The designs are endless. A few pools have black interiors, but most here are painted turquoise or aqua.

What is the fascination of a pool when we are surrounded by water and have the most beautiful beaches in the world? Pools add another dimension to the landscape where the indoors and outdoors become more integrated, rather than separate entities.

Many believe that a pool complements the architecture and style of a home. Most pool and landscaping plans incorporate different gathering places, with decking, gardens and patio areas for lounging, dining and entertaining. Some include a fire pit and outdoor kitchen. Lush plantings and dramatic lighting enhance the poolside experience as well.

So, if you’re planning to put in a pool or spa, what should you know before you begin inviting your friends over for a pool party? Caci confirms that pools and spas can be built in all sizes and shapes to fit your property, though for practical reasons, a rectangular pool is most popular. This is because you can get an automatic cover on a track for a rectangular pool. Covers keep pools clean, safe when not in use and conserve heat. For small areas, dipping pools of 12-by-12 or 12-by-20 feet are a consideration.

Jesse Dutra is the owner of Waterscapes, an island pool-design and landscaping company, which provides sustainable landscape design specifically for Nantucket.

His company approaches pool design as an extension of landscaping for a seamless transition between the two. In 2009 Waterscapes became the first Bionova natural swimming-pool design-and-build representative in the United States.

Not all pools and spas are used for recreation. Liz and Todd Winship’s property is over two acres in size and their saltwater pool, at 22 by 44 feet, is quite large and fits into the landscape between the deck and pool house.

“The pool season here is quite short, but we use it every day,” Liz said. “As someone with physical challenges, the pool is physically and emotionally therapeutic. Since it’s hard for me to go to the beach, this saltwater pool is perfect. It feels like being in the ocean.”

The pool is also a great attraction for friends and family throughout the summer.

One of the features of their pool is the wide, wall-to-wall, graceful steps that make it easy to get in and out, or just sit on the steps in the water.

As the demand for pools has increased, Craig Taylor, owner of Clear Water Pools Nantucket, said his company is generally booked two years out on installs based on reputation and referrals alone. This year it’s limited new builds to only six, keeping some time in the calendar for a vacation.

When asked his opinion about so many pools being built on the island, Taylor said he has conflicting feelings. There seem to be valid opinions from those who oppose and those who embrace the idea of pools on this tiny island, he said.

“As a builder and service professional I know there are benefits to owning a pool. If it’s designed to match the property and house in a tasteful way a pool can increase the beauty and atmosphere of your property,” Taylor said.

From an investment perspective, a quality-built pool can increase a property’s value. Taylor, however, does not recommend putting in a pool when properties are under a half-acre in size. He feels the same way about properties in the downtown core district, where their installation has been prohibited by town bylaw.

Clear Water Pools also offers custom-built pools for specific needs, such as medical and therapeutic reasons. Last year it built a pool with an extra-deep spa for a client with multiple sclerosis to help her exercise her muscles.

“Her husband and family wanted a regular pool. It was a win-win all around,” Taylor said.

Another client wanted to use their pool for lowimpact cardio exercise.

The popularity of pools took off in the 1800s with the creation of swimming clubs and continued to grow with the start of the modern Olympics that in 1896 included swimming competitions. According to The National Swimming Pool Foundation, there are more than 10 million swimming pools across the United States, including more than 360,000 public pools that are open year-round. ///

Leslie Linsley has written dozens of books about home design and decor. She writes occasionally for Nantucket Today and The Inquirer and Mirror, Nantucket’s newspaper since 1821.

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