From here to infinity
Jen Renzi -- Interior Design, 3/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
"There's nothing around here for miles and miles," Lundberg Design's Olle Lundberg says of this 70-acre property near Saint Helena, California. Which is precisely what attracted the San Francisco businessman who hired Lundberg to revamp the house and pool. Who cares about tourist attractions or a grocery store when you have all the essentials—jaw-dropping Napa Valley vistas—right in your own backyard?
The previous pool wasn't up to par with the scenery, however. "It was poorly scaled for the site—just a 14-by-40 rectangle plopped in the middle of the hillside, with no relationship to its surroundings," Lundberg recalls. After bulldozing this concrete eyesore, the architect set about constructing a larger foundation for the new pool, taking care not to damage a huge old oak near the top of the slope. "Protecting that tree required significant gymnastics," he says.
To work well on this knoll with Lake Hennessey views, the pool really had to take possession of the landscape, Lundberg explains. His design follows the knoll's teardrop shape, with a curved infinity edge at the base of the teardrop. The tip of the teardrop is a hot tub.
The combination of hot tub and pool is 100 feet long by 25 feet across at its widest point. "Resort-size," Lundberg says. "The hot tub alone is big enough for 10 people." Many more can perch on the pool's 75-foot-long underwater bench, a 3-foot-wide slate slab. Should things get crowded during a resort-size party, water spills over the infinity edge into a stone-lined trough.
Most hot tubs are raised a few inches to overflow into the pool below, but Lundberg was after a cleaner line. Instead, he made the hot tub 2 feet wider than the pool to form another overflow system at the same height. This way, the two separate bodies of water read as continuous.
A pool surround of watery blue-green Indian slate extends the landscaping into the horizon. "We chose a stone that wasn't too mottled or too grassy, for a fairly monochrome look," says Lundberg. A subtle sleight of hand gives the slate the illusion of greater heft—and even greater luxury. Although most of the tiles are only 3/4 inch deep, the slabs that cantilever over the edge of the pool measure a full 2 inches. As a result, Lundberg says, "The whole surface appears thicker."
An Asian-influenced railing of stainless-steel mesh traces the edge of the property. "We searched for durable materials that would reference Indonesia, where the infinity-pool tradition originated," Lundberg says. The top railing and supports are matte-finished bronze, which weathers to dark brown. "It's like wood but better, since it requires no maintenance," he adds.
A system that's equally low-maintenance allows the pool to remain uncovered and usable year-round. Pop-up cleaning heads, installed in the bottom of the pool, shoot water along the surface to push leaves and twigs toward the deep end. There, they simply wash over the edge and disappear into infinity.