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June 3, 2011 10:06 pm

California dreaming

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Poolhouse in Wilton, Connecticut, by architects Hariri & Hariri

It’s easy to see why people from cooler climates envy the sun-kissed Californian coast. David Hockney’s crystalline pool paintings of the late 1960s capture the atmosphere perfectly with their clean lines and cloudless skies. You could daydream yourself into the scene: a long summer afternoon, a chilled glass of Californian white in hand and a sapphire swimming pool before you. At the heart of it all is the perfect, Californian-style pool house.

Just such a dream is being realised by architectural and interior designers in the US, and increasingly modern, minimalist pool houses like Min Day’s design in Palo Alto, California are becoming sought after around the world.

The two main themes in west coast pool house design are simplicity and multi-functionality. The simple geometry of the pool house in Palo Alto very much epitomises this architectural trend, with its clear and practical use of metal and glass. The Hariri & Hariri-designed pool house in Wilton, Connecticut, may not be on the west coast, but certainly upholds many principles of the style, including its emphasis on flexibility. The structure is equally suited to wild parties and quiet relaxation.

Once you have your elegantly appointed pool house, one of the easiest ways to achieve this versatility is with the right choice of furniture. Designer Gisue Hariri says: “Keep it simple. Make sure the furniture is light enough so you can move it around.” After all, “you want to enjoy your pool house, not be burdened by its maintenance and care,” she says. Her design features lightweight, electrostatic powder-coated aluminium frames with white mesh fabric sourced from Janus et Cie, but similar designs are available from Italian design house, Kartell.

As with outdoor furniture, simplicity is the key to the interior design too. Architecturally designed seating and cabinets fit trimly into designs such as the Bleakley Cabana by Bruce Bolander. Bars and cabinet fronts need to be elegant but, being in such close proximity to the pool, they must be weather-resistant too. For the Bleakley, Bolander opted for Trespa, an exterior-grade laminate. EB Min who, together with design partner Jeff Day, created the Palo Alto poolhouse, favoured treated Douglas fir and maple for the natural interior.


Chair Cabo chair from Zuo Modern Contemporary, $300,

Inside seating often has a wicker-like feel, either in clean blocks like the Wilton’s synthetic woven fibre from Janus et Cie, or graceful curves like the vintage designs chosen for the Bleakley Cabana by interior designer Jamie Bush. For the Bleakley, Bush opted for a jute rug from West Elm to add colour, definition and warmth to this outside space.

Accessories are less formal. Bright and patterned cushions accent the west coast’s clear-cut designs perfectly, but again bear in mind the pool and the elements. The Wilton’s cushions are treated, having durable, anti-microbial surfaces that resist soil, abrasion and UV light. They should remain pristine.

Bush takes a slightly different approach. His interior of the Bleakley mimics the furniture of the main house and is comprised of vintage products chosen to age gracefully. The colour scheme of the Bleakley matches certain rooms from their main house too – all part of Bush’s attempt to create “a dialogue with the main living space.”

And that is the aim of all great pool house designs and furnishings: to create a haven away from the every­day that is a comfortable, fun and functional space to relax in the sun or host sizzling barbecues.


Sofa From Janus et Cie’s ‘Pure’ sofa line, $3,570,

globe fireplace

Firepit Globe fireplace from £1,900,

garden umbrella

Umbrella Garden umbrella with aluminium stand from Janus et Cie, $2,049,

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