Do most of us have the kinds of pools and back yards pictured in this month’s magazine? Of course not. But just because we don’t have anything like this in our back yard doesn’t mean we wouldn’t mind taking a peek over our neighbor’s fence. So we looked all over to find the most extraordinary pools our neighborhood has to offer. And we found out that behind about every pool, there’s a good story and an awful lot of nice people.

A Family Feature / When Michael Sharry and his wife Jan were building their Preston Hollow home two years ago, they knew they had to draw the line somewhere.

For Sharry, it was a line in his mind.

“You have to visualize the pool,” he says of the way he shared his vision with Mark McCaffrey of Summerhill Pools. The two discussed issues of deck space, drainage and landscape areas, and what kinds of materials would best complement the Sharry’s backyard.

They eventually chose gray-green Texas limestone for the coping (the border around the pool) and spa, and a grayish blue stone for the decking.

McCaffrey installed a diving board for the Sharry’s kids, Jessica, Greg and Melony, a fountain and waterfall to provide visual interest, and a landscaper designed a surrounding arbor that Sharry’s wife suggested.

“With the fan and lights, it is beautiful,” Sharry says about the arbor, “and slowly the vines are growing over it.”

All of the pool’s accouterments are controlled via a computerized system inside the house.

“I don’t think at any point did we consider a standard type pool,” Sharry says. “If we are going to be here for awhile, it is just one of the entertainment areas of the house. It was never a question of: Will we get our money out of it?

“It’s a major attraction for our kids, who have their friends over to swim, sun or just hang out. We have celebrated graduations, birthdays, football and soccer victories – and even losses – around and in the pool, which all make for a fun time for the family and great stories.”

Cocktails Anyone? / In 1978, the man who lived in this neighborhood home wanted a pool that reflected his passion for entertaining. He also worked for a local Coors distributor and wanted to incorporate a bar area into the pool.

So Fountainhead Pools worked in conjunction with a landscape architect to create this stunning result. The pool’s fountains nudge up against the home’s patio, and below that is a vast swimming area, perfect for laps.

The decking is done in sleek-looking Pennsylvania slate with brick insets. Plant beds surrounding the upper decks of the pool help to give it a rich visual intensity.

“You have to discuss how the owner plans to use the pool. Form follows function,” says Cheryl Price of Fountainhead, who still remembers when her father designed the pool.

The homeowner knew the pool would be used for entertaining just as much as it would be for swimming, so Fountainhead incorporated a bar – replete with five concrete and plaster stools – between the fountains and swimming area. The seats, two feet across, are comfortable and bump up against a countertop on which to set a cold drink.

The 24-year-old pool took Fountainhead about eight weeks to finish, Price says. And what about the cost?

“At that time it cost $21,000, which was a lot of money,” Price says.

Back Yard Oasis / Having a pool is one thing. Having an oasis requires a bit more planning.

But for Preston Hollow Presbyterian Church pastor Blair Monie and his wife, Cynthia, it was as simple as deciding to move.

The pair was house shopping in 1995 when they came upon their current home.

“It was a major factor,” says Monie of the couple’s backyard paradise. “We fell in love with it – the ‘oasis’ feel of the yard and pool – and have loved it ever since.”

Aladdin Pools’ Terry Petersen designed the pool in 1992 for the home’s previous owners, who wanted the pool to mirror the existing waterfall and three lagoons (stocked with vibrantly colored koi and gold fish) already there.

Petersen used black pearl Pebbletec with gold flecks to mimic the dark bottoms of the surrounding ponds. He also edged in river-type rock around the pool’s border and installed another waterfall at one end to create a continuous landscape.

Though the pool is small and seems more visual than functional, Monie says it gets plenty of use.

“It is definitely not just a conversation piece,” Monie says. “I use it nearly everyday, and often twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening. And it’s very inexpensive to maintain.”

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