Next time you look at your swimming pool, ask yourself this simple question: how does it make you feel?

Do the style, shape, size, vanishing edge, color, surface and surrounding space inspire you? Do the cutting-edge technology, automation, water quality, carbon footprint and eco-friendly features excite you? Does the space work for your unique coastal lifestyle?

If the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes, you’re tapping into a quiet revolution in luxury custom residential pool design that’s changing the very nature – not to mention the look and feel – of the classic ocean home swimming pool.

Once the domain of burly builders – who dropped a precast and kidney-shaped pool shell into a hole in the ground, added a water slide and a fake rock waterfall and called it a day – high-end pool design and construction are diving into a brave new world.

“A lot of people can build pools, and some can build good pools, but it’s really about how the clients feel when they’re in that space; that’s what makes us different,” says Bill Drakeley, principal of Drakeley Pool Company, based in Bethlehem, Conn.

This third-generation builder, who founded his own pool company in 2000, is at the vanguard of a new breed of pool designers and builders who are championing a much more thoughtful, collaborative  and intuitive approach to creating the perfect pool.

“Everything before seemed forced and contrived and I knew it wasn’t right,” says Drakeley. “Our designs are into the psychology of the pool space, both mental and physical.

“We ask questions about air flow, the track of the sun, how our clients are going to use the space and how can we ensure they’re in a positive frame of mind when they come into the environment. It’s very subtle, but this idea of being intuitive is what sets us apart.”

This forward-thinking approach – linking a pool with a client’s state of wellbeing – results in little more than a dozen residential pools a year of exceptional design and construction quality.

“It’s about creating a pool space that’s restorative, intuitive, elegant, sleek and supremely luxurious without being overwrought,” says Lily Samuels, a Columbia graduate and company vice president who heads up a high-energy executive team with Drakeley.

The dynamic duo – Drakeley with his expert construction skills and Samuels with her contemporary sensibilities – works in partnership with every client, getting to know them, their families and lifestyles before even putting design pen to paper.

While a pool is a quintessential feature of a coastal home, Drakeley argues it should never be a focal point. “It should blend in seamlessly with its surroundings and never compete with the ocean,” he says. “A pool has to look right, but it also has to work right.”

Working closely with leading architects, landscape architects and even sound technicians and energy space experts, Drakeley and his team of master craftsmen create design-centric pools that will last for decades.

Using quality materials sourced from around the world – travertine from Italy, Canadian marble, glass tiles from Spain – and even rocks indigenous to a unique coastal home site, Drakeley is a full-service pool company that refuses to cut corners.

“Our clients are making a huge investment in their home and lifestyle,” says Samuels. “Every single detail matters, to us and to them.”

Samuels lists a number of pool trends for 2016: the continuation of rectangular pool shapes; vanishing edges where appropriate; shallow ledges for lounging; perimeter overflows; cutting-edge technology and “green” practices, especially in terms of water sanitation and purification; and pool automation.

Drakeley says pool textures and colors are also changing, driven by extensive use of glass tiles. And many clients are requesting a more natural, mirror-still water surface to create the effect of a stunning reflection pond, which is especially pretty when surrounded by vibrant fall colors.

“A pool is obviously a place to swim, relax and lounge, but today’s pools have dual, even multiple purposes to them,” he says.

Drakeley’s 35 years of experience in construction stands him in good stead. He’s currently president of the American Shotcrete Association, is a well-respected voice in the industry and is committed to elevating construction and pool design through education. His many industry awards further cement his reputation.

“There’s often a disconnect between the daily lives of a client and the construction and pool company,” he says. “We bridge that disconnect and have the intuition to know who the client is and what they want.”

But the true test of the firm’s success lies with its clients. “We have clients who say they’ve seen our work, been in one of our swimming pools and trust us implicitly,” says Samuels.

“And with our waiting list, we have more than a few clients who are willing to wait to work with us. It’s very flattering that our pools are coveted spaces that speak to the quality of what we’re doing.”

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Image Credits: Photo courtesy of Drakeley Pool Company.