Building good relationships can be as important as building good homes. Jon Rentfrow is well aware of this. His longtime colleague Jay Brannen built a home for a client, and years later when that client wanted to build a pool and pool house, Brannen recommended using Rentfrow and the result is the pool house, which won an RD+B 2011 Design Excellence Award, seen here and on our cover.
“The client was good friends with Jay and knew of projects he and I had done together. They never worked directly with me but they trusted their relationship with Jay and his relationship with me,” explains Rentfrow, Rentfrow Design in Fort Collins, Colo.
The vision for this pool house was that of the owner. It was to be a structure that serves the pool in summer as a place to get out of the hot sun, and also a place that can be closed up with air conditioning or heat. All functions were achieved.
“The vision was realized no question,” says Brannen, Brannen Homes in Fort Collins, Colo. “I think the testament to that is [the owners] holding soccer team parties and hosting crab boils to the tune of 50 or 60 people. The entertainment capabilities and the way it opens up to the outside are fantastic.”
Just as important as function is form, which had to look appropriate for Colorado. Sitting on the front range of the Rockies, the pool house has a mountain flair to it including a big-timber pergola and heavy stone on the inside, Rentfrow says. “Design success for me is the space performing the way you design it. It entertains well for large groups, lives well for two by the fireplace, and it’s fun for kids and adults to enjoy. That’s performance of space — of design intent. The greatest compliment is not how beautiful a home looks; it’s that it lives how the owners need it to live,” he adds.
One element of the pool house that didn’t turn out as planned was the loft space, and this was because of local codes and height restrictions. Because the roofline had to be lowered there was not enough space in the loft for its purpose — a fun area for the owners’ boys where they could throw pillows on the floor and play video games and hang out, Rentfrow says.
Another issue with land usage was accommodating both the pool house and the pool in the space allotted. The solution was to position the pool house in the corner of the lot to maximize pool size (see site plan on pg. 15). This raised the issue of the pool house being too far from the main home, which was a concession the owners made, Rentfrow says.
The main challenge of working the land was doing so in a finished back yard, Brannen says. “Building a pool and pool house on a finished property was a pretty delicate operation. Just trying to get materials back there was a challenge. There wasn’t a ton of space to maneuver. The distance between the existing home and pool house at its narrowest point was probably 40 feet. So trying to construct the pool and the pool house outside the owners’ master bedroom window was difficult. Fortunately we did it in the summer when the weather cooperated; plus they were very patient with us.”
Plenty of coordination
When the homeowners initially expressed the desire for a pool with a pool house, the pool house became the focus more than the pool. The two cannot be separated, however, in theory or reality with so many mechanical parts to consider.
“Pool mechanical rooms must be substantial in Colorado because of the need for decent-size boilers. Late in the game the pool contractor wanted to run piping through the pool house’s basement walls and up into the mechanical room. I asked him how many cores he needed; two or three? He said more like 13 cores that went through the foundation wall. I thought there could be no way, but after plenty of discussion and planning; we spaced them in a way the engineer finally approved,” Brannen says.