Little House by the Pool

Whether palatial or simple, cabanas serve as an outdoor refuge

By Teresa Nicodemus

It’s open season at Todd and Kelly Smith’s pool in the Hickory Stick neighborhood in Greenwood. Summer is finally here. Pristine waters shimmer, beckoning the Smiths’ three children to escape the summer’s heat. They have recently opened their pool house, pulling back large retractable shutters that had enclosed the kitchen, bar and dining areas. A lovely poolside retreat, the pool house serves as an oasis from the sun, offering an area for dining al fresco, with two granite-topped bars and an open kitchen with all the amenities of the family’s in-home kitchen. Ceiling fans circulate air throughout the cabana, adding a tropical ambience. The pool house also offers a bathroom, complete with a sink and toilet and changing area.

The Smiths had their home built in 2006 on a secluded hillside lot surrounded by mature trees. They chose the lot specifically for the privacy it offered from the rest of the neighborhood. The backyard was perfect for their idea of a pool and entertainment setting. “We added the pool house in 2012,” explains Todd. “Our main motivation was an outdoor entertainment area to coincide with the pool. We wanted an outdoor kitchen to offer cold beverages and food preparation and restroom facilities. We also have hardwood floors throughout our home, and we didn’t want any water damage from wet bodies coming into the house.”

The natural stone look of stamped concrete that encircles the pool transitions elegantly to the smooth concrete flooring inside the pool house. The cabana’s exterior was designed to match the home’s brick and plank siding, making the cabana appear a stylish extension of the existing home. The pool house sports a Disney beach-themed décor, says Todd. “Our family vacations to Disney inspired the décor,” he explains. “Around the pool deck you will find subtle Mickey Mouse heads stamped in the concrete. We commissioned a local iron worker to make the brackets that support the granite bar top in the shape of Mickey heads.”

Unique Retreats
Custom-built pool houses are becoming increasingly popular with homeowners seeking to bring indoor amenities outdoors. Matt Beecher, owner of Matt Beecher Builders in Greenwood, has built several pool houses for families in the Greenwood area. “Most homeowners want a pool house with three main components that allow people to come and go without going into the main home: an outdoor kitchen, a bathroom/changing area, and a large storage area for pool equipment, pool toys and pool maintenance supplies,” he says. “The pool house also provides winter storage for outdoor furniture, so everything doesn’t need to be crammed into the garage.

“Each family we have worked with comes to the table with their own ideas about how to use the space, and we help them design the space to fit their needs,” he adds.

Some of the pool houses Beecher has constructed have been full extensions of the home, complete with large master baths that include ceramic tile showers and bar areas big enough to accommodate parties of up to 15 people. Flat screen TVs, Beecher says, are often included in the pool house bar areas. These spaces provide a great way to catch the game, get out of the sun and have family time, too, he says. “Homeowners don’t want to give up any conveniences when they are outside and want to continue the same luxuries they have indoors,” he adds.

Pool houses run the gamut from diminutive, utilitarian spaces to 1,000 square feet of luxury. “We have added sitting areas under covered porches extending from the pool houses,” says Beecher. “I’ve seen beautifully designed sitting areas complete with plush outdoor furniture, offering a perfect place to get out of the sun yet enjoy the pool atmosphere.”

Ease of use and cleaning is a priority as well, according to Beecher. He has designed outdoor kitchens with brick walls that wrap around the kitchen area and concrete paver floors that flow from the pool deck into the pool house. Ceramic tile floors are also a popular choice for pool houses. “When the pool party is over, they don’t want a prolonged cleanup,” he says. “With weather-resistant flooring and materials, they can hose everything down and let it dry.”

Covered and Cool
Jerry and Kathy Johnson’s sprawling one-story home sits regally amid 10 acres of wooded property in Blue River Township near Franklin. The home’s unique stone and siding exterior blends well with the stately white columns of a beautifully rendered lanai, a unique variation of the traditional pool house, centrally located at the rear of the home and overlooking the pool. “When we had our home built in 2012, we also had the builder add the lanai,” Jerry explains. “We had a concept and even a drawing of how we envisioned it. We discussed our dream with our home builder, Jon Price. He did an outstanding job making our vision of the lanai into a reality.”

Poolhouse2Step out of the Johnsons’ kitchen and into the 20-by-40-foot lanai and an outdoor world of carefully selected, traditional Americana themed décor. “We do a lot of entertaining, and the lanai has been perfect for hosting guests outdoors,” Jerry explains. “We have entertained as many as 40 people under the lanai with plenty of room.”

The lanai’s grand, decorative archways frame the poolscape beyond. The traditional rectangular pool is bordered by brushed concrete that also serves as the flooring under the lanai. An expansive area for comfortable loungers, a large twisting pool slide and custom landscaping add a finishing touch to the pool area’s inviting atmosphere.

The central feature of the lanai is a massive stone fireplace surrounded by custom outdoor furniture and a large seating area. The rustic, tongue-and-groove ceiling features recessed lighting and two ceiling fans. “Kathy and I travel extensively worldwide,” Jerry says. “The lanai has not only been a place to entertain, but it has also been our refuge, a place to de-stress from our travels. And the pool has been a source of fun for our five grandchildren, who are all 4 years of age and younger. They keep the pool waters churned up.”