Five Pools to Dive For

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Local families make a splash in these backyard pools from a rooftop oasis with a view in Durham to a remote watering hole in Chatham

This pool at the Preserve at Jordan Lake has a hot tub and in-pool tables

Photography by Beth Mann

Forces of Nature 

The backyard pool is one of the most cherished parts of the Willauer family’s home in The Preserve at Jordan Lake. Mike, director of client services at Compass Financial Group, and Jenn, a relationship manager at Abbot Downing, had the pool built as a fun space for them and their 12-year-old daughters, Sophie and Regan, to hang out. Superior Pools and Spas in Raleigh created the concrete and travertine pool to complement the footprint of the house. Completed in fall 2018, it features a tanning ledge, elevated hot tub inset into the pool perimeter and even in-pool tables so guests can relax in the water as they enjoy a drink. It is an ideal place for family gatherings and get-togethers for Regan’s soccer team. 

Unexpectedly, it became a favorite spot for local wildlife as well. “Before we built the pool, we do not recall frequently hearing the frogs. … Now [they] party in our backyard at night,” Mike says. The family has fun skimming the water to catch and release them. “The single night record is 26 frogs!” But, they enjoy the quiet moments they spend together most of all, Mike says. “[Both] our kids put their phones away and just hang out with Mom and Dad for a while, which is quite special.” – Claire Delano

The Aylwards installed their pool on Old Greensboro Road in 2014.

Swim Team

Ann Aylward, a real estate investor, and Stephen Aylward, an engineer, are instantly transported to an outdoor retreat every time they open their custom-built home’s 18-foot sliding glass door. Their pool, installed at the same time the home was completed in 2014 off Old Greensboro Road, was meant “to complement the simple, clean lines and natural feel of the house,” Stephen says. The pool is five feet at its deepest and, “[the shallowness] also allows the entire pool to be used socially – most people can stand at any point in the pool,” Stephen says. “There are also extended ledges at either end that are only a few inches deep and are great for young children and new puppies to explore the water.” 

Recently, the couple made some more improvements, adding a hot tub and a dining table, both positioned under two heavy timber gazebos. The integrated living space, back deck and pool add an “outstanding social component to the house,” Stephen says. “People in the pool are as much a part of our parties as those standing around it and even those in our living room.” During quarantine, Stephen and Ann found that their stone fire pit, centrally located in the backyard, “has been a great way to draw people out of the house and to help maintain social distancing when friends visit,” Stephen says. Even without many guests, Stephen and Ann appreciate all the backyard has to offer. Ann adds, “It has been a blessing to be outside with no bugs around!” – Megan Pociask

Located in a wooded area outside Moncure, Bob Bianco and Donna Bianco’s house is carved into a hillside

Remote Watering Hole 

Located in a wooded area outside Moncure, Bob Bianco and Donna Bianco’s house is carved into a hillside and is almost entirely underground. The property was a labor of love for the couple – Bob built the 65,000-gallon pool himself, first using a tractor to dig 4 feet deep and then completing the rest by hand, breaking six shovels and one pickax in the process. In some places, he dug as deep as 9 feet. “I like making sculptures, so it was kind of like making a sculpture in the ground,” he says. “I just kept digging to see where it led me.” The pool is a source of relaxation for the couple, whether they entertain friends, take a quick plunge or simply gaze at the water out the window. It’s definitely hard work to maintain it, but Bob and Donna have never been afraid of putting in the elbow grease. They like to update the landscaping around the pool on a regular basis, and they are currently transforming their hot tub into a koi pond. “I didn’t want a pool [that’s] the same as everyone else’s,” Bob says. – Claire Delano

The 28th floor of Durham's One City Center is home to the clubroom and rooftop pool and hot tub.

Pool with a View

Moving from a 5,000-square-foot house into a 1,600-square-foot apartment is a big change, but it was the perfect one for Gray Ellis and his son, Nik,14. The two moved from Treyburn to One City Center in downtown Durham and soon found that they had the best view in the city. The view is especially beautiful from One City Center’s rooftop pool. With a hot tub, nearby clubroom and, of course, the Durham skyline, this pool is hard to beat. – Claire Delano

Community Hub

When Scott Levitan and partner Patrick Francisco relocated from Baltimore to Chapel Hill for Scott’s career, they knew they weren’t afraid of a project. Scott had renovated four houses before, and when they came across their current home in Estes Hills, Scott knew it could be something great. 15 months of renovations turned the property into their dream home, and one of their favorite features is the updated pool. “We love the community here,” Patrick says. “[We] entertain our neighbors as often as we can or invite them over for a swim.” – Claire Delano

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Jessica Stringer

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