Choosing the stone and tile for a large-scale project from only pictures and chips can be an anxiety-inducing task, says Cooper Smith Koch.

Choosing the stone and tile for a large-scale project from only pictures and chips can be an anxiety-inducing task, says Cooper Smith Koch.

By Cooper Smith Koch
Special Contributor

This is the second pool we’ve built and, at the halfway point of this one, I still think the hardest part of the process is choosing the right materials. Even though, after 16 years together, Todd and I generally share the same taste and gravitate towards similar design styles, there’s nothing that can get us into a full-on argument than picking out the materials to finish a home improvement project.

You’re expected to make this massive commitment, based on small samples and color chips. You have no idea how it will look when there’s hundreds of square feet of a particular stone climbing the walls or an expanse of stained concrete underfoot.

It’s also where the dollars really start to add up and cost-value benefits start to come into play. Do we splurge on the fancy tile or the super-quiet pool pump? Do we really want an oversized fireplace with stone mantel if it means we have to postpone the outdoor kitchen? And, perhaps most importantly, where can we add the most value to the house?


After 7 years in their Kessler Park home, Cooper Smith Koch is taking the plunge and putting in a pool.

After 7 years in their Kessler Park home, Cooper Smith Koch’s family is taking the plunge and putting in a pool.

By Cooper Smith Koch
Special Contributor

When we bought our Kessler Park house seven years ago this month, we acknowledged that it had a handful of “fatal flaws” that kept it from realizing its full potential. In fact, the house had been on the market for nearly a year before Todd and I first looked at it — and then we hemmed and hawed ourselves for almost a year before we finally took the plunge, right as the housing market was crashing … snagging it for about 60 percent of its original list price.

First, the dark galley kitchen was horrific: plastic countertops (yes, plastic that a hot pot could melt through), ancient appliances, peach-painted cabinets and access from the rest of the house only through a claustrophobic butler’s pantry. About four years ago, we remedied that “flaw” by blowing out walls, combining four small rooms into one and completely moving the kitchen from the back of the house to face the street. It’s now the favorite area of our home.

Now, we’re tackling the second biggest flaw: the backyard…or lack thereof.


Now that summer is in full swing and the Texas heat has arrived, we hope everyone with a swimming pool is able to enjoy a few moments of cooling refreshment and relaxation in and around the water. For those that are just wishing for a pool or considering adding one to their property, we’ve asked renowned landscape architect Harold Leidner to show us a few of his top pool designs and some of the most popular pool features that he is incorporating for his clients.

Fountains and Water Features

HLC Fountain

HLC Fountain 2

Including fountains and water features in a pool design helps to add elements of visual interest, create an ambiance of soothing background noise to drown out neighbors or nearby traffic, and can provide a cooling factor to the air around the pool. There are many different kinds of water features such as waterfalls, bubbler jets, canon jets, laminar jets, sprays, weirs, sheer descents, rain curtains, and spillways — all of which can enhance any
pool with the many shapes and sounds of water.

Fire Features

HLC Fire HLC Fire 2

Fire is one of the most dramatic and impactful elements you can add to any pool, which will certainly crank up the “wow” factor. Not only will it create a striking, visual contrast to the water, but will help extend the outdoor season into the fall and winter and is certain to always draw a crowd when entertaining.

Technology, Automation, and Energy Efficiency

HLC Tech HLC Automation

Along with home automation, the technological capabilities of controlling, monitoring and maintaining a swimming pool have also become much easier as they can now be managed with a smartphone or tablet. With apps on your iPhone and iPad, you can easily control and turn on all aspects of your pool (spa, lights, fountains, etc.) on demand and from anywhere. Energy efficiency has also come to the forefront for swimming pools and equipment. With the advancements of LED pool lighting, variable speed pumps, and more efficient heaters, the power demands to run a pool are greatly reduced and can help impact that monthly electrical bill. The color capabilities of LED lighting can also allow you to tailor the color of the pool to any mood or for any party setting.

Infinity and Negative Edge Pools

HLC Neg edge HLC Infinity Edge

One of the more dramatic and most-requested features is an infinity or negative edge pool. These pools eliminate the traditional coping and bring water right to the edge. They are typically associated with a sloping property or dramatic views, but can be used in many different aspects to create a spectacular detail around the pool. Zero edge or gutter pools are also another similarly styled edge effect that can create an unique presentation for the typical pool surround.


HLC Tile 1 HLC Tile 2

One of the most popular ways to elevate the look and feel of a pool is by incorporating a tile finish. With thousands of colors, patterns, and textures to choose from, a tile finish (specifically in a smaller scale tile (3/4”-1” square) can add an exquisite level of visual detail. The touch and feel of a glass tile is also much easier on the skin and adds an extra level of sensory feel when in the water. From solid mixes, to colorful blends and even mosaic patterns, an all-tile pool is sure to turn an average pool into a showstopper.

Fun Factor and Entertainment

HLC Slide HLC Climbing

The swimming pool is an obvious attraction and gathering place for friends and family, and there are many additional opportunities to add some outdoor amenities that may help keep the kids and family together and enrich the outdoor experience. In the audio/video realm, there are floating speakers and even underwater speakers to keep the music flowing along with projection screens to let you host your own dive-in movie. Additionally, there are many other recreational elements that can be included such as volleyball nets, basketball goals, slides, swings, swim jets, and even climbing walls.

Ready to start designing the pool of your dreams? Contact the talented staff at Harold Leidner Landscape Architects to guide you through the process and ensure a fabulous pool you’ll love that will add value to your home.