After one Washington, D.C.-based family purchased the lot next to their property, they enlisted Anne Decker Architects, who’d designed their main home a few years prior, to dream up a pool house that could be used year-round. With the help of a team of pros—interior designer Nestor Santa-Cruz, landscape architect Lila Fendrick, and contractor Mauck Zantzinger—they crafted a pool house that’s highly functional and seamlessly connects to the outdoors. Not to mention, it offers both a clean-lined and warm aesthetic.
Overlooking the Potomac River, the 750-square-foot pool house includes a high-ceilinged living space with a kitchenette, a guest bedroom, and a bathroom. (Below it, there’s a 750-square-foot unfinished basement.) The light-filled pool house was designed to frame the property’s breathtaking views.
“The line between interior and exterior spaces is blurred by the use of limestone flooring throughout, while oversized steel doors and windows allow full transparency to the surrounding landscape and celebrate the tension between solid and void,” architect Anne Decker says.
Decker’s team incorporated a range of custom elements into the house, from the stainless-steel kitchen cabinetry down to the wood frame on the bathroom mirror. They selected simple interior finishes—including the White Dove by Benjamin Moore wall paint color—to showcase the family’s collection of abstract art from Hemphill Fine Arts.
For the furnishings, Santa-Cruz blended contemporary Nordic style with American functionality. “I truly focused on each piece of furniture having a purpose while still playing with soft textures, natural materials, and good proportions,” he says.
In the living room, Scandinavian touches come into play through pieces like the two oak-and-leather colonial chairs by Ole Wanscher and a heritage wing chair by Frits Henningsen. The 1950s American-made sideboard, found at a vintage shop in a nearby town, offers additional storage. The iconic tulip table by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen allows for intimate dining and acts as a game table.
Outside, the simplicity of the garden and pool brings out the area’s natural beauty. “We brought the lawn up to the edges of the pool hoping to make the pool look like it’s floating,” Fendrick says. “The pool acts as a mirror to the sky when seen from inside of the pool house.”
Privacy was a priority, so Fendrick achieved that by covering the required pool fencing with skip laurels, which will hide the fence as they grow over time. Emerald green arborvitae trees were also planted to add separation from the neighboring home and to hide pool equipment.
Each aspect of the pool, garden, and house falls tightly into place. “By removing what is unnecessary, the design becomes all about proportion, texture, and light,” Decker says. “There is complexity in simplicity and beauty in restraint.”
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Santa-Cruz made sure the furniture layout in the living room would accommodate a comfortable seating area, a small table for dining and playing games, and some storage. The down-filled sofa is upholstered in Belgian linen and faces directly toward the pool. His all-time favorite piece? The Poul Kjaerholm coffee table, because “the rolled white marble top reflects light while adding visual and tactile interest.”
To add to the eclectic style, Santa-Cruz brought in the large-scale Taraxacum pendant light by Italian designer Achille Castiglioni. A paper floor lantern by Isamu Noguchi stands as a sculpture in one corner. African stools were moved from the family’s main house to offer additional seating.
Exterior and Pool
“To one side of the garden is another home, so we planted Nellie Stevens Holly trees [that] will grow up to become an aerial hedge—a nod to the rigorously formal gardens of Europe,” Fendrick says. “These are located behind the limestone pads on which the pool furniture sits.”
The leather-and-oak dining chairs by Space Copenhagen add to the Nordic style of the pool house. Santa-Cruz paired them with a small table by architect Eero Saarinen to create a cozy dining corner that easily doubles as a game area.
Decker’s team custom made the kitchenette cabinetry to achieve a clean, distilled appearance. “We like the juxtaposition of a more slick man-made material (stainless steel) to the natural soft veining of stone,” Decker says.
To hide a small TV and provide clothing storage in the guest bedroom, Santa-Cruz designed an oak-and-cane wardrobe with brass pulls from Skultuna for jewel-like detail. Warmth is brought in through the wooden bed and vintage ’60s chest. The Franco Albini desk, now produced by Knoll, brings a contrasting sleekness to all of the wood furniture pieces. The black-and-white wool rug from IKEA adds a bit of character.
The pool house bathroom doubles as a mudroom. Santa-Cruz kept the accents to a minimum and added a flat weave rug to blend in with the neutral sand color of the limestone floors. The vanity—custom designed by Anne Decker Architects and built by AK Metal Fabricators, Inc.—hosts handcrafted baskets for towels and pool goods. Simple sconces from Hyde Park Wall Applique tie the whole design together.
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