Americans love to overbuild their homes. We put ranges in our kitchens with enough BTUs to light Paris at Christmas, then use them to reheat Domino's. Some even frill up their laundry rooms with stereos and $5,000 mini dry cleaners. So it shouldn't be surprising that rich people are now moving the overdesigning craze outside, to their pools and decks.
Gone are those concrete rectangles plowed into the backyard and surrounded with that plastic patio furniture that sticks to your legs. Instead, homeowners are installing pools with underwater speakers, fire pits--even fake lagoons that emit something the pool industry calls Faux Fog. Small wonder the average cost of new pools has leaped past $30,000.
Those who think of these elaborate pool designs as worthy investments should reconsider. Real estate experts say even the splashiest new pools boost an average home's value by less than 10%. Still, most people who construct waterfalls and poolside theaters are speculating on their dreams, not their finances. It's fine with them if the costs are sunk.
--By Jeremy Caplan
The sleekest new pools are designed to look like they go on forever, blending into the horizon. Their so-called vanishing edges create an optical illusion, making it seem as if the water flows far beyond the pool's walls. Diving boards? Forget it. They ruin the effect
Automatic Pool Cleaners
Underwater scrubbing is a pain. These days, robotic gizmos calculate a pool's dimensions, then scour its bottom, sides and steps for dirt and debris. And adding chlorine manually is a thing of the past. Pool gadgets gradually convert salt to chlorine and pump it into the water, saving you the trouble of pouring in powder yourself
To avoid baking in the dry sun, sunbathers stay cool while browning in the pool on shallowly submerged platforms. Often a foot or so deep, so-called Baja steps are custom-made and can be narrow enough for solo tanners or wide enough for tanning parties
Waterfalls and Fiber Optics
Sexy pool waterfalls, illuminated by a rainbow of colors, separate the new super pools from the Clark Kent variety. Some of these waterfalls and glitzy fountains rise out of elaborate deck sculptures. They are lit by multicolored lights run by wireless remote
Deck trinkets for the gourmet crowd include a $1,700 ice cream maker and a giant rotisserie grill. This KitchenAid boasts a fridge, a sink and a bar
New high-end models include a $450 Bose pair with 360° sound dispersion. The speakers are also waterproof, so they should be safe during splashy poolside parties
Set atop lava rocks and enclosed by brick or stone, these glowing hearths add dramatic flair. Fireplaces are also trendy poolside, either built in with a mantel or small and portable
Hot Tub Theaters
Cal Spas' Galaxy boasts a 42-in. pop-up plasma TV, a built-in DVD player and 49 jets to massage your back, neck and bottom. But this tube tub doesn't just scrub your bodyit may also clean out your wallet. Cost: $35,000