3 Portland Swimming Pools to Drool Over

Sorry: they're all private.

By Marty Patail July 10, 2017 Published in the August 2017 issue of Portland Monthly

The calls started in January—even as Portland was still thawing out from the worst snowstorm in recent memory—and they haven’t stopped since.

Kary Reinke, who owns Pacific Northwest Pools with her father, R. Lynn Peterson, says their 24-year-old pool installation and renovation company started getting requests in the dead of winter: to design entirely new private pools, to bring neglected pools back to life, to spiff up old apartment building pools for suddenly younger, more affluent tenants. By April, they were booked up through 2017. And it’s not just their company.

“If you find a pool installer who can squeeze you in, run,” warns Reinke. “Everyone good is booked up.”

As we await our own moment (and space—and funds), we invited ourselves to a few of the area’s most envy-inducing plunges. Consider these dips a dose of August inspiration.

The Masterful Modern

When architect Mike McCulloch set out to design this pool (pictured above) in the backyard of his family’s home in the Northwest Hills a decade ago, his goal was to create a “natural swimming hole” with a view. The project’s construction company, Cascade Pools, advised against ringing the pool with rocks for safety reasons, so instead he imitated the color of Opal Creek. The dark terrazzo bottom creates a stunningly vibrant natural blue-green color—and he filled the pool with salt water.

“It’s the same salinity as human tears, which is enough to keep liquid from supporting microbial life,” McCulloch explains. “You can’t taste it, nor do you have to completely rinse yourself off afterwards. It’s much easier on your skin and your hair than chlorine.”

The interior of the pool is partially ringed by a two-foot-deep shelf to allow nonswimmers, waders, and little kids to get in the pool without being fully submerged. A swimming lane along one edge is deep enough for exercise laps. There is a propane heater backup, but the family mostly relies on a solar-powered system for natural warmth. This year’s terrible weather did not deter the family of six from using it starting in April.

“I go regardless,” McCulloch says. “I like it cool. I go swimming at 75 degrees. My wife likes it at 90. We battle in August.”

The Quick-Change Artist

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Reinke’s own pool, below her house in Damascus, alternates between summer cool-down and winter warm-up. A translucent cover retracts manually, allowing sun to shine down on the water. The structure accordions back out when the rain comes to allow year-round swimming. At night, underwater lights illuminate the bright blue waters in a variety of colors, including purple and pink, creating a party vibe for the attached bar and pool house.

The Fabulous ’70s

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When Dirk Fournier and his partner, Efrain Lopez, found a house in Northeast’s Alameda neighborhood in 2006, a major selling point was the eight-foot-deep pool. Built in the 1970s (Fournier thinks), it was showing its age—but it had potential. Fournier, who owns a Northwest personal and business insurance company, removed the decking around the pool, poured new acid-etched concrete, and added blue stone and mosaic tiles, and a water heater. As the weather’s gotten warmer over the years since 2006 (this spring excepted!), the family uses it regularly between mid-April and September.

“One of our goals was either to find a house with a pool or a house with a lot large enough to build a pool in Northeast Portland. That’s very difficult to find,” he says. “We have twin boys, and we really wanted our house to be the draw of their friendship group.”

Top Image: Courtesy Lincoln Barbour

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