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Designed for year-round use, this light, spacious pool house provides a funescape zone for the whole family

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When planning a new house or remodeling an existing one, homeowners often give their architect quite specific instructions. Occasionally, however, a client's brief isn't quite so detailed.

Commissioned to design the pool house featured on these pages, San Francisco architect Dan Phipps' instructions from his clients were straightforward: do something fun, they told him.

"I know the family well, as I did a serious remodel on their 1960s ranch-style house about eight years ago," says Phipps. "One of the owners is a games-software developer, so he's totally into fun. They have three very active children, and I wanted to design a space that would serve all of their needs."

Phipps saw a chance to depart from the style of the main house, and to create a structure that would fit naturally onto the site and sit well within the surrounding landscape.

The resulting design incorporates simple forms that are both angled and graceful, and work with the contours of the land.

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"I wanted the pool house to be viewed like a freestanding sculpture in the garden," he says. "We selected durable, functional materials – glass, steel and concrete – that have an innate character to them. The design of the roof lifts up into a scissor-like shape, letting in natural light and connecting the interior space to the outdoors."

To ensure it acts as a comfortable retreat during the hot summer months, the pool house functions as a sort of lanai with doors that open up and fold back to let the air circulate and enhance the physical connection to the pool.

A focal point of the design is the large kitchen, which bisects the sliding doors to sit both inside and outside the structure. It features a barbecue, dishwashers, utensil storage, a fridge and a bar.

Behind the kitchen area is a large rec room with a big-screen TV, comfortable seating and a giant shuffleboard table against the rear wall. To the other side of the kitchen is the sauna and the bathroom, which contains a bath and a shower.

"The owners and their children entertain a lot and the pool house is a great place to hang out all year round," says Phipps. "This is one of the hubs of the home, and it's where all the school parties take place."

Positioned up against the outer wall of the bathroom, a ladder leads to a small loft with clerestory windows, located above the sauna room.

First published date: 23 April 2004

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Credit List

Architect Dan Phipps, Dan Phipps Architects (San Francisco)
Main contractor Stroub Construction
Floor Colored concrete
Wallcoverings Lacquered Medium Density Fiberboard panels; red cedar; sandblasted integral-colored concrete
Countertop Colored concrete by Buddy Rhodes Studios
Dishwashers Fisher & Paykel DishDrawers
Barbecue Viking
Door & window joinery Steel from Hopes Windows
Faucets Dornbracht Tara Classic
Outdoor furniture Smith & Hawken