Pool Designer Creates Life Experiences in the Backyard

Saline MI Vinyl Liner Gunite Hybrid Pool Legendary Escapes 2009 (325)
Saline MI Vinyl Liner Gunite Hybrid Pool Legendary Escapes 2009 (325)

“I’m not interested in what the pool looks like,” declares Al Curtis, Ask the Pool Guy of Legendary Escapes.

While those words might seem odd coming from the mouth of one of Southeast Michigan’s premiere pool designers, they make perfect sense in light of the work Curtis has done for select local homeowners. It’s not about the pool, he insists, but the overall experience. “I’m interested in how it makes the owner feel, and how it enriches their lives.”

Take, for example, the hybrid vinyl/gunite pool and backyard resort he built for a homeowner in Saline. Far more than an attractive in-ground swimming pool, the entire design includes a swim-out seating area with a floating table; a 10-foot sun shelf where guests recline on lounge chairs in a few inches of water; a sheer drop waterfall that conceals a water slide; and a hand-built mechanical and storage shed built to resemble an old-west style adobe.

The covered outdoor kitchen boasts striking and easy-care gunite countertops, custom lighting, a hand-painted mural and fully functioning sink. There is also a free-standing tiki shade gazebo for those hot Michigan summer days, and a carved concrete fire pit designed to look like a hollowed-out tree trunk.

The client asked Curtis to build an outdoor pool area that would accommodate the high profile entertaining they did for business. What they received was beyond anything they could have imagined.

“I always like to challenge the boundaries of what people expect,” explains Curtis. “I deliver an experience, a life enhancing addition to their home.”

In an industry where builders are typically set in their ways, Curtis thrives on experimenting and expanding what people can expect, particularly considering the short season in this climate. He thrives on giving homeowners something truly new, with design and function features typically only seen in high-end tropical settings. “Let’s give them something wonderful. Even if they can only use the area for a few months each year, why not make those moments extraordinary?”

For this Saline home, Curtis used a hybrid design featuring a vinyl liner pool, with elements of hand-carved and molded gunite to create rock features, waterfalls, and other exciting elements. This hybrid approaches maximizes the swimming experience, minimizes maintenance, and introduces unexpected whimsy and artistry in every detail.

The Story of Ask the Pool Guy

Ask the Pool Guy Allan Curtis of Legendary Escapes
Ask the Pool Guy Al Curtis of Legendary Escapes

Curtis loved the water as a child, always swimming and goofing around with friends in the warm summer months. Not even a near-drowning at the age of 11 could dampen his love for all things water. Reflecting on the near-death incident, Curtis understands it from an unusual perspective. “I’m sure it was terribly frightening for everyone involved – my friends, the woman who resuscitated me, my mom – but for me the experience changed the way I look at life, and death. I don’t fear death, and so I live my life without a lot of the worries and anxieties that plague so many people.”

As a young man, Curtis began servicing swimming pools, and eventually turned his work into a thriving business. As he branched out into creative design, he continued to do the vast majority of the work on his own; he believes this sets him apart from so many swimming pool companies.

“For about 95% of the work, it’s a one-man show. I bring in help when it’s time to pour concrete, or do other work that requires a few more hands. The rest of it – the hand-molding of the concrete, constructing the outbuildings, creating the water features – it’s all me.”

Because of his hands-on approach and fanatic attention to detail, Curtis has a well-deserved reputation as the “go-to guy” in Southeast Michigan. Homeowners and pool contractors alike go to him for advice. He constantly educates himself on new methods and new technology, and has built a solid relationship with suppliers too. His reputation as a trusted expert has led to a new service company concept that aims to improve the overall quality of residential pool service in Michigan.

“So many of the good technicians leave the area after learning the ropes,” explains Curtis. “They want to work year round, and I don’t blame them. My goal is to support their business, give them back-office and marketing support, so they can make enough in the short pool season to support them year-round.”

The concept helps small pool service companies by giving them a marketing and business edge, and gives the 50,000+ residential pool owners in the area better quality service.

Swimming in the Social Media Pool

Since pool work is not a year-round occupation, Curtis has found a creative outlet for the off-months. He co-founded the InSights Group in Brighton, an entrepreneur clubhouse and business idea incubator. Members, or “InSights Enthusiasts” as they call themselves, participate in Mastermind groups, trainings and social networking events, while working on their own businesses in a supportive and like-minded community.

The concept has thrived over the past three years, thanks in large part to the explosion of social media.

“We started using this thing called Twitter, and this Facebook idea, to market InSights Group,” he explains. “Along the way, we discovered the phenomenal power of social media in building your business network, and have been training small business owners in how to leverage it for growth.” He plans to expand this idea to help swimming pool company owners use social marketing to explode their own potential.

The social sphere has been a perfect place to introduce his “Ask the Pool Guy” persona on Facebook, and his Twitter followers number in the five figures and counting. Meanwhile, business continues to grow, and more homeowners are enjoying their unique, artistic backyard resort experience thanks to Legendary Escapes.