A View with A Room

With uninterrupted breezes and views, a lakeside pool house provides a relaxing and scenic year-round refuge.

According to Heather McKinney, FAIA, founderand principal at McKinney York Architects, the opportunity to design this Canyon Lake pool house was one the team were excited to jump on. “We were attracted to the site due to its natural and beautiful qualities,” says McKinney. “We really wanted this little building to be integrated so that the client could have the sense of the land flowing through it, the breeze flowing through it and the views flowing from it.”

The pool house is located a short walk away from the main home via a subtle downward slope that creates a natural transition between spaces. By working with the landscape instead of against it, and using a slight height difference to their advantage, the team were able to nestle the building in such a way that fencing would not be required around the pool. In fact, a third of the space is underground, “suppressing the building so that it flows with the topography,” says McKinney.

 “Throughout the design we were very conscious about where the fences were,” says architect Courtney Tarr, AIA. This was important to the clients to not only preserve their Hill Country views, but to appease their pair of golden retrievers who are now given easy access to the pool without having to bypass a gate. “The dogs ended up wagging the tail on the design,” says McKinney.

 For the structure itself, McKinney York chose a neutral creamy limestone both for the walls of the pool house and the pool itself. These materials not only tie in with the Hill Country style of the main home but also with the rocky terrain of the backyard. A charcoal gray limestone makes up the flooring so that the “pattern and material flows from inside of the pool house out to the deck,” says Tarr, in order to create a seamless transition between the interior coziness and exterior entertaining space.

 Natural wood tones complement the white walls and tile, giving the surrounding scenery a chance to shine, with a playful water ripple pattern bordering the sliding doors that can disappear into hidden pockets to create an opening almost 24-feet wide. “You can see the greenery, the sky, the lake and the pool water,” says Tarr. “We really wanted those colors to be the focus and not the wall.” The bathroom got its own special treatment; dark tile walls decorated with a pattern reminiscent of tree rings.

 One of the clients’ favorite pastimes is taking in the view of the lake from their verandas and patio spaces of the main home. “We didn’t want them to see a large metal roof interrupting the view,” says Tarr. “We proposed putting in a green roof and the wildflowers...to camouflage it in the landscape.” The man-made meadow “is a magnet for butterflies and birds...with an amazing array of very hardy plants,” says McKinney, all possible thanks to the roof being out of reach for the local deer.

 Not only is the green roof eye-catching, it’s also functional by keeping the pool house cool. “We wanted this to be an open-air pavilion that they could use whatever time of year,” says Tarr. The soil, plants and surrounding tree coverage insulate the area, while eight-foot-diameter fans keep the space quiet, serene and comfortable year-round without the need for disruptive air conditioning. Though a drip irrigation system is available, the roof is mostly self-sustaining save the occasional pruning.

When McKinney York Architects take on a project, they use three words to guide their work: Engage – Inspire – Belong. Designing with these words in mind results in places that feel natural yet bold, offering a sense of welcoming while still maintaining its distinction. But what is most rewarding to McKinney is the change her team’s work can bring to people’s lives. “That really is a big part of why we love doing residential projects,” McKinney says. “They’re so close to people’s psyche.”

With this project, McKinney York has created a space for reprieve, relaxation and rejuvenation. For McKinney, the beauty of the pool house comes from its simplicity and sense of place. “The form of the house is so clean and straightforward,” McKinney says. “You’re really away from the main house...it feels like you’ve gone on a retreat.”


McKinney York Architects
Austin 512-476-0201  |  San Antonio 210-953-8800