Rob Grim and Kim Szymura had the perfect suburban West Chester home. Spacious and well appointed, it suited Mom and Dad’s needs, not to mention those of their three children and golden retriever.
The yard, however, was a letdown. “It was a place to play whiffle ball—not much to look at,” Grim says. “We knew there was the potential for much more.”
Instead of a flat expanse of grass, the couple reimagined their yard as a blank canvas for a family-friendly oasis. “Our kids are 17, 15 and 12, and we would rather they be with us,” he says. “We want our home to be the place where people enjoy hanging out.”
The centerpiece for their open-air getaway had to be a pool— a shimmering body of water that would be equally refreshing to the eye and body. The family also wanted to integrate a large freestanding hot tub, an outdoor kitchen area where they could enjoy burgers fresh off the grill, and a firepit to gather around after dinner under a starlit sky.
After a few false starts with contractors, the couple turned to Peter Fineman of Ted’s Pools, a custom builder in Newtown Square. “They wanted someone who could take care of the total package,” says Fineman. “We came up with a plan to give them everything they wanted within their budget.”
While the centerpiece was the pool, it also required creating topography for the yard, which was accomplished by hauling in large rocks and boulders of indigenous stone from an Avondale quarry. Now these retaining walls double as seating when the Grims entertain a crowd. “Since we were starting with a flat expanse of grass, we had to build in the character,” Fineman says.
The pool builder collaborated with Boyertown’s Triton Landscaping to create a low-maintenance garden of boxwoods, topiaries, sedges, grasses and compact trees, including a hardy flowering redbud. “We’re not gifted when it comes to taking care of plants that need constant attention,” says Grim. “The team at Triton picked plants that look beautiful but require very little maintenance.”
Set amid the landscape, the freeform pool is a deep blue, which gives the water the aura of a natural pond. A shallow shelf at one end is ideal for lounging in beach chairs. “We wanted it to look like a lagoon,”
The couple opted for a saltwater pool, which feels softer on the skin. It’s easier to maintain, too, since saltwater requires less chlorine than fresh water. “The feel of a saline pool is incredible—and there’s none of that chlorine smell,” says Grim.
To further enhance the space, Grim and Szymura integrated technology throughout, including speakers for music, a sophisticated lighting system and security cameras. They can control each element easily with their smartphones, which also allow them to turn on the waterfall, adjust the pool temperature and activate the cleaning system.
“We wanted things as uncomplicated as possible. We get alerts that tell us if we’re low on salt,” Grim says. “We can adjust the lighting to suit the occasion, from Caribbean to romantic.”
Szymura enjoys grilling in the outdoor kitchen, which is equipped with a kegerator and a refrigerator. The grill is connected to a natural gas line, which makes it easy to grill year-round. Elsewhere, a pavilion provides shade as well as a place to watch TV.
With all the new additions, the family now enjoys their yard almost year round, gathering around the fire pit in fall and dipping a toe in the pool at the first sign of spring. They also take pleasure in sharing the space with others, hosting events for up to 75 guests. But there are also intimate moments. A large bench is tucked away beneath a stone grotto that’s transformed into an aquatic retreat when a waterfall cascades from the top into the pool. “My wife and I enjoy champagne, and the grotto is the perfect place for us to share it,” says Grim.