Investing in a luxury pool and backyard is high on many homeowners’ lists these days. It goes without saying that planning the right landscape and hardscape elements to go with your swimming pool is the proper way to ensure a harmonious outdoor living environment.
To get a better sense of the investment homeowners are willing to make we reached out to two industry professionals that are at the very top of their games, Jason Brownlee and Chad Christenson. The landscape architect and pool builder both work hand in hand collaborating on high-end sophisticated custom swimming pools and outdoor living projects.
The Designer – Jason Brownlee
Although considered by many to be one of the top landscape architect firms today; Brownlee’s path started out like many in the industry, working for someone else. After receiving his degree in 1998, Brownlee immediately went to work for an architectural drafting firm.
“I was doing urban renewal and sustainable design,” said Brownlee, “It was interesting work, but I personally hated every minute of it. I was stuck in a back room and being told what to do and couldn’t really be creative. I started doing some residential work on the side and found a passion for that quickly.”
Being a high-end design consultant isn’t a typical role for someone of Brownlee’s background. Architectural drafting is very cerebral work in comparison to being a design consultant which does require an outgoing, extrovertive, and energetic personality. While the design aspect came intuitively enough, Brownlee admits that coming out of his shell enough to be able to converse with clients was definitely a learning process for him.
“To be able to read people, discover what makes them tick, what they want and why; that all helps me in determining what kind of space I’m going to create. It’s been a long process in learning how to get that out of my clients,” explained Brownlee.
The Builder – Chad Christenson
Chad Christenson on the other hand came from a background in construction. Getting his first experience while working for his uncle who was a home builder in Texas, he developed a passion for construction at a young age. After receiving a degree in Construction Science, Christenson began working for Turner Construction out of Atlanta, GA. A similar story to Brownlee, Christenson quickly decided that working for a larger firm wasn’t the ideal career path for him.
Deciding to obtain his General Contractor’s license, he returned to building homes with his uncle, this time in Destin, FL. “Shortly we realized that every single house we built had a pool and every single pool contractor we hired was a disaster,” said Christenson.
That was an aha moment for him. “Eventually, I went out on my own and started a construction firm and a pool company. I knew that if I could make the process better, even more folks would want a pool in their backyard,” said Christenson.
Relocating to Nashville, Christenson purchased a small pool company and has grown his business substantially over the years. Today, his firm Watermark Pool & Spa has built a reputation as one of the top luxury pool builders in Tennessee.
The collaborative energy between Brownlee and Christenson is undeniable. “As a designer, working with someone as competent as Chad is at construction is great because it frees me up to just be creative,” said Brownlee, “I don’t have to hold back something that I think is cool because of doubts about whether or not we can pull it off from the construction side.”
For all the high-end homes in Nashville, it’s not a market traditionally known for investing in pools and spas. The two are working to change that and the perception of what building a luxury backyard should be.
The trouble that many high-end homeowners run into has more to do with conceptualizing what to do with the blank canvas that is their backyard. A fact that both Christenson and Brownlee both acknowledged. Consequently, it’s a topic that Brownlee spends time explaining to his clients when designing a custom outdoor living environment.
Custom Pool & Luxury Outdoor Living – Designer: J. Brownlee | Design – Pool Builder: Watermark Pool & Spa
Are You Considering Investing in a Luxury Pool?
For those considering investing in a luxury pool, Brownlee poses a simple question.”If you are investing 5 to 10 million dollars on a home, and the intricacies from the interior to the cabinetry to the flooring – everything is top-notch; why stop when it comes to the pool? You didn’t go to Walmart for your cabinets so why spend the bare minimum when it comes to the backyard?” said Brownlee.
These days, homeowners in Nashville don’t appear to need much convincing to invest in a swimming pool. The market for outdoor home improvements and new pool construction is up substantially. Moreover, Brownlee and Christenson find themselves busier than ever before. Helping homeowners execute their grand vision for that investment is a process they know all too well.
Planning For Success – 3 Things To Consider
“The three things that I always look at are the house, the site, and the client,” said Brownlee. “I’m evaluating things like the architectural style and character of the home, sightlines, and other factors.”
“When evaluating the site, I’m looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m looking at what the asset limitations are and what makes the site special. There may be things we wanted to screen or disappear altogether. Where that connects with the house is important,” explained Brownlee.
“I want to meet with clients at their home and immerse myself in their world to get a feel for who they are,” said Brownlee, “It’s important to learn about their family, tastes, lifestyle, pets, everything. I want to find out what makes them tick.”
Bringing It Altogether
“Learning about the house, site, and client all come together to guide that process. Those three parts create the emotional theme for their outdoor living space and become the moral of the story or plot of a good movie,” said Brownlee.
Creating harmoniously well-designed outdoor living spaces that capture the essence of those stories is a clear differentiator. It’s what separates Brownlee from many other designers. Having an in-depth knowledge of construction is also something that fosters easier collaboration between builders.
“Jason understands the construction side. He knows what is possible but also knows how to push the envelope really hard,” said Christenson, “He’s the kind of guy that likes to find a problem and solve it with hydraulics.”
Luxury Pool & Outdoor Living Area – Designer: J. Brownlee | Design – Pool Builder: Watermark Pool & Spa
Some of the pools and outdoor living areas that Brownlee and Christenson collaborate on together are nothing short of breathtaking. It’s the wow factor of their projects which justifies their ability to charge top dollar for their services. Quite frequently, it’s a gamble that pays off very well for homeowners as well.
Where The Math Adds Up
“Everyone from California seems to be moving to Tennessee,” said Brownlee, “this client was a $2.1 million spec home outside of Nashville in Franklin. Nice but spec – the same builder had 3 identical homes in the same sub-division.”
“We added maybe $1.2 million to the backyard to do the pool, landscape, and hardscape. He’s sitting at about $3.5 million all-in on his investment property,” said Brownlee.
A Case Study on How It Paid Off
“As Chad is getting ready to put the final touches on it, there’s a knock at the door with an offer of $7.5 million cash and the client literally doubled his entire investment based on what we did in the backyard.”
Brownlee’s story certainly is a great case-study on how investing in a luxury pool and improving the outdoor living space adds comfort and value to a home. It’s also a good barometer of how outdoor living amenities can move the needle on a high-value property.
We had a great conversation with Brownlee and Christenson that went more in-depth on investing in a luxury pool and backyard. Listen to our entire discussion on the Pool Magazine Podcast.
Mentioned on our Podcast with Jason Brownlee & Chad Christenson: Hayward, A&A Manufacturing, Pebbletec, ClearWater Tech, GENESIS