News & Politics

Beautiful Basements: Like a Spa

A Potomac homeowner wanted a pool. His house’s steep lot made it perfect for adding one to the basement.

Floor-to-ceiling glass doors surround this heated saline pool on three sides and bring the outdoors in. Photograph by James Ray Spahn.

If You Want to Put in an Indoor Pool

Drain efficiently

Instead of having a few drains near the pool—a system prone to
puddles—install a trough system that surrounds the entire pool and
collects any water that splashes out.

Keep it separate
A pool room needs its own HVAC system with dehumidifiers and
exhaust fans; otherwise, moisture can damage ductwork throughout the

Less is more
An automatic cover that retracts is unnecessary for a pool this
small. To keep humidity in and the water clean, you can buy a portable,
floating cover for a fraction of the cost. It looks like bubble wrap and
offers great insulation, can be cut to fit any size pool, and easily rolls
up to be set aside when the pool is in use.

A nature lover, David Stang had hoped to build an outdoor lap
pool at his new home in Potomac. But when he began working with architect
Jim Rill on the plans, he realized how many of the house’s beautiful,
mature trees would have to be cut down to make room. “We also realized
that heating an outdoor pool would use a great deal of energy,” says
Stang, “and it would only give us one season of use.”

Because the house is built into a hill, it turned out to be
ideal for a walk-out basement. “We were able to do an about-face and move
the pool inside,” says Stang.

Rill proposed a 9-by-15-foot indoor soaking and exercise pool
surrounded by three floor-to-ceiling glass walls that can slide open in
warm weather. Much of the rest of the basement—which includes a guest
suite, a family room with a TV, a kitchenette, and a workout area—is

To exercise, Stang attaches to his water shoes or waist a
bungee cord affixed to the edge of the pool: “My wife and I use it
individually for workouts, and perhaps once a week the two of us hop in
together just for the fun of it.” The saline pool is typically heated to
78 degrees, but if guests want to take a soak, the couple can bring the
temperature up to 82.

The look is spa-like and organic: Cedar ceilings meet glass
walls, and natural flagstone floors extend to a terrace with a koi pond.
“The glass walls put us in nature,” says Stang. “We took painstaking
efforts to keep the trees alive through the construction process,
retaining a rich habitat for birds, squirrels, and other

Explore More Beautiful Basements ››

This article appears in the August 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.