Taking the Plunge
Soake Pools provides the perfect inspiration and rehabilitation for a professional landscaper’s backyard retreat.
Sometimes the solutions to our problems can be found in our own backyard. Certainly that was the case for Jay MacMullan, owner of MainStay Landscape, when his wife, Mandy, was suffering from a back injury. “Mandy met with several specialists who said that back injuries can be debilitating, and take quite some time to heal,” MacMullan explains. “She has been fit and active for her whole life, and this situation was really a challenge.”
Serendipitously, MacMullan was intrigued by a new product that was being featured on “This Old House,” a plunge pool fabricated by Soake Pools in Pembroke, New Hampshire. MacMullan suddenly thought he might have a solution for his wife. MacMullan, who is now one of the preferred partners of Soake Pools, decided to install one of the compact, low-maintenance pools in his own backyard.
Soake Pools was founded five years ago by Brian and Karen Larson, who had experienced an outdoor saltwater pool while on vacation in Stowe, Vermont. “From the moment we came home, we kept talking about that pool. The ability to swim in the off-season became a highlight of our vacation,” Karen recalls. “Brian was convinced he could develop a small precast version of the pool that we could use year-round.” Sure enough, Brian applied his passion, along with enough technical know-how and intrepid research, to have created their first plunge pool within a few months. Karen barely noticed his efforts, since she owned a busy chocolate confectionery in downtown Durham, but upon his big reveal she says, “He was clearly proud, and I think it confirmed exactly what he suspected when he set out to create a pool for us. He said, ‘I think we can sell these.’ Five years later we have both left our real jobs behind and have five great employees that provide custom fabrication of the pools for clients throughout the northeast.” Karen, who handles the business and sales end of the business, says she never thought life would end up here, but says she is delighted and grateful to be working with wonderful homeowners and partners like MacMullan.
For the MacMullan’s own pool, Jay opted to have it installed as a flush unit, meaning that the coping edge of the pool meets his landscape: in his case, lush, healthy green grass. Soake works with each homeowner to determine the functional and aesthetic elements of the pool. “Each pool is cast from concrete and brought into our warehouse,” Karen explains. “Then, we finish the pool with tile and other details, all before delivering the unit for installation.” The pools are then professionally excavated and installed by a reputable landscape company. MacMullan’s expertise and experience with construction and masonry allowed him to incorporate the pool into an optimal scenario for his Osterville home. Those choices included Blue Mist granite for the coping that was also used for the surrounding patio and the floor in the outdoor shower.
“Even though it is technically our ‘summer home,’ this is where we spend a lot of our time,” MacMullan explains. “Mandy has been able to significantly relieve her back pain and swims year-round.” Most might look at a plunge pool and not immediately understand the recreational benefits, but Larson says that many of their clients utilize a low-tech, remarkably affordable and effective resistance belt that allows a vigorous and restorative workout. Soake Pools’ tagline is ‘Small Pools, Big Benefits,’ a phrase that is made true by the fact that clients are able to fully enjoy their pools without the significant investment and maintenance of a traditional backyard pool.
MainStay is a boutique design/build landscape company that creates custom environments for their clients both on and off-Cape. “A good friend of mine growing up had a grandmother with an elaborate garden in Osterville,” MacMullan remembers. “I spent a lot of time at their home and I was fortunate that they shared their knowledge and passion for gardening with me. All of that left an impression upon me, and I think that is where my passion for this business began.” The roots certainly seem to run deep, as the MacMullan’s backyard attests. Shade gardens, mature plantings, a Lavender hedge surrounding Hydrangea, Hakonechloa grass and Rozanne geranium in the new pool area all demonstrate MacMullan’s keen eye for landscape design.
The yard’s hardscape is dotted with a favorite product that MacMullan places in many of his clients designs: a miniature LED light that is core drilled into walkways, patios, steps or driveways and twinkles as though the stars have fallen to earth. In addition to the hardscape, MacMullan and his crew have built a large and comfortable fire pit making the perfect place to gather during summer evenings, as well as cooler off-season nights. Mandy says, “This pool has been such a joy—not only has it helped me heal, there have been countless happy days in the pool together, as well as sunsets and evenings looking up at the stars.” MacMullan’s creativity is displayed with an antique soapstone sink that is now the ultimate bathing station for his dogs.
That vacation in Stowe changed many lives, not only the Larsons and the lives of their special clients, but for the MacMullans: Jay, Mandy, their daughter Mimi and their Golden Retrievers Copper and Sprite, their home in Osterville has truly become a place to heal.
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