Portfolio – Poolside Paradise

Equipped with a full kitchen and entertainment system, this pool house was designed for parties all year-round


An automatic, glass garage door and large windows
create a strong connection to the outdoors on this
pool house by Randall Mars Architects.


A typical pool house may include a changing room, bathroom and a place to stow cold drinks and towels so guests don’t have to traipse through the main house, dripping water everywhere. But the pool house that architect Randall Mars recently completed for a client in McLean is anything but typical. Equipped with a full kitchen, loft bedroom, spa-like bathroom and a drop-down screen that allows guests to watch movies from the water, this pool house is a veritable vacation escape in the owner’s back yard.“This fellow loves water,” says Mars of his client, a bachelor attorney. “Every time he goes on vacation, he vacations somewhere where he can swim. And he loves to entertain around the water.” Mars and his client developed a plan to design a decidedly modern pool house that would nevertheless blend in with the main house and the traditional architecture of the neighborhood. The result is a masterpiece in brick, glass and stone that celebrates a strong link to the outdoors. Sited at the back of the yard and on an axis to the 50-foot-long pool, it screens off views of neighboring properties. Mars proposed a pitched roof so the structure would not stray dramatically from the surrounding architecture. “But at the same time,” he says, “we made the roof steeper so that it would be a little bit more modern and allow a greater volume inside. By increasing the pitch, we made it more striking.”The main entertainment area at the front of the house opens to a full kitchen with a range, Sub-Zero refrigerator, dishwasher and plenty of cabinetry. Behind the kitchen, there is a changing room with lockers and a bath with a large glass-tile shower. Stairs lead up to the open loft, which overlooks the living space below and the pool beyond.

One of Mars’s challenges was figuring out how to integrate the structure with the pool in the back yard’s limited area. The solution minimized the use of space while maximizing the project’s cool factor: Mars abutted the structure directly up to the pool and installed a glass, automatic garage door to provide both a visual and a physical connection between the indoor seating area and the pool. Besides saving space, says Mars, placing the pool up against the house “also adds a lot of drama because the pool acts as a reflecting pool from the inside. You can also sit on the edge under cover.”

Built for entertaining, the pool house is equipped with a drop-down, rear-projection movie screen designed so that guests can watch films from the seating area—or afloat in the pool. Meanwhile, a TV pops up from the kitchen countertop. From the kitchen, a large pass-through window opens to the side terrace, which houses an alfresco dining area and built-in grill.

Though the body of the pool house is clad in brick to complement the main house, Mars and interior designer Stephanie Radomsky selected other materials that would establish a more modern sensibility, including stone floor tiles (heated for year-round use), stainless-steel stair rails and concrete countertops. The front exterior volume of the house is clad in granite. “The stability of the brick anchors the pool house but the stone adds a little bit of life and greater character and craft,” says Mars. They found just the right type of granite at Charles Luck Stone Center in Sterling; masons had to specially cut the Van Tassell granite on site for its application, which resembles a dry-stacked treatment.

The same granite was used on the seat walls throughout the landscape program, designed and built by Surrounds Landscape Architecture and Construction. The project incorporates hardscape, lush plantings, strategically placed boulders, a fire pit and a hot tub built into the rocks.

Both client and architect are thrilled with the outcome of the pool house; Mars is now finalizing plans for a renovation of his client’s main house that will reflect the modernism of the pool structure.

Though they are a small part of his practice, Randall Mars appreciates the playful nature of pool-house designs. “We’ve done several pool houses,” he says. “It’s a fun type of project. Function is important, but function always revolves around somebody having a good time.”

Anice Hoachlander is a principal of Hoachlander Davis Photography in
Washington, DC. 

ARCHITECTURE: Randall Mars AIA, project designer; Kristen Uitto, project architect, Randall Mars Architects, McLean, Virginia.
GENERAL CONTRACTOR: Gruver and Cooley, Leesburg, Virginia. Landscape Architecture: Surrounds Landscape Architecture and Construction, Sterling, Virginia. INTERIOR DESIGN: Stephanie A. Radomsky, Fairfax, Virginia.


A dramatically pitched roof lends the structure
a modern sensibility.


The upstairs bedroom loft overlooks the pool. 


From the kitchen, a large pass-through opens to the side
terrace, which houses an alfresco dining area and built-in
grill. A concrete countertop serves as a bar.