Like so many renovation projects, this one started out small. When Andy Axelrad and his wife Kaleen Kittay moved into their Vienna, Virginia, home in 2003, they planned to convert the deck into a porch. But after living in the house with their two children for a while, the porch idea was replaced by a more ambitious plan. “The covered porch became less important when we saw how we lived in the house,” Axelrad says. Instead, he and Kittay, both doctors, decided to renovate their basement and create a full home gymnasium complete with a resistance pool, weight room and more.
For this formidable task, the couple turned to Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, Inc., the company they’d already consulted about their original covered porch idea. The project manager, Jeremy Fleming, guided them through the complicated renovation process, which included a 280-square-foot addition to house the indoor pool, as well as the reapportionment of the existing basement space to create a more convenient layout. The basement level now includes a guest room, separate billiard and ping-pong rooms, a movie room and a bath with all new fixtures and finishes. Though the original basement housed what Axelrad refers to as “a poorly stocked exercise room,” its walls and doors were moved during the renovation to accommodate a larger space for a treadmill, elliptical system, full weight circuit and high-definition television.
Impressive as the now-roomy basement is, however, the pool is definitely the main attraction. Twelve feet long by six feet wide and 50 inches deep, it’s constructed out of a fiberglass shell that encases a balsa wood mold. As Fleming explains it, “Balsa maintains heat and is very durable.” Sun Design dug the hole for the foundation, poured the concrete, and positioned the pool in the hole. “We built the room around the pool,” Fleming says, adding that getting the pool into place was the most challenging aspect of the project. “We had no access to the property for our digging equipment, so we used a 100-foot crane to transport the pool the 90-foot distance from the street to the hole in the ground,” he recalls.
In order to create a space beneath the pool area for equipment, Sun Design had to dig deeper than the existing foundation, placing underpinnings for support along the wall of the foundation facing the addition. The six-foot-deep space is accessible through a door in the floor, while the pool itself sits on a sturdy layer of foam atop the concrete foundation. “Fiberglass will expand and contract so it needs a giving surface,” Fleming explains. “Concrete doesn’t give, so we needed a layer of foam.”
The SwimEx pool is programmed using a panel on the wall which controls currents, therapy jets, variable times for exercising, temperature and underwater lights. “There’s no chlorine,” Axelrad says. “The pool is disinfected with an ozonator, which filters water with oxygen.” Axelrad explains that the filter oxidizes contaminants and eliminates the need for chlorine; it is set to turn on for a duration and frequency based on how often the pool is used.
Fleming designed the pool room to take advantage of views of the owners’ secluded, one-acre property, which boasts lush gardens and a Koi pond. To admit as much natural light as possible, he installed large picture windows along the back, placed windows high up on the wall that faces the neighbors’ house and added skylights.
Though the pool is one piece of fiberglass, the owners chose two different colors for it: blue for the interior and warm beige for the surround. Oversized porcelain tiles that resemble slate but in a warm beige color scheme pave the floor, while subway tiles in the same style and hue cover the walls. The bathroom tile and shower interior are done in the same tile, unifying the spaces.
The homeowners appreciate every inch of their new home exercise and entertainment center. “It’s a pleasure to have an idea and see it through,” Andy Axelrad says. “Sun Design was with us every step of the way.”
Photographer Greg Hadley is based in Fairfax, Virginia.
DESIGN & RENOVATION CONTRACTOR:
Jeremy Fleming, Sun Design Remodeling Specialists, Inc., Burke, Virginia.