In the quaint town of Bedford in upstate New York, one resident took an eclectic idea of his to create one of the most unique in-ground swimming pools ever seen. To reflect his love for all things violin, the homeowner had a 1,350-square-foot in-ground pool that resembles a 1700s Stradivarius violin constructed in his backyard, which cleverly incorporates more than 440,000 individual pieces of glass tile.

The homeowner, who is both an amateur violin player and collector, approached the Mahwah, NJ-based in-ground pool design and construction firm, Cipriano Landscape Design & Custom Swimming Pools, to help bring this one-of-a-kind design to life. The company, which is known for its award-winning pool designs in the New York-tri-state area, helped morph the design to incorporate all of the parts of a 1700s era Stradivarius violin — from the purflings to the chinrest and even the bow.

“The process started when the homeowner came to us with the idea of designing it in the Stradivarius shape,” said Chris Cipriano, owner and president of Cipriano Landscape Design & Custom Swimming Pools. “So the shape was locked in, and then we had to figure out an appropriate scale that would fit the house, property and regulations, while still functioning properly as a swimming pool. How all of the features were depicted eventually came about through different ideas along the way during the design process.”

The pool consists of a custom blend of glass tile that was created with the help of Oceanside Glass Tile in Carlsbad, CA, which was made to depict the wood stain finish of the violin, according to Cipriano. “Jet black glass tiles from Oceanside were used for the perimeter, overflow spa and other details like the strings, f-holes and bridge of the violin,” he said. “We have used Oceanside in the past and the consistency of their product is great, and their ability to take the time they did working with us to get the custom blend just right was awesome.”

Private Residence

Bedford, NY

Designer/Tile Installer: Cipriano Landscape Design
& Custom Swimming Pools, Mahwah, NJ

Tile Manufacturer/Supplier: Oceanside Glass Tile, Carlsbad, CA

Stone Supplier: Valders Stone & Marble, Inc., Valders, WI (dolomitic limestone used for patio surrounding pool)

Installation Products: Mapei, Deerfield Beach, FL

Cipriano’s team utilized over 440,000 individual pieces of the glass tile — in ¾- x ¾-inch format — from Oceanside’s Muse collection to construct the 90-foot-long pool, which is 31 feet wide at its largest point and 16 ½ feet at the narrowest. The neck tapers from 8 feet near the body of the violin down to 6 feet at the end, truly replicating the Stradivarius shape. The surrounding patio was constructed with a dolomitic limestone set in a 24- x 24-inch pattern, while the adjacent dining patio was set in a French pattern with varying sized stones — all of which was supplied by Valders Stone & Marble, Inc. of Valders, WI.

Cipriano also integrated an array of custom features within the pool, including a 12-person perimeter overflow spa with independent LED lighting that represents the chinrest; two fish-filled Koi ponds filled with aquatic plants, built to resemble the bow of the violin, which are visible to swimmers through two transparent acrylic panels and outfitted with 250 fiber optic star-lights; fiber optic rope lighting detail that illuminates the entire periphery of the pool; almost 6,000 strands of fiber optic lighting to represent the violin strings, which can be synchronized with music playing externally; a riverflow jet system capable of creating a 2,000 gallon/minute current that’s strong enough to kayak or swim against; a heater; wireless technology that allows the homeowner to adjust any pool settings and landscape utilities directly from an iPhone; and an underwater audio system that makes listening to music underwater possible.

Although Cipriano has more than a decade of experience in the pool industry, he and his team encountered several challenges while designing the pool, mainly because it incorporated things they had never constructed before. “This project is the first time that glass tile and fiber optic lighting have been woven together in a swimming pool construction project,” said Cipriano. “We also needed to find a way to replicate the beautiful wood stain of the violin. This resulted in the creation of 15 custom tile blends that seamlessly transitioned the color in all directions throughout the pool. Installing that custom blend around the organic shape of the violin and all of the steps and swimouts without interrupting the transition or color required a lot of care and attention to detail.”

The custom tile was also blended to create a unique, four-way gradient pattern, which differs from the typical gradient patterns, in an effort to ensure the tile transitioned perfectly around the numerous curves and corners. “A custom gradient blend of translucent glass tile transitions in every direction to give the pool/violin greater depth,” said Cipriano. “A big thing we looked for was color correction across the different tile sheets to make sure the custom blend transitioned seamlessly. The tile manufacturer said the color in a gradient tile blend can only transition in one direction, so working from a centerline you can only go north and south or east and west. Our gradient blend transitions from red to brown in all four directions to meet the brown wall color.

“In order to achieve this, the tile company numbered the tile sheets from 1 to 15 for the gradient transition, and we then mapped out in Auto CAD every single sheet of tile on the main pool floor,” Cipriano went on to say. “During the installation, we had one person whose sole responsibility was to color correct the sheets as they were being installed.”

A quick installation

Although the design process took almost 10 months, Cipriano and his team of eight installers managed to complete the installation in only two months using a “paper-faced” method. First, installers applied Mapei’s Granirapid® thin set to the walls and floors of the pool. Then, the various sheets of tile were applied, sheet by sheet, with the paper facing up. After the tile set, installers carefully removed the paper off of the face of the tile sheets. Once the paper was removed from the face of the tiled sheets, installers cleaned the tile joints and prepared the tile for Mapei's Ultracolor® grout to finalize the installation.

Similar to the design challenges, the main challenge presented during the installation dealt with interweaving the fiber optic lights with the tile. “This project is the first time that glass tile and fiber optic lighting have been used together in a swimming pool, so we had no reference to go off of for that type of installation,” said Cipriano. “Figuring out the best and most effective way to accomplish that was one of the tile challenges.”

Despite the challenges, Cipriano and his team successfully completed the violin-inspired pool, which has received worldwide press and various awards, including the award for “Residential Tile Installation” at the Coverings Installation & Design (CID) Awards, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV, during Coverings 2014.