Nowhere to Go But Up

Shelly Pecot’s elevated pool and deck blend modernist design, creative engineering and contemporary art
Audubon Blvd Pool 0554f

The elevated deck features an outdoor kitchen and dining area with built-in seating. The dining table is custom, with chairs from Ledge Lounger. The fan tile in the pool is from Stafford Tile & Stone. Facing page: A grout-free deck allows for drainage. The L-shaped seating area is completed with rocking chairs from Ledge Lounger and ceramic cocktail tables from Wayfair.

When Shelly Pecot bought her Uptown house four years ago, she knew she wanted to add a pool and outdoor living space, but she didn’t want to lose the much-needed and well-utilized parking area that occupied most of the space behind the house. Pecot and her two daughters, both of whom live in New Orleans, gather often and love to entertain so there are often multiple cars. Working with architect Tracie Ashe, partner of studioWTA, and Will Erickson of Yazoo Restorations, Pecot found the answer in “high design.”

“One of the most important parts of the project was creating an outdoor living space; it really needed to be connected to the living area, so a raised design was the most appropriate,” says Ashe. “It would meet all of their goals.”

The solution suited Pecot and the house. Having lived in Asia for 20 years, she was used to living in high rise environments and the circa 1920 craftsman-style house had already gone through an update with modern elements. The family room and kitchen were renovated a year before Pecot bought the house.

“The house starts traditional and becomes modern in the family room and kitchen,” says Pecot, who splits her time between New Orleans and Colorado. “It was an easy transition to keep that going to the pool area. We wanted it to feel cohesive. There is so much art in the home. We also wanted to carry that outside.”

The Spanish cedar deck includes a pergola that provides dappled shade, atmospheric globe pendants, sleek concrete walls, a dining area, a minimalist fountain, and hidden LED lighting. Four painterly Op-Art style aluminum sculptures by Pard Morrison (installed on bespoke shelves), from Arthur Roger Gallery, as well as a contemporary figural sculpture by George Dunbar, are mounted above the rear of the pool. The design also incorporates a nod to the house’s 1920s origins: navy blue, Art Deco fan-patterned tiles surface the bottom of the shallow tanning ledge at one end of the pool.

Because the engineering was as important as the look of the project, getting the design right would take time and patience. According to Erickson, the better part of a year was spent on planning alone.

“A lot of the plan is not typical of residential stuff,” says Erickson. “It’s more commercial. The best description I can think of is a boutique hotel swimming pool.”

Thirty-foot pilings and geofoam, a material used in highways, provide a stable foundation for the pool and a host of creative details — from a grout-free deck surface that allows for drainage to a water-cooling element that counters the effects of the pool’s full sun exposure — were worked into the final plan. A commercial company was hired to pour the concrete.

Shelly’s vision of an oasis also meant that the design would incorporate a multitude of indoor and outdoor amenities. On one side of the deck is an outdoor kitchen with quartzite counters, built-in seating for the custom dining table, which is topped with the same quartzite as the counters, stainless refrigerator drawers, a grill, a sink and a pizza oven. Nearby, is a slender pool shower.

The project was completed in October of 2020 and has been a welcome addition for the entire family during the many at-home days of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“I love the kitchen,” says Pecot, who enjoys cooking. “The pizza oven is my favorite thing I own, I think. It’s been perfect during COVID. The pool is heated and cooled, so we were swimming in December. And there’s a chiller because so much sun hits the pool. I wanted a nice crisp feel in summer. And there’s an outdoor weatherproof TV for Saints games and other fun things.”

Below the deck on the ground level accessed by a spiral staircase are a cabana bathroom and the most surprising feature of all, an aquarium-style window with a mermaid’s eye view of the pool, on one wall of the carport. The existing covered parking area, which now doubles as another hangout spot, was finished with corrugated perforated metal and tape lighting.

“Because of the nature of the construction, it was a substantial project to do for a pool and an outdoor living space,” says Ashe. “The gravity of the project merited that extra attention to detail.”

“It was complicated to build,” adds Pecot. “But it was well worth it.”