A major draw to any vacation resort is having access to a luxurious pool. So why not create that amenity right in your own backyard? According to Jake Lavagnino with Aspire Aquatic Architecture, your backyard is an extension of your home. If a pool is something you’ve considered, he and his team can help identify your needs and create an environment that fits your objectives and space to enhance your lifestyle.
An Omaha native, Lavagnino spent a lot of time in the art room while attending Papillion-LaVista High School. Several of his family members were architects, which inspired his sense of design and creativity. He worked his way into landscaping with the intention of one day owning his own business, which he accomplished in 2017 when he started Aspire. “I’ve always aspired to do something great, and I had never heard the term ‘aquatic architecture’ before, so the name really appealed to me,” he explained.
His approach is to design well-thought-out pool environments and go above and beyond to make sure the client is happy at the end of the project. He starts by sitting down with the client and discussing what they want out of a pool: a place for kids to swim and dive? A shallow pool for floating? A pool/spa combination? “It’s not about what your neighbor has, it’s about your own lifestyle and a design that meets that functionality,” Lavagnino said.
He explained that pools are just like houses: they have a living area, rec area, and lounge area. People often think a pool has to be a large, rectangular shape, but he can design any shape to fit any size space. “I correlate our designs with architecture in order to give the pool an elevated look and feel, not just a traditional pool.” He also hand-sketches the initial design himself. “It starts to give the storyline of the project,” he added.
Once an initial sketch is approved, Lavagnino sends the design to an architect who creates a 3D rendering. “It’s amazing how closely the final project will look like the rendering, and once the client sees it, then the excitement builds,” he said. Once construction begins, Lavagnino helps the client with any additional ideas they might be able to incorporate, such as built-in seating in the pool, fire pits surrounding the pool, or rock landscaping.
Educating the client on the process and the materials is a major part of his job. Pool construction is a different type of beast,” Lavagnino said. However, he’s happy to move clients through the process. “In the past, I’ve seen my clients try to be lone rangers and acquire their own materials—some of which have incredibly long lead times or aren’t pool-suitable.” Lavagnino has learned from experience, and he encourages clients to trust his expertise and the process itself.
Projects can take anywhere from eight weeks to several months, depending on size and complexity, and of course, weather. “I’m pretty resilient and not easily discouraged by weather,” he said. Aspire will even tent projects when necessary. “We don’t rush through anything and hope our clients value the time it takes to do the project correctly. Building a pool is like choreography—there is a sequence of movements in a staged process and when all the pieces come together, the final result is beautiful!”
The Midwest can be the last region to adopt coastal trends, but fortunately, he said there are pool trends that he’s finally seeing in the Midwest. “As we progress with the concrete pool market, infinity edge pools are starting to become popular. We’ve also done a lounge reef in 12 inches of water, allowing people to still be involved in the pool but not fully submerged in water.” Lavagnino never does the exact same design twice so the variety of and demand for concrete pools has been good for business. More clients are building concrete pools, which last up to 50 years, rather than vinyl liner pools which can require repairs after 10 to 15 years. Aspire can also phase a project so that clients can easily add features when ready.
Strong communication and relationship building are at the heart of Lavagnino’s company. In fact, he doesn’t consider a project finished until he receives a referral from that client. “What I value most is that the client is happy and truly enjoys what we’ve designed and built,” he said. “Whether it’s new construction or an existing home, the design will always look like it was meant to be there from the beginning.”