Saturday, August 23, 2014

Treading Water–A Swim Academy Interiors Project

I’m finally coming up for some air in the midst of a busy summer!  I somehow thought, with all of the kids being out of school and vacations reemerging as the seasonal norm, July and August might be a little slower.  Thankfully, these months have been filled with some project completions, stunning photography and some new work with fast deadlines. 

Sink or Swim

While I like reasonable turn-a-round times, I also enjoy knowing we’ll have a projected beginning and ending to our work.  It makes for a much better outcome than to have things drag along.

One of the lovely project surprises came from a previous client, who happens to be the owner of a local swim school, Charlotte Swim Academy.  A side note:  If you happen to be a parent who would like to get your little fishes into the water and with personal attention and care, I’d highly recommend checking them out, and not just because they’re my client.  They have a very client-oriented business model and can articulate it much better than I might be able to share in a post.  Just know your child will have the ultimate experience as they work with them, one-on-one.  In fact, after having a great chat with my client, Martha Sue Crowley, it sounds like we have similar philosophies in personal client care.


We’ve worked together on her residential projects, so I was honored and excited when she called me about helping her to update the pool area, as well as some entry and lobby spaces.  The goal was to make it feel be more connected, more cohesive and well, fun! 

The turn-a-round time on this project was one week.  Yes, we had six days to make it all happen!  Before it begins to sound like a “TV” moment, let me assure you, we had several months to work out all of the designs and logistics.  What may seem simple isn’t always the case.  As we go along, you’ll see some of the challenges we faced.

Here’s where we started in the pool area.  Definitely the core of her business:

Charlotte Swim Academy Pool Area Before Photo

The equipment and training devices were pulled away from the wall and you can see the beginning of the taping as it went up.  Thanks to Bob Andrews for this shot from his scaffolding!  More about Bob, in a few.

With every project, we not only consider the design concept, we also consider the method of which the concept will be implemented.  It’s all well and good to put some “pretties” on the drawing board or the computer, but we have to consider the environment and how we’re going to make it happen. 

To make a long story short, after going through the virtual team rolodex, I realized we needed to outsource some of the work and I was so fortunate to have the team of Bob and Cindy Andrews brought to my attention.  They not only do decorative painting, they also train others and create custom stencils for amazing projects.  I was sure this might be a little more “routine” being that we were working with stripes.  Ah yes, that “assume” word gets you every time.  Think textured walls and a humidity level that would keep any complexion glowing, even in the dead of winter!  Thankfully, we had built in some wiggle room into the timeline and we used every minute of it.  Duct tape works miracles when all else succumbed to the moisture - but having someone who will stick through a project, even to tighten up rough edges by hand with an artist’s brush?  . . .  They got a huge high five!

Here is a ‘during’ shot of the opposite end of the pool.  We added some nautical stripes, life rings and customized banners to help bring in some visual interest, as well as it helps to incorporate logo colors.  The elements also added a way to bounce light back into the space. Another goal was to keep things interesting but visually uncluttered.  I think we hit the mark.

Charlotte Swim Academy Pool Installation Being Completed

Another shot from Bob’s perch, above.  My installer, Anthony, could almost reach the top band without a ladder.  We’re definitely Mutt and Jeff, when standing side-by-side.  I’m off to the right, with my client, as we consider placement of the life rings.

Charlotte Swim Academy Installation by Wanda S. Horton Interior Design

This shot gives you a great perspective on the scale needed for the banners we installed.  Proper scale is one of the key ingredients to a creating a great end result.

Even though it took “just” a week to get the major installations and painting completed, we had to allow for the pieces to come to us from other areas.  Laurie Laizure, of Customized Walls, was my savior!  We needed to create something whimsical, sustainable and moisture-proof for this space and Laurie’s team met all of our needs and in a blazing-fast turn-a-round.  From NH to NC in a week from final approval to delivery!  The 30” life rings had to be ordered from a California company because only small sizes were available, locally.  They freighted them via a Virginia warehouse.  Yes, we spend a bit of time tracking down deliveries to make sure everything is in place, come installation day.

Charlotte Swim Academy Installation - Wanda S. Horton Interior Design

The entry to the pool also received some extra “zip”, here the stripes took away the “tunnel” effect of a one-color hallway.  Some informational photos will be placed in the frames and those will continue down the wall.  New cove base is arriving, too.  My client had found the adorable fish lights at IKEA, last year, and it was a jumping off point for our design.  Definitely fun and fresh!


A big difference from the ‘before’, don’t you think?  A bit less clinical and a lot more welcoming.

Charlotte Swim Academy Before Pool Entry

The phone photos don’t do this all justice and we’ve got some signage and a few other tweaks to go, but come Monday morning, the pool will be back in the business of teaching little ones some confident swimming skills.  We hope the parents are going to be delighted with the changes and while the interiors don’t make for superior swim instructors, we know how important ones work environment can be in allowing us to bring out the best of ourselves to the world.  And I think the clients will also enjoy their overall experience, too!

As they say at Charlotte Swim Academy, “Great beginnings lead to great finishes!”

All my best - Wanda

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