Make It Intentional and Fun

Software discovery leads to pool design career

Ten years ago, Brad Holley knew very little about pools.

Today, he’s design director at Pure Design Group, a luxury outdoor living design firm with extensive experience in Preston Hollow and the Park Cities.

In 2023, he took first place in the highly competitive Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge, competing against top designers from across the county.

“You get to design a totally unique outdoor environment for a hypothetical client, with an extreme wish list and unlimited funds,” Holley said. “What could be more fun?”

Fun is at the foundation of Holley’s career.

As a teen, his love of cars led to tinkering and repairing with his best friend and, ultimately, a stint at Discount Tires. That job led to an introduction to a construction company, and while working there in renovations, Holley stumbled upon software that would change his life.

“SketchUp was just this cool, free software I discovered one day while working for the construction firm, and it very quickly became my obsession,” Holley said.

While perfecting his SketchUp skills, he found a job opening for an assistant to a successful pool designer, where 80% of the job required using SketchUp.

“I didn’t know at the time that the designer, Randy Angell, was a master of outdoor design, but I quickly learned,” Holley said. “He really taught me everything I know.”

Angell encouraged Holley to take risks with design and introduced him to the Million Dollar Pool Design Challenge in 2017.

Holley didn’t enter a design until 2022, taking fourth place overall at the finals in Las Vegas.

A year later, he won first prize with a design he estimated would cost $4.5 million in real life.

“Every entrant is given the same hypothetical property and wish list, which is exhaustive,” Holley said. “In 2023, it was an ultra-modern home located on an intracoastal waterway in Miami; the space was small, and the wish list was crazy.”

Specs included items like a lazy river and an over-the-top outdoor entertainment feature. Holley was the only competitor to accommodate every item on the punch list, and he achieved this by maximizing space by creating a two-story structure that mimics the look of a yacht’s hardtop.

Day-to-day design is pared down by comparison, but is no less beautiful. Today, most of Holley’s clients request clean, modern designs. Holley’s primary goal is to create an outdoor space that looks intentional and that feels like an extension of the house itself.

“A lot of it is just play,” Holley said. “When I create a new design or model, it feels like I’m just playing with Legos.”

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