A Quick Guide to Pool Designs and Planning for Your Space

There are 10.4 million residential pools across the US, and it’s no wonder why. A backyard pool is the epitome of modern luxury. The right approach to pool design helps you enjoy the benefits of vacationing mere steps from your house. But how do you decide what the “right approach” is, and what options should you consider?

The Changing Shape of Pool Designs

Over the past century, pool designs have changed dramatically. Back in the 1920s, the limited number of technologies and materials made it tough to come up with something creative. Pools used to have straight vertical walls and perfectly flat floors. Curves and bent forms were out of the question.

In the 1930s and 1940s, a new shape pouring method made it possible to create oval pools and curvilineal pool walls. This allowed pool builders’ imaginations to run wild.

Since then, pool trends have been changing every decade. From natural-looking pools and pebble finishes to additional functionality and safety features, homeowners have been choosing from a wide variety of materials, shapes, water features, safety systems and much more.

A beautiful pool design coupled with excellent functionality and a reasonable price tag is no longer a mythical creature. It’s a reality you can take advantage of right now. Let’s take a closer look at the available options.

Start Exploring Pool Designs by Considering Primary Use

The first thing to consider when reviewing your future swimming pool design is the main use of your pool. Every homeowner has specific ideas and plans for how to best use their pool. These plans will likely dictate the pool’s shape, size, and features.

Water Exercise

Water sports such as aqua aerobics have numerous potential benefits, such as a healthy heart and toned muscles. Some people do aerobics or swim laps every day. If you are one of them, you might consider:

  • A more traditional rectangular pool
  • A deep pool (for those who don’t want to feel the bottom with their feet)

Traditional options may be your best bet; but if you are a water sports buff, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get creative with pool design. As long as you have an unobstructed swimming lane, you can let your imagination run wild and add a tanning ledge, diving board, and even a raised spa.

If you just want to have some fun in the sun and enjoy an occasional game of volleyball or Marco Polo, you can benefit from a pool that:

  • Has a round or oval shape
  • A reasonable depth (so players can stand on their feet)

If you want to exercise and play fun games, you can consider sectioning the pool to provide you an opportunity to do both.

Related: Swimming Pool Fitness Tips


If your main goal is to relax and enjoy a vacation-like aura, you can design a pool to have a resort feel. Such design can include:

  • Lazy rivers
  • Rock waterfalls (and other water features)
  • Spas
  • Tanning ledges

In addition, choosing the right decorative tile for the ground and walls of your pool can create a special environment and improve your swimming experience.

Fun with Children

If you have young children or grandchildren (or friends with kids), you may want:

  • A beach entry pool with an extended shallow end.
  • A dedicated kiddie pool right next to the adult pool.
  • An island in the middle of the pool connected by a bridge.
  • Pool slides and diving boards.

Considering your purpose can have a big affect on your pool design decisions. Figuring out how you will use your pool is the main factor in finding the right pool design for your home.

Create a Backyard Oasis

Many people choose to have a swimming pool because they want to enjoy a backyard oasis. Yet, oasis means something different for everyone.

For you, it might mean a tropical garden where the natural pool blends into the greenery. Perhaps it includes a soothing waterfall, too. Others may prefer an architectural pool for its geometric, sophisticated, style that complements the design of the house.

Consider if you want a seating area, a fire feature, an outdoor open or a wet bar. You may also want to leave room for a play area, tanning deck, or garden. Cabanas, pergolas, and trellises are all also great additions to a pool area.

These options can greatly enhance the beauty and potential of your space. You’ll also want to take into account the views of your pool both from the exterior and interior of your home. You want your pool to blend seamlessly into the overall design.

More Than Just a Pool

A backyard oasis is an extension of your home that allows you to relax, cook, spend time with friends and family, and even work. Besides the pool, you can focus on such elements as:

  • Outdoor kitchen – if you plan to cook for friends and family, explore outdoor kitchen designs, portable appliance options, and outdoor plumbing.
  • Lounging areas – add high-quality lounging furniture that can double up as pool chairs. The relaxation that cushy and comfy furniture brings can be perfect for stress relief after a long day at work.
  • Greenery – while the pool brings water into the picture, greenery provides fresh air and privacy. Consider putting potted flowers around the pool and planting trees or bushes with long stems and large leaves.

Remember that the pool is usually the focal point of your outdoor living space design, so consider designs that complete your vision. Adding water and fire features to your swimming pool can improve the look and feel of your entire property.

Related: Which Water and Fire Feature for Swimming Pools Are Trending?

Understand Bylaw Restrictions

Keep in mind that once you have a vision of the outdoor space, you aren’t done yet. You have to consider the factors that might cause you to rethink your plans:

  • Do your due diligence and find out what your local codes and bylaws are.
  • Research to see if you are in proximity to natural areas (this could impact your ability to get a permit).
  • Speak to your HOA representative (if applicable) because they may need to approve the design.
  • If you are planning to add lights, check International Dark-Sky Association's standards that help prevent light pollution.

You will also want to find out if you need a fence around the pool or just around the yard. Ask about height requirements for fences.

While this may seem overwhelming, an experienced pool builder can help you research the potential obstacles that may prevent you from building the pool of your dreams. They can also offer viable alternatives.

Consider Natural Factors

Before finalizing pool design, consider natural factors that make it possible to enjoy the pool of your dreams. Since no yard is perfect, you could run into unique challenges. Yet, it’s better to know about those challenges before you get started.

Examples of these challenges include:

  • Direct sunlight, wind, and shade may affect the location of the pool on your property.
  • Water drainage options can also dictate the location of the pool.
  • A sloping backyard could prevent you from placing a pool where you initially want it.
  • Proximity to house, trees, and other elements of your backyard could affect the shape or location of the pool.
  • If the site is next to a conservation area or in a flood zone, the pool requires special planning.
  • You may need to choose a special design to avoid pooling and direct runoff into catchment areas.

While these problems may seem hard to deal with, all of them have a solution. If you work with an experienced pool builder, they can provide suitable options. For example, a free-form pool is great for uneven backyards.

Plan for Future Features

Your vision for your backyard might not fit with your current budget. But that doesn’t mean you should change your plans.

Even if you won’t be installing some options right now, it is smart to make room for them in your final design. Things like water features are possible later if you have plumbed for them during construction.

It’s also important to remember that the purpose of your pool may change with time. If you build your pool to accommodate children, consider adding flexible features. When children grow up, you may want to remove slides or add lounging chairs to the shallow pool area.

Review Current and Future Landscaping

Existing landscape features such as hedges, mature trees, and gardens could impact your pool’s shape, size, and location. Even if you decide to remove these landscape elements, there could be a cost implication. You also must consider that young trees and bushes will grow over time. Though they seem far from the pool area now, their leaves could eventually be dropping into the pool.

The upside of landscaping is that you can really use it to your advantage in terms of privacy. Plus, it can make a yard softer, more lush, and balance the hardscape elements. Creative landscaping is a wonderful aesthetic tool you can use to enhance the design of your pool and backyard.

Think About the Color

Color choices are another element to consider when planning out your swimming pool designs. You can choose the liner color, the color of pool deck material as well as the shades of other elements like landscaping, hardscaping, and furniture. You’ll want all these colors to fit in with the existing color palette of your home’s exterior.

It is always a good look to choose complementary colors that have a bit of contrast. A deep contrast will make a big statement; however, sometimes it can seem like too much or may not work as well as you hope. Compare and match up colors carefully when making these decisions. A professional pool builder has seen many finished pool designs and can help guide you in these choices.

Choose The Perfect Swimming Pool Design

Building a swimming pool requires careful consideration, professional planning, and room to maneuver. Keeping all requirements and possibilities in mind makes it possible to design the pool of your dreams while increasing the value of your property and complementing a beautiful backyard oasis. Ready to get started? Find a California Pools design location near you.

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