Planning a Poolside Retreat

Use these tips to figure out what you want and what you need in a backyard pool.
Backyard Pool and Spa

Backyard Pool and Spa

Bathe in beauty with this luxurious outdoor retreat. It features entertainment space for your entire family and more.

By: Peter Walsh

Ready to take the plunge and add a pool to your backyard? Be sure to consider why you want one and how you plan to use it before you go shopping.

Entertain, Exercise or Lounge

If you want to entertain your friends and family or simply lounge around, then you’ll want a pool that is large enough to accommodate a crowd with an attached deck or patio so your guests can comfortably play or relax nearby. For exercising, you’ll need one that is long enough so you can swim laps. The newer in-ground pools combine areas for entertaining, lounging and exercising by incorporating sitting ledges, tanning platforms and lap lanes all in one.

You also need to consider the expense and your budget, the maintenance it will require, if a pool will fit into your backyard, and how to make the pool an integral part of your overall landscape.

If you want an in-ground pool, don't just call a pool company for advice. "It’s a good idea to involve a landscape architect or designer from the beginning," says Bill Bocken, owner of Bill Bocken Architecture and Interior Design. A design professional will help you integrate the design of the pool into your property by making it work with the architecture of your house and the geography of your landscape. "It’s just like adding a room to your house," says Bocken.

Dreamy Pool Design Ideas

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Cool Pool Features

An attached stone wall with water spouts and adjacent outdoor living room with fireplace complement the curved lines of this nature-inspired pool. The stone used for the fireplace ties the two spaces together. Photo courtesy of Belgard Hardscapes

Photo By: Zack Benson

Recessed Lounge Area

Giving those who want to stay dry an option is always a nice idea. This unique pool features a recessed seating area "inside" the pool so everyone can enjoy the pool together. Design by Pool Builders Inc.; photo courtesy of Digital Wave Productions

Swim With a View

Whenever possible, design your pool to take advantage of views. Steps on each side lead to a raised lounging area that allows visitors to enjoy the stunning vistas that surround this pool and spa. Photo courtesy of Belgard Hardscapes

Photo By: Chipper Hatter

Rock-Star Retreat

If you want a pool with personality, go for an unexpected shape. This unique pool by Emerald Pools and Spas, Inc. was created for a homeowner who plays and collects bass guitars. Photo courtesy of The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals

Photo By: Emerald Pools and Spas Inc.

Nighttime Appeal

Evening ambiance was the design goal for this pool and spa by Alderete Pools. Pentair LED multicolored lights enhance the nighttime feel and the attached patio features a full stone fireplace. Photography by Andy Abrecht

Photo By: unknown

Cascading Waterfalls

This multilevel, freeform pool and spa from Memphis Pool offers stunning stone waterfalls and a large vanishing edge to add drama. Photography by James Roberts

Serene Surroundings

Be inspired by nature when you design your pool. A natural rock waterfall and an elevated pedestal spa are at the opposite ends of this lagoon-style pool by Pool Builders Inc. Photo courtesy of Digital Wave Productions

Perk Up Your Plant Life

This pool was designed to flow from the house to the open pool area surrounded by lush landscaping. The right plantings can add both shade and intimacy for a pool. Photo courtesy of Neptune Pools Inc.

Photo By: Neptune Pools Inc.

Zero-Edge Pool

This four-sided zero-edge pool and spa by Alderete Pools makes a dramatic statement. Specially selected glass tiles surround the entire raised exterior of the pool to enhance the visual effects of the zero-edge design. Photography by Andy Abrecht

Lengthy Design

The curved ends and low-maintenance deck that surrounds this long and linear pool add visual interest to the pool area. Combining straight with curved lines provides a balanced look. Photo courtesy of TREX

Photo By: Laurence Parent

Zen Oasis

You can create an elegant but natural look with the right features. This pool and spa combination by Alderete Pools includes an attached large koi pond and stacked-stone spa dam wall. Photography by Andy Abrecht

Backyard Vacation

This glamorous pool and spa by Alderete Pools has the features that turn a backyard into a resort. A custom-built gazebo with built-in BBQ, sink, refrigerator and a granite-topped bar and seating are the extras that turn the pool area into an oasis. Photography by Andy Abrecht

Infinity Pool

This classic negative-edge pool by Pool Environments allows the homeowners to enjoy stunning views. The curved negative edge spans across the entire back of the pool. Photo courtesy of The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals

Photo By: Pool Environments

Swim-Up Details

Extra touches make all the difference for how a pool looks and feels. Swim-up barstools, a large outdoor kitchen and a well-designed lighting scheme give this pool a serious sense of style.

A new pool is not an inexpensive addition to your home regardless of whether you choose an in-ground pool or above-ground pool. It can add value to your home if it’s done right, or detract from the value if it’s poorly done.

A landscape architect or designer can help make sure you get exactly what you want, including placing the pool in the right location in your yard and helping you decide on the shape as well. "The client calls the landscape architect or designer and discusses their wants and needs," explains Joanne Kostecky, APLD and president of Garden Design, Inc. "We help them develop the whole space." That includes how you want to use the pool and how it relates to your outdoor living areas, including the hardscape materials like the decking or patios, and the landscaping so that there is a seamless transition from the house to pool. You want it to be a place you can enjoy and use for years to come.


"You want your pool to co-exist in peace with your whole yard," says Chris Polito, co-owner, Pool Environments. "We take in the landscape, hardscape and waterscape so that they all work in harmony." For example, in a big yard, he might place the pool further back in the yard but not so far back that it's disconnected from the rest of the outdoor living space. "You want it to be pleasant to look at because you look at it more than you swim in it," says Polito. "You don’t want a pool that’s an eyesore."

Depending on where you live, you might want to locate your pool where it gets either full sun all day or where it will get some shade so it's not so hot you avoid using it. A landscape professional can help with this.

10 Pool Deck and Patio Designs

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Less Is More

Boxwoods anchor the base of the rear porch columns while repeated use of the 2x2 thermal bluestone pavers set with lawn joints forms a grid-like pattern. Having lawn on all sides of the pool and spa helps make the space feel more expansive. Design by Barry Block

Mix and Match

Try using more than one material for your deck and patio. The rich combination of brick, redwood and stone adds character to this pool and patio area. Photo courtesy of California Redwood Association

Patio Flair

Integrate your pool with a well-designed patio. An attached fire pit with built-in curved seating and a dining area make this pool patio area family friendly and ideal for entertaining. Photo courtesy of Belgard Hardscape

Photo By: Chipper Hatter

Decked Out

Create activity zones around your pool. Different levels of decks offer places to eat, lounge and relax as guests enjoy this inviting pool and spa. Photo courtesy of TREX

Photo By: Photographer: Matthew Borkoski

Poolside Pavers

Consider texture when choosing materials. Chiseled surfaces, random shapes and pavers give this hardscape the look and feel of vintage cut stone. Photo courtesy of Belgard Hardscape

Photo By: Chipper Hatter

Hard Rock Appeal

Random pavers, natural stone coping and artificial rock were used around this pool and spa to complement the rustic setting of this mountain retreat. The pool is also accented by a large rock waterfall. Design by Alderete Pools; photography by Andy Abrecht

Plan for Shade and Sun

Whenever possible, provide options for those who use your pool. This poolside paradise and covered patio by Marrokal Design and Remodeling allows visitors to lounge in the sun or have a drink or quick bite in the shade.

Natural Stone

For this small and cozy backyard, a freeform pool and raised spa by Alderete Pools is surrounded by natural stone blended with artificial rock formations. Three extra-large urns and a stone water feature with custom fountains adds ambiance. Photography by Andy Abrecht

Jet Set

This modified rectangle-shaped courtyard pool features travertine stone coping and stone decking. Six deck jet water features are included on the side corners of the pool. Design by Memphis Pool; photography by James Roberts

Elevated Pool Deck

An extension of HGTV Dream Home's great room and bedroom, this pool deck is elevated 10 feet above ground level and overlooks marsh scenery. The space beneath the deck allows for both a patio and a garage.

Photo By: Eric Perry


The size of your pool depends on many factors. If you entertain crowds, you'll want a large pool that works with the size of your house. If you like to play pool games like volleyball or water basketball, you’ll want a shallow pool that is about 15 feet wide and 32 feet long, according to Polito. If you want to swim laps, then a narrow pool of about 10 to 15 feet wide and again, 32 feet or longer should work. For simply cooling off, a freeform kidney-shaped pool that has both a shallow and deep end is generally enough. Above-ground pools typically range in size from eight feet across to 30 feet across or more depending on the shape.

Most above-ground pools measure 48 inches to 52 inches deep, which is suitable for kids and adults alike. For in-ground pools, the trend is moving toward shallower pools of between 3 1/2 feet deep to 6 feet deep instead of a shallow end and a deep end. "Most new pools do not have a typical deep end as they eat up usable space," says Tom Mortland, pool division manager, Liquidscapes.

7 Sizzling Hot Tub Designs

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Light It Right

A 360-degree-perimeter overflow spa surrounded by a shallow trough with fiber-optic lighting highlights this pool/spa combination. Photo courtesy of Pool Builders Inc.


Serene Surroundings

This raised spa and adjoining pool features a vanishing edge overlooking a mountain lake. Stone coping and boulders were used to separate the pool and spa. Design by Memphis Pool; photography by James Roberts

Guest-Worthy Backyard

A pergola for shade and an adjacent fire pit are just two of the added features for this California spa. Built-in seating completes this user-friendly backyard. Photo courtesy of California Redwood Association

Zen Oasis

Give your hot tub a lush lagoon vibe. Added extras like tropical plants and stylish lanterns create a secluded backyard retreat. Photo courtesy of Cal Spas

Go For the Glow

This perfectly placed spa intersects the pool and the home's outdoor dining area. Numerous French doors allow the homeowners to enjoy the pool and spa lights from inside. Photo courtesy of Belgard Hardscapes

Photo By: Chipper Hatter

Man Cave

This special rock grotto creates a unique setting for an indoor spa. Homeowners can watch sports, listen to music or cool down with a fogging system. Design by Shehan Pools; photo courtesy of The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals

Photo By: Shehan Pools

Decked Out

Create a sense of intimacy for your hot tub or spa. Here a composite deck includes a matching fascia screen for privacy. Photo courtesy of TimberTech

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