Imagine the perfect marriage of indoor and outdoor spaces, where the very best elements shine and complement each other, regardless of climate, season, or weather. That’s the promise of moving your pool experience—or even just some of it— indoors, whether that means a small indoor workout pool overlooking your backyard or a totally glassed-in pool space complete with patios, water and fire features, and spas.
For many people, the term “indoor pool” conjures images of noisy, claustrophobic, and overly chlorinated gym or hotel pools that are the absolute antithesis of relaxation. Not so with the newest batch of “best of both worlds” pools created by talented designers and innovators seeking to create seamless experiences that bring indoor and outdoor living together.
One project from Ryan Hughes Design/Build, dubbed “Elegant by Nature,” is a prime example. Enclosed in glass, it’s a totally protected outdoor living area with spaces for lounging, swimming, dining, and entertaining. It was designed to easily flow from the home’s interior.
“Glass-enclosed outdoor spaces provide a destination but one with the added advantage of year-round use,” says Ryan Hughes, founder and creative director of Ryan Hughes Design/Build. Depending on the climate, it can be heated in the winter or air conditioned in summer.
“Creating a large expanse with water, fire, dining, entertainment, and relaxation elements that’s protected and enclosed for year-around enjoyment equals the best of both worlds. Outdoor living with indoor comfort can’t be beat.”
Ryan Hughes, founder and creative director of Ryan Hughes Design/Build
“Elegant by Nature” boasts all of the elements that make up the best outdoor living spaces, with the pool at its center. It includes a sun shelf with lounge chairs, tropical plantings and fountains, state-of-the-art lighting, a fire pit under a pergola, widescreen TV, daybeds and hanging chairs, and a dining peninsula with outdoor kitchen and bar.
“It’s not about just the pool. You can lay on a raft and watch TV or dine at the outdoor kitchen. The space is decorated with details that make it warm and comfortable like the interiors,” Hughes says.
When creating a “best of both worlds” experience, it’s important to bring the pool and outdoor elements as close to the house as possible and incorporate details that flow seamlessly from one space to another, says Shane LeBlanc, designer and owner of Selective Designs. Doing so creates a sense of intimacy and allows the pool to function as a beautiful piece of art that’s enjoyable to see.
“The closer you bring the outdoor living space toward the home, the more you’re going to have that comfortable environment, that ‘I can’t wait to get there kind of place,’ ” LeBlanc says.
Bringing the spaces together also means choosing similar plants and flooring materials—even installing water features that flow in between.
The president of Aquatic Consultants Inc., Andrew Kaner, MLA, SWD Master, worked on one indoor pool in the Northeast with an enclosure of floor-toceiling windows and doors that opens completely on one side. It encourages year-round pool use and embraces the outdoors and harbor view beyond during the warmer months.
“It’s an uninterrupted view once you open up those doors,” says Kaner. “It creates a connection to the outdoor environment.”
Other interesting design elements include a glass ceiling for sky views and a floating cover that insulates the pool and cuts down on humidity in the enclosed space. Elements like these marry practicality with beauty and function.
Similarly, compact indoor vessels from Endless Pools feature swim-inplace technology and even underwater treadmills. They can be installed fully or partially above ground and finished with any desired material. Since the vessels are self-contained, the indoor uses are seemingly endless. For instance, clients might take advantage of a glass-enclosed sunroom that offers gorgeous outdoor views. They might even transform a basement area, garden shed, or garage into a year-round swim and exercise space outfitted with loungers and other features typical of outdoor environments.
“People are providing themselves a wonderful oasis inside,” says Mark Lutz, field sales director for Endless Pools.
Indoor-outdoor spaces also allow homeowners to flex their creative muscles. John M. Smieszek, owner/ operator of Liquid Evolution Pools, describes one pool that’s taking creativity to the extreme. Liquid Evolution Pools is working with the firms Refined Gardens and Candelaria Design, as well as the homeowner and home builder, on an outdoor pool with an indoor feature that’s unlike anything Smieszek has ever worked on before.
“There’s a slide that you enter in the yard away from the pool,” he says. “It travels underground, twisting and turning, and lands in a small pool in a room below the main pool.”
He says the slide will be very similar to ones at water parks—complete with LED lights and flowing water—but on a smaller level. The end of the slide will drop thrillseekers into another, smaller pool inside an enclosed, underground lounge area, built entirely under the outdoor swimming pool. Users can exit via a door and stairs that lead back out to the main pool area.
Siting your pool either entirely or partially indoors has myriad advantages. “Creating a large expanse with water, fire, dining, entertainment, and relaxation elements that’s protected and enclosed for year-around enjoyment equals the best of both worlds,” says Hughes. “Outdoor living with indoor comfort can’t be beat.”