Extreme Backyards

Turn up the fun and wow factor with these outdoor living design ideas

Photo courtesy of Current Systems, Inc and Platinum Poolcare


Imagine a lazy river winding through your own version of Jurassic Park, a waterslide extending from the your house to the pool, or an incredible piece of art as the centerpiece of your poolscape. It might sound over the top, but some homeowners aren’t content with the typical pool, hot tub, and outdoor kitchen. Instead, they want extreme backyards where they can turn up the fun and the wow factor for themselves and their friends.

Photo courtesy of Elite Concepts 


Ultimate relaxation

One way to get extreme is to dial up the relaxation potential, and nothing says relaxing better than a lazy river. According to Teri Wiltshire, special projects manager for the Master Pools Guild, lazy rivers are no longer the exclusive domain of resorts and other commercial pools.

“With customized jets that are available and specialized pumps, a consumer can actually have that lazy river piece designed and built into that ultimate backyard setting,” she says.

But for many clients, simply having a lazy river in their backyard isn’t enough. Wiltshire points to one client who not only built an island in the middle of his lazy river—complete with a faux palm tree—but also added a series of strategically place mini-fridges along the river’s sides.

“You open the door, grab your beverage, and keep moving on,” she says.

Others prefer a more active form of relaxation, which is why poolside putting greens, bocce courts, and other sport amenities are increasingly popular. Michael Nantz, SWD, principal of Elite Concepts, describes one project where a waterfall spills into a river that flows through the yard, dividing the pool from a huge putting green.

“Half the yard was the putting green,” he says.


Photo courtesy of Artistic Pools Incorporated


Fun but beautiful

Despite the proliferation of resort-like amenities in residential backyards, many homeowners still want their poolscapes to look elegant, not like playgrounds or jungle gyms.

For instance, today’s waterslides are a far cry from the freestanding slides and ladders of a generation ago, which were not only unattractive but often unsafe. Modern waterslides are a lot safer and can be beautiful too.

“Waterslides can actually be elegant now,” says Roxanne McClain, president of Dolphin WaterSlides. In fact, she says most slides are landscaped in and camouflaged to blend in with the rest of the aesthetics of the pool and patio.

McClain says Dolphin’s custom-created slides can be long or short, serpentine or straight, open or enclosed. It’s all up to the customer. Plus, they’re wide and deep enough for most anyone to ride them.

“It’s a waterpark-style slide in your backyard to go with your pool oasis,” she says.

Ron Coker Jr., president and CEO of Artistic Pools Incorporated, says homeowners often build waterslides into slopes so they look more natural, using boulders to help hide the underside, placing plantings alongside to create a natural feel, and often incorporating waterfalls into the ends.

“It’s kind of a formal Disneyland,” he says of one pool he worked on, which includes a camouflaged tube slide, waterfall, sunken kitchen, spa, and grotto, all placed among pretty boulders.


Photo by Karen Kuchs, Aquatic Consultants Inc


Making a splash

Fun and playful pool amenities achieve more than just a resort feel for your backyard; they can also encourage people to actually get into the pool rather than simply mingling around it.  A feature such as a swim current only adds to the reasons to get in the pool, says Philip de Tournillon, vice president of Riverflow Pumps by Current Systems, Inc.

“It’s not just what you look at; it’s what you experience,” he says. Installing a current into the pool gives the feeling of a river or ocean right in your backyard. It also allows people to “swim in place” against the current, providing a new layer of interest that promotes exercise or play. Currents installed underneath a slide to keep people moving after dropping into the pool are another fun option.

Currents aren’t only for swimming either. De Tournillon points to one client who loves to kayak against the current in his infinity-edge pool.

“He’s kayaking and his kids are having a blast,” de Tournillon says.

Rick Chafey, co-founder of Red Rock Pools and Spas, says some clients want water fun outside of the pool, and are requesting features like splash pads made to look like part of existing decks, or even more elaborate splash pads with dumping buckets and spray jets. Long tube slides, jump rocks, and lazy rivers add to the fun.

“It looks much like a very high-end resort project,” Chafey says.



Photo courtesy of Red Rock Pools and Spas


Over the top

Of course, sometimes part of the fun of extreme backyard projects is the number of exciting and one-of-a-kind details homeowners incorporate into them. Brian Van Bower, CEO of Aquatic Consultants Inc, describes pool projects with a beach at one end and a bar at the other, see-through acrylic walls that blur the line between water and sky, and even a pool with a huge piece of sculptural art in the center that’s not only beautiful but has seating inside.

“We are constantly trying to come up with new offerings for our clients,” Van Bower says.

Wiltshire remembers one pool in Texas with a tube slide extending out of the children’s playroom window, allowing the kids to hop into the chute, slide down, and drop right into the pool.

Perhaps the most over the top of all? Peter Davidson, Riverflow Pumps by Current Systems, Inc., describes one pool where the 300-foot lazy river winds through an entire prehistoric scene, complete with massive dinosaurs, rock walls, and canyons.

Clients like these “want to do something out of the ordinary,” Davidson says, “and add an element of drama.”









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