A rain curtain and architectural fire feature define a modern and artistic destination for a Westmod client. Photograph courtesy of Westmod.

Resort Experiences In Your Own Backyard Space

Backyard spaces are becoming destinations for a healthy dose of outdoor fun.

Whether palatial or boutique, resort-like experiences are just what homeowners are seeking for their personal “great outdoors.” From amenities to ambiance, backyard spaces are becoming destinations for not only delivering outdoor living functionality, but also a healthy dose of outdoor fun.  

“The fun we are incorporating into client projects like lazy rivers or water slides, swim up bars or sunken firepits all are based on the vibe the client is seeking,” says Ryan Hughes, founder and creative director, Ryan Hughes Design Build. “However, fun for a busy family can be vastly different from that of a leisure-seeking single or a couple wanting to kite surf from their waterfront. It all has fun at its core, but can come from multiple design perspectives.”

 Hughes has taken his interest in boutique resorts and world travel and applied each to creating unique backyard destinations for his clients. He and other experts in pool and exterior construction nationwide are taking fresh approaches to interpreting and executing customized outdoor living; all while focused on making backyards the ultimate destination for fun. 

Fresh and Fun Approach

Creating the perfect outdoor living spaces isn’t always based on a long list of amenities. For outdoor design experts, less can be more and fun can be found in simplicity and taking a fresh approach.

Photograph courtesy of Westmod

 “Our clients are looking for more simplicity and ease of use,” says Nick Fuentes, president and owner of  Westmod. “We strive to create intuitive spaces and find our clients embrace these as well. They lean into using higher end materials and more straightforward designs. Our specialty is modern and sleek as we find aesthetics are as important as function. People have fun when they are in well-designed spaces that feel like their own private resort.”

A simplicity of design makes the perfect platform for the addition of custom amenities and ultimately the creation of welcome outdoor spaces. 

“We are seeing the percentage of free form pool designs diminishing,” relates Tom Casey, vice president of sales, Anthony & Sylvan Pools. “Cleaner and more straight-line pools are growing in appeal. Each pool still accommodates features, but the pool shapes are being simplified and are more geometric in nature.”

Photograph by Jimi Smith Photography

Destination Fun

Once the outdoor stage is set, elements capable of maximizing the experiences are unlimited. Through engineering, planning, and creativity, experts are delivering customized outdoor living.  

“The latest destination amenities that our team has been designing into outdoor living projects range from putting greens to pickle ball courts,” says Tal Thevenot, president and principal designer of AquaTerra Outdoors. “We love the process of understanding and accommodating clients and their lifestyles.” 

Photographs by Jimi Smith Photography

While a lazy river may not be for everyone or every pocketbook, for Hughes and his team, the addition of exotic elements is key to adding playful vibes. 

“We seize upon every opportunity to insert fun and entertainment into our designs,” says Hughes. “The addition of an acrylic window between a pool and sunken fire pit, for example, isn’t just a cool little viewport; it also checks the box as a playful element for the kids.”

A family fun destination is created in multi-level outdoor designs by Ryan Hughes. Photograph by Joe Traina.

Sunken intra-pool areas, whether for dining, lounging, or fire continue to grow in popularity. Custom constructed sunken lounge areas give outdoor spaces a sense of the unexpected and multi-level points of view. 

“Imagine a barbeque grill that you don’t even have to get out of the pool to access,” points out Casey. “With a sunken barbeque pit installed in your pool, a homeowner can cook and eat while still in the pool.”

Multi-Style Fun

Incorporating differing points of view or destinations in one outdoor space calls for elements and engineering, but also expert planning.

Simplicity of design and modern materials are found in pools by Anthony & Sylvan. Photograph courtesy of Anthony & Sylvan.

“We were recently asked to design within a single project, areas for fun from two very different perspectives,” recalls Hughes. “Our plan included both an adult aesthetic through a modern, geometric pool, as well as a family-friendly destination with a rocky grotto and 30-foot waterslide. Sleek wooden decks were crafted to give a smooth transition. Ultimately, we were able to provide fun on multiple levels in one flowing outdoor space.” 

When design destinations vary within a single project, blending can be accomplished while also adding more fun. Fuentes’ Westmod has had success using rain curtains within pool designs for just this. A space-defining waterfall effect can add a sleek element that also delivers a modern twist on typically natural grottos. 

Photograph courtesy of Anthony & Sylvan.


Other resort-like amenities being added to outdoor spaces include sun shelfs or spa-side water features, outdoor lighting, or outdoor kitchens. With the addition of technology or smart applications, the ambiance and destination appeal each can create is further enhanced. 

“We have seen significant advancements in technology and materials with regard to pool construction,” states AquaTerra’s Thevenot. “In addition, we are finding that families value the outdoor experience more than ever and are willing to make a significant investment into extending their entertaining spaces.”

AquaTerra incorporates modern lighting to deluxe outdoor rooms. Photograph by Jimi Smith.

When budget is not a concern, AquaTerra has incorporated an amenity that marries automation and destination in a unique way. Movable pool floor systems, like those produced by Akvo Spiralift, are able to transform the layout of an outdoor space. By vertically raising and lowering a pool floor, multiple experiences can take place within the same footprint of the pool.

Photograph by Jimi Smith.

“We can automate everything outdoor from gourmet kitchens to spas,” continues Thevenot. “We are reaching way beyond just the pool to find elements to create a transformative experience throughout the space.”

Fun Beyond the Pool

In the great outdoors, resort lifestyle does not end at the pool’s rim. Destinations are created through delivering the desired vibe across the entire outdoor space. 

“When you are able to relax, cook, eat, exercise, and entertain all in one place, it makes the space feel like you are in your own private resort,” comments Fuentes. 

For Anthony & Sylvan clients, beach entries are a popular custom feature. By incorporating a sloping water covered entry, the design feature not only provides a fun destination mystique for the pool area; but also adds greater ease of entry for all family members.  

Within the outdoor space of a Ryan Hughes project, an environmental challenge was turned into a resort-esque solution and a unique opportunity for fun. 

“We built an entire custom beach for one homeowner,” relates Hughes. “We reached a limit to the amount of hardscape we were able to construct due to the property’s waterfront setback line. But, we could do a beach; so, we brought in sand and created a huge fun-filled functional space adjacent to the pool area and along the shore. The result was a waterfront launch pad for the homeowner’s kite surfing. Now, that was fun.”

In the great outdoors, elements for destination outdoor living can range from simple to simply spectacular.  Through the creative use of the latest materials, designs, and detailing, resort-inspired outdoor spaces are being crafted into ultimate destinations for fun.

anthonysylvan.com, aquaterraoutdoors.com, akvospiralift.com, ryanhughesdesign.com, westmoddesign.com  

Get Our Email Newsletter

Sign up for our monthly email newsletter to get the latest from featured pool builders and designers who create the ultimate backyard escapes.
Stop dreaming and start planning your backyard retreat.