Designing a Poolscape: Blending the Pool, Home & Landscape

Pool Design: Coordinating the Pool, Home & Landscape

Creating a spectacular pool and complementary surroundings requires careful attention to detail so that all backyard elements harmonize with each other, the home and the region’s natural features.

“It is all about the aesthetic value of space and the environment,” says exterior designer Mike Nantz of Elite Concepts, Lewisville, TX. “When you are dealing with Mother Nature and the natural topography, it is very important to blend the pool into its surroundings so that it seems to disappear within them.”

As an example, a yard backing into a creek lends itself to a pool that gives the appearance of a pond that ties to the natural waterway, retaining as much indigenous vegetation as possible. By coordinating decking and colors to complement the home, the overall appearance can be enhanced even further.

Similarly, in rocky terrain, landscape architect Jim Hyatt, a principle with EDAW, a land-based planning and designing firm in Denver, CO, may swap natural stone for traditional waterline tile, creating the illusion of a pool having been hewn out of the rock formation. A light gray hue to the pool surface accentuates the organic look. Then Hyatt may nestle the spa within a cluster of Aspen trees.

“You do not want to make the pool look like it could be anywhere, you want to make it solely for a particular environment,” Hyatt says.

When backyard elements clash with the region’s natural fine points, it detracts from the overall ambiance. Poolside palm trees enhance the tropical milieu of a Miami pool, but they appear strikingly out of place in San Francisco.

Good designers focus on core elements, the site and clients’ lifestyles, being careful to avoid trends in order to ensure that the completed aquascape surpasses expectations for years to come. Selecting materials native to the area bolsters the continuity.

David Rowean, president of Yankee Aquatech, Inc., Francestown, NH, often chooses Vermont granite or bluestone for coping and decking. That same bluestone can become a carefully selected accent, generating an exotic appeal when incorporated into a Texas poolscape.

Accentuating Vistas

A home with a superb view calls out for special features that enable people to look past the pool to nature’s vista beyond.

Dave Grau, project manager for California Pools & Spas of Arizona, Mesa, AZ, often incorporates a negative-edge pool in which the water seems to drop off toward the city lights or arid desert. He zeroscapes with succulents, rock mounds and crushed gravel to pull together the natural elements, and then surfaces the pool with a pebble finish in a custom color that complements the surroundings.

“When a location has a spectacular site, I don’t want to detract from the view, but enhance it,” says Brian Van Bower, president of Aquatic Consultants Inc., Miami, FL. “And I want to create a space that draws people out and around it, so they can better appreciate the view.”

One way Van Bower accomplishes this is by bringing the water level even with the deck and building a perimeter overflow pool, eliminating coping and waterline tile that can break up the clear line of site. Such designs lend themselves to more contemporary homes.

“It changes the way you enjoy the environment visually, even while in the pool,” Van Bower says. In areas where pools operate year-round, the swimming area often becomes the home’s focal point. But in wintry climates, pool builders often shy away from that design so homeowners avoid looking at a cover half of the year.

Joan Honeyman, a partner with Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture LLC, Washington, DC, prefers placing the pool off to the side with a lit pathway leading to it. A pool area far removed and out of sight from the home also offers more design latitude by creating a transition space.

Terracing in hilly terrains presents opportunities to carry brick or stone used in the home to the patios or retaining walls. Honeyman may add fill to incorporate terracing in an otherwise flat parcel.

“It creates an opportunity for interesting designs, because you have different levels,” Honeyman says.

Architectural Elements

Hyatt coordinates with the homeowner’s architect and interior designer to develop one vision for the entire project. Themes flow from one setting to another and appear to belong together.

In almost all instances, designers try to match the home and pool style and use similar materials. A clapboard house calls for clapboard on the pool house. Designers will carry the same roofline or stonework found at the main home to outdoor structures.

Honeyman works extensively in the Mid-Atlantic region, a place with many traditional brick homes. To tie the abode to the pool area, she often adds brick trim to the deck or will use concrete pavers that resemble brick. She may also use the brick or natural stone in the fence surrounding the pool.

Similar stonework also will enhance and tie together outdoor kitchen or fireplace areas, which provide incentives to relax outdoors. Van Bower likes to continue the travertine or tumbled marble flooring used in the outdoor living area onto the deck around the pool.

When the same product is impractical, coordinating color schemes suggest continuity. Color palettes differ between regions. Warm reds and pinks speak of the Southwest, where gray patinas or buff will appear more natural in New England. Rowean recommends, when possible, purchasing all of the stone for a home, patio and pool project at the same time, from the same lot, to ensure.

Water Features and Landscape Lighting

Attention to minute details divide topnotch pool designers from the pack. They often prefer simple, more elegant shapes for the pool and play up other elements. Hyatt heats the sidewalk to the spa, so clients never have to shovel snow before stepping out for a soak.

Many designs put fire and water together. The mesmerizing flame from fire accents or tiki torches changes the poolside atmosphere. By adding sand or lava rock to a gas-powered fire bowl, Grau can alter color of the flames, which changes the mood of the area.

Nantz prefers setting aside a separate space for a firepit that can provide warmth and extend the patio season, or he may hide outdoor heaters in an arbor to warm the area without disturbing its clean look.

Subtle water features add an ambient sound without the glaring incongruity of boulders in places with no natural rock formation. Water may flow from a piece of art, seeming to disappear into the deck.

Lighting creates a myriad of opportunities for nighttime ambiance. Uplighting trees near the pool reflect on the water and shimmer on the surface. Textured palm trunks produce dynamic effects visible from the patio or the home.

“People often spend more time looking at their pools than swimming in them,” Van Bower muses, “so you want something that is really pleasing to the eye.”

Designing the right aquascape that is compatible with its setting offers years of enjoyable and functional outdoor living. Yes, paradise can be found right in your own backyard!

Photo courtesy of Lewis Aquatech Pools, Chantilly, VA

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.