Like modern home design, the humble backyard swimming pool has changed a lot over the years. 

Gone are the days of the 70s and 80s where a quarter acre block with a small home and big backyard was standard, and a freeform swimming pool could be built with full perimeter paving – often with no fence. Yikes. Fortunately, we’ve come a long way on the pool safety front. 

In the last few decades, the trend towards larger homes on smaller blocks, along with increased planning regulation, has altered the way we use our outdoor spaces.  

For pool builders and landscape designers, this has meant they've had to get creative about how to optimise space and cladding, often positioning pools along retaining walls and boundaries. 

As a result, the contemporary pool is now more seamlessly incorporated into a modern home. No longer an afterthought, swimming pools are the centrepiece, reflecting changes in the way we live. 

A pool that backs onto an outdoor room.

Picking the best pool design for you 

Pools are synonymous with lifestyle. That's why, when considering a design for your new home, you should not only consider technical elements like size, construction material and filtration system but most importantly, how the pool will integrate into the rest of your home and how you will use it. 

Consider the reasons why you want to be a pool owner. Perhaps you're dreaming of a sleek lap pool for daily exercise or an oasis with bubbling water features and decking, or in stark contrast, a bustling fun zone with waterslides for the neighbourhood kids. Either way, the position or aspect of the pool, the design details and focal point, as well as the entertaining areas surrounding the pool, will all influence the final result. 

A beautiful pool design at sunset in Queensland.

Tips for choosing your pool  

When selecting your swimming pool, there are seven golden rules. 

1. If you have a small backyard, build against the property boundary so you can use the existing fence as part of your pool fence. The elevation of your yard should inform whether you opt for an inground pool, above ground pool or even an infinity pool. Remember to check for easements on your property first!  

2. There's no need to take up your entire beautiful backyard with the pool. Maintain room for other outdoor living 'zones' like play equipment, an outdoor kitchen, or a veggie garden. It might even mean downsizing the pool area, opting for a low maintenance plunge pool or hot tub/jacuzzi instead. Small pools work well for many families, and there are some great ones on the market at the moment.
 
3. Safety is everything when it comes to pools and there are now rigorous regulations in place to prevent drownings. Make sure you factor in your family’s safety when choosing your pools placement and design.

A close up of a Sydney pool design.
4. If the area you've selected is oddly-shaped or hard to get to, you may want to opt for a concrete pool, which is custom-built on your property. Pool construction for fibreglass and some prefabricated concrete models happens in factories, so there is less flexibility when it comes to installation. 

5. Consider the aspect carefully. North and west are best – you don't generally put a pool in east or south of your backyard, as it gets too cold. You want to be able to optimise the sunshine and warmest weather, based on your home’s orientation 

6. Reduce the amount of hardscape around the pool, especially if you are in the southern parts of Australia and won't be using your pool year-round. There's no need to fit chairs and a table within the pool fence area. You may also want to consider a pool cover – particularly if your pool is out of action during colder months. 

7. Modern cleaning systems mean you don't have to walk around the entire pool to scoop out the leaves – single or double-sided access is enough. Even with the best cleaning system, it's still important to think about nearby trees. No one wants a pool near deciduous trees that lose their leaves.  

A Hamptons style pool at a home in Sydney.

Design details of your pool  

The key to designing a swimming pool is to make it feel like an extension of your home. Consider the architecture of your home design and replicate these features in the pool area. It could mean clean lines and right-angled corners for a modern home, rounded edges and classic, sweeping shapes for a period home. 

The materials you use are also vital. Try to balance hard and soft finishes, like timber and stone plus greenery—current trends favour large-format pool tiles and pavers, and Jurassic-style landscape design. You will want your materials to be hardy, so be wary of using light-coloured paving on the pool deck, even if you're going for a Hamptons style. It discolours faster and doesn't stand the test of time as well as darker finishes. That said, a light coloured pool interior with dark coloured paving will still work well. 

A water feature at a pool installed in Melbourne.
The number one factor determining how often you use the pool is water temperature. Irrespective of the heating method you use, the larger the pool, the more costly and more difficult it is to heat, so consider the size and pool placement carefully. It could also be an opportune time to install a solar panel system as it will considerably reduce pool running costs. 

If you live in the cooler parts of Australia, you might also want to think about whether a spa add-on is a must have so you’ll get all-year round use.  

Pool surrounds  

If you have children, they are the ones most likely to use the pool. That's why good poolside designs tend to strike a balance between safety, accessibility and aesthetics. You will need a comfortable viewing position close to the pool – a covered outdoor area, a lounge room or pergola. If you're big on entertaining, you may want to incorporate the pool area into your outdoor kitchen, firepit or living space. 

Another tip is to create a logical progression between the house and the pool. Ideally, the pool gate should be near the exit from the house, and the pool steps near the gate, so that there's continuity for seamless use. 

Above all, your modern pool should reflect your lifestyle and appear as if it has always been part of the plan – not added as an afterthought. 

To learn more about your next build, check out our blog, Home Truths, and our Lookbook for more design inspiration.