The latest trends in swimming pool design are all grown up. So come on in, the water is fine. By Ilze Hugo
here are few things more inviting than a well-designed swimming pool. More than just a hole in the ground or a space for your kids to play in, a well-designed swimming pool is the stuff your home dreams are made of; conjuring up images of balmy summer holiday get-togethers with the family, or making memories with festive sundowner cocktail parties with good friends.
A wet lounge
‘Nowadays, pool design is integrated into the overall design of the house, ensuring
a continuous flow from inside to outside, says Francois Hugo, a senior associate at the Cape Town-based Peerutin Architects. ‘Think of it as another room in your house, an outdoor lounge, instead of a separate space surrounded by paving at the bottom of the garden.’
To fit with this outlook, the size and shape of the pool should blend in with the design of the rest of the home. But say goodbye to curves. Simple, angular shapes are the way to go.
Vanishing edge/infinity pools with water flowing over the edge of the pool, where it is captured and recycled back into the pool water, can give your home a serious wow factor, even more so in oceanfront properties, where they give the illusion that the pool water is blending seamlessly with the ocean.
Pools with one see-through wall are also de rigueur. While these normally frame the view, they can also look out on to your patio, says Dirk Louw from MacD Designer Pools. Pools with windows are another trend. Louw recently completed a pool in Clifton with a window into the wine cellar. (Keeping windows watertight is a challenge, he warns, so it has to be done correctly.)
‘Lap pools have been big news for a few years now, but I never tire of them,’ says landscape designer, Carrie Latimer. ‘Their long, skinny proportions create a striking feature and are generally less intrusive into the layout of a garden or patio.’
As an extension of your home, the focus is on creating a space where you can socialise and entertain, instead of just practise your breaststroke or watch the kids play Marco Polo. There are various ways to extend the use of your pool. When it comes to furnishing the pool area, the focus is again on giving the space the feel of an outdoor lounge with comfortable waterproof furniture. Daybeds remain immensely popular (Latime recommends adding some drapery to a daybed to add boutique appeal).
Integrated audio around the pool is a must if you like to entertain, says Hugo: ‘With well-designed audio, the speakers are arranged in such a way that the whole space has good background sound, without unpleasantly loud or dead spots.’
Fancy a sundowner? The way to soak with a tipple these days is on a martini seat. ‘Think of it as a slightly submerged daybed,’ says Hugo or a very large step (200 to 300 mm deep) where adults can sit or lie while having a chat and a drink. It’s also a great place for toddlers to paddle around in. Another trend is having an island deck in the middle of the pool, complete with a couple of loungers.
Yoga platforms or decks beside the pool are in vogue too, says Latimer. Also increasingly popular according to Louw, is the installation of jets, which provide a strong current to swim against.
Light it up
Lighting can really elevate your pool, advises Louw. Designing an LED lighting strip into the shadow line of the pool coping is a big trend for modern, clean-lined pools, and gives the whole pool a wonderful glow,’ says Latimer. It’s best not to skimp on quality though: ‘The more expensive lights give you much wider flood out, flooding the entire pool and leaving no dead spots,’ explains Louw. Colour-changing LEDs are also fashionable.
Fibre optics is expensive, but gives a unique starry effect when integrated into the pool shell, says Latimer. To add a bit of romance to more classically designed or eco-pools, she suggests floating candles or low lanterns placed on the pool edge. ‘The uplighting of surrounding trees also has a great impact on the reflective qualities of the pool at night.’
Design is in the details
The current pool colours are pure white, dove grey and royal blue (only achievable with mosaic, and super expensive), says Latimer. Louw prefers grey, as it gives the water an aquamarine shade. Black is also popular, adds Hugo, for a natural-looking pool that’s visually closer to a pond.
For finishes, concrete-bottomed pools are on the way out, says landscape architect, Tirzah Stubbs. Rather opt for a fibreglass or tiled finish. ‘The reflective quality of glass tiles creates a beautiful spa-like effect, and can be used throughout the pool or as an accent along the waterline.’
For Latimer, a fully mosaicked pool is about the most sumptuous finish you could hope for at the moment. ‘The trend is to match the waterline mosaic to the colour of the pool shell or the pool coping – mosaic lines that stand out in a distinct colour are a no-no. Another trend is pool copings crafted from the same material as the surrounding paving/decking/tiling, creating a seamless transition from paving to pool.’
Design is also key when it comes to greenery. Again, the pool is integrated into its surrounds, instead of existing separately with lots of paving surrounding it. Latimer suggests bringing greenery as close to the water as possible. Overhanging trees and planters forming the coping to one side of the pool are all on point with current trends. Pick trees carefully to avoid unmanageable leaves dropping into the water or aggressive roots.
‘Also in are eco-friendly pools that use plants and other biological filters, rather than harsh, chemical substances to clean and refresh the pool,’ says Stubbs.
Conventional pool heating is not advised, says Latimer. ‘New gas-heating systems allow you to heat your pool in 1.5 to 2 hours, so you have heat on tap without the huge electricity usage. Heat exchange systems that integrate the pool and home heating are an eco-friendly option, so both those systems are must-haves if you want a high-end heated pool.’
‘Geothermal and solar heating provide comfortable water temperatures even in early spring or late autumn,’ says Stubbs. According to Louw, energy-efficient variable-speed pumps are increasing in popularity despite their expense.
Do not overlook childproofing during the design phase. Pool fences and unsightly net covers have made way for concealed automated pool covers, which roll up into a recess inside the pool. They take first prize for aesthetics, open at the push of a button, are safe for kids, prevent evaporation and keep the pool warm, says Hugo. Glass fencing is another option, says Latimer. ‘Some gardens, particularly terraced ones, can be designed to restrict access to the pool area and cancel out the need for pool fencing, netting or covers.’
But, don’t forget to make sure your pool is adult-friendly too. Latimer warns that pools designed specifically for children soon outlive their appeal. ‘Martini seats, seductive lighting and lounging islands are all examples of features that make the pool equally appealing to both adults and children.
Photography: gallo/gettyimages, greg cox/bureaux.co.za