The beauty of a pool truly lies in its design. With one, your swimming pool becomes a focal point for your entire home, but a poorly designed pool will simply fade into the background and feel lackluster all its life. Since this is a feature of your home you’ll only build once, you should take the time to consider your swimming pool design now instead of as an afterthought. Trust us — you’ll thank yourself in the long run.
In 2020, there’s an unbelievable number of design options available to you: Infinity pools, knife edges, vanishing edges, sun shelves, and more. To help you with planning your perfect pool, we’ve whittled down the choices to include our eight favorite cutting-edge swimming pool designs in 2020. It’s time to take your outdoor living space to the next level.
1. Tanning Ledges
Also called a sun shelf or a Baja shelf, a tanning ledge sits in a shallow part of the pool and serves as both an entry point into a swimming pool and a wading area. These shelf designs are typically 8 to 16 inches deep, come in all different shapes and sizes, and can be customized with many different water features.
We love installing these in our pools. People like to put in a set of lounge chairs, a side table, and even an umbrella in their tanning ledge. It’s a perfect place to both dip your toes in before cannonballing or simply catch some sun and relax. Plus, it’s a great place for toddlers and young children to play without you worrying that they’ll go too deep.
2. Lap Pools
Lap pools are rectangular swimming holes specially designed for the actual swimming of, well, laps. Typically long and lean, they are perfect for people who swim competitively, frequently exercise in their pool, or just have a slim backyard space.
In fact, as lot sizes shrink, such pools have become increasingly popular since they’re so compact and can fit within a moderately small outdoor space. These pools are typically 45 feet in length and about 10 feet wide. While they can be smaller, you then sacrifice the true purpose of the pool.
For one client, we custom-made a lap pool based on the exact number of strokes it took them to complete a lap: 44 feet and not one foot longer!
3. Freeform Pools
Freeform pools are curvy, free-flowing and often are made to look like a lake, pond, lagoon or a watering hole. Since the basic idea is to mimic any natural body of water, such pools often have a natural rock surrounding and a stone waterfall that cascades into the pool. The best thing about this pool is there are no rules, so the shapes are as creative as you want them to be.
At AVEA, we recommend this pool only if the design of your house also echoes those characteristically curvy, flowy, natural-looking lines and textures. A freeform pool wouldn’t be a good fit for a more modern or transitional home with straight, sharp and clean lines and is made of more modern materials.
4. Geometric and Modern Designs
Not to sound biased, but modern swimming pool designs are our favorite at AVEA. They have a clean, no-frills aesthetic that still rings as very high-class. They make perfect sense for those who want the flair of a vanishing edge without the actual item. Modern pool designs bring an air of formality and contemporary design, which can turn any quaint little backyard into an upscale retreat.
These angular swimming pools make sense for most new homes, as many are either transitional (i.e. somewhere in between traditional and modern) or contemporary in design. Because the pool design should reflect that of the home, such pools are often custom designed by an architect. In fact, this is our exact approach here at AVEA.
5. Infinity Pools and Vanishing Edges
An infinity pool is the ultimate statement piece for any outdoor living area. This type of pool feature creates an optical illusion that makes it seem like your pool has no boundary to it. And when the pool looks out onto a lake or another body of water, the view is simply mesmerizing.
The trick behind this seemingly magical design is the overflow basin lying just below the vanishing edge. In some pools, the water will simply spill over into a catchment basin at the base of the vanishing edge with nothing more. However, many of our clients want the edge to double as a water feature on the other side so it looks good from any point in the backyard.
The infinity pool design does add a degree of difficulty, but for most pool owners, the coolness factor alone is worth the extra investment.
6. Knife Edges
We talked about the vanishing edge earlier, but the knife edge can give your brain a serious trip. It’s essentially an infinity edge — but for all sides of the pool. The result is a pool with no visible edge. In most situations, the pool is level to the surrounding stone, giving it a glassy, mirror-like finish that resembles clear ice. Other times, it can be above ground with no surrounding material.
The knife-edge pool is also referred to as a perimeter-overflow pool. Below the regular pool is a catch basin that recirculates the water that overflows from the edges back into the pool. Essentially, it’s a pool within a pool, making it one of the most complicated pool designs today.
You’ve never seen a pool like this before — but when you do, you’ll want one for your home.
7. Raised Spas
The majority of the time, our customers never want just a pool. The raised spa is a perfect design element, as it gives any pool more depth of height and adds interest to the eye. These spas are often paired with the tanning ledge, creating three different ways you can enjoy your backyard pool area.
We love elevating the look of a raised spa with an additional water feature wherein the spa spills over into the larger pool. You can also jazz up your jacuzzi by adding colorful tiles and even fire, which we’ve saved for last.
8. Fire Elements
As the opposite of water, fire provides contrast to the coolness of the blue water, as well as a dash of flare and excitement.
There are many ways you can add a fire element to your pool, the most common being a fire bowl. This feature comes in many ornate designs including square, round and flush in the ground. Many people install their fire element on the surrounding deck area, but you can also add it within and/or under a water feature such as a waterfall or fountain.
It’s basically a gas fireplace, so you would need to install a gas connection with your pool. A fuel line is placed underground to provide propane to the burner inside the water feature.
This design element is just plain fun. AVEA’s owner loves this option so much, he even has it in his own pool — tucked underneath a waterfall, that is.
Whichever design element you choose to include in your pool, remember that it should make sense with your home and your outdoor living area. If it looks wrong, then it probably is.
Because when you take the time to think through every element of your pool — the overall design, the water features, the landscaping and more — you’ll have a masterful showpiece to enjoy for many, many years.