Pool shade ideas – 10 ways to stay cool beside the water

These pool shade ideas will keep you comfortable when the sun is high

Pool shade ideas – Pool deck with seating area overlooking mountains
(Image credit: Future)

Pool shade ideas will maximize your enjoyment of this fabulous feature of your backyard. They’re worth planning into a new pool design or when a remodel of an existing pool is on the agenda.

Factor in shade as part of your pool ideas and it will make the area around the pool a pleasant place to spend time when the mercury is high, allowing family and friends to stay close to the water without overheating. 

Here, we’ve collected pool shade ideas that will complement the style of your yard and make it a comfortable place to spend time in the heat.

Pool shade ideas

There are a whole host of ways to incorporate pool shade ideas into your design, including built solutions like pergolas and pool houses, living shade in the form of planting, and flexible solutions like pool umbrellas and cabanas. 

1. Opt for shady outdoor rooms

pool with a covered deck

(Image credit: Jessica Risko Smith / Caitlin Atkinson Photography)

Outdoor rooms alongside the pool can provide precious shade and make outdoor living possible from morning until night. In this design, an outdoor living room with fireplace provides relief from the sun on one side of the pool with an outdoor kitchen and dining space on the other and each is located under a roof for optimum coolness.

Think materials as part of pool landscaping ideas. A pool deck for the living area here introduces a natural surface to the hardscaping. Stick to tile or another solid surface for a kitchen for easy cleanup, however.

2. Put up a pergola

pergola seating area next to a pool

(Image credit: Future/Mark Bolton)

A pergola is a feature worth including when you’re designing a pool area as it’s easy on the eye as well as functional – and it’s simple to add to an existing pool area, too.

'If you're looking for a hardscaped, permanent solution for pool shade, a pergola is ideal,’ says Kaitlin Madden, executive editor of Homes & Gardens. ‘You can retrofit it to your existing pool, and even extend it beyond the pool to create a shaded outdoor living area. For total shade, plant crawling ivy or climbing hydrangea around the base of the pergola.' 

3. Construct a pool house

Pool with classic pool house

(Image credit: Future / Annaick Guitteny)

Think pool house ideas to create a permanent shady retreat when the sun is at its height. Follow the lead shown here by opting for a design that allows space for seating with a clear view of the water at its center. A vista of the water will enhance the welcome feeling of cool.

Areas for storage of furniture and pool equipment can be located at the back of the building, as can any changing facilities.

4. Employ flexible shade solutions

Pool with pavers and lounge area

(Image credit: Belgard)

Movable pool shade ideas can be part of your plan. 'For an impermanent solution, you can easily create shade with pool umbrellas,’ says Kaitlin Madden. For sleek contemporary style, match them to pale paving as shown here – or try a Mediterranean twist. ‘Cabana-striped versions work with lots of decor styles and will give your pool patio area a French Riviera feel,' says Kaitlin.

5. Create generous pool shade

modern covered outdoor patio

(Image credit: Brittany Farinas, House of One / Lifestyle Production Group)

Consider a covered patio to provide a generous area of shade by the pool. This design includes ceiling fans to boost comfort levels in the hottest conditions as well as lighting for after dark.

Timber cladding softens the underside of the roof of this large structure and links it to the pool’s planting.  

6. Use awnings and canopies

Pool with entertainment area and lounge

(Image credit: Sycamore)

Awnings over windows and doors surrounding it are one of the pool shade ideas that’s easiest to add. They’re a great way to add color or pattern to the pool area, too. 

Outdoor fabrics can also be used as canopies to introduce extra shelter from the sun if you’re expecting guests or planning pool party ideas. ‘A temporary canopy offers more flexibility,’ says Rachel Crow, gardening editor, Homes & Gardens. ‘Timber posts can be erected so that a sail canopy can be attached as and when required. Try growing flowering climbers up the posts to make use of these vertical planting surfaces and for aesthetic appeal.’

7. Stay in the shade of a tree

Pool deck with seating area overlooking mountains

(Image credit: Future)

Using trees to create shade around the pool will ensure the feature blends beautifully into the landscape. They’ll soften the lines of the pool, and provide gentle sound when a breeze blows through the leaves. Trees can also be uplit or their shape highlighted with outdoor string lights as part of pool lighting ideas.

Trees can be grown through a deck, as shown here, so there’s still a flat surface around the pool for patio furniture. Choose or tint the wood of the deck to match the shade of tree trunks for a harmonious effect.

8. Relax in a cabana

pool with cabana

(Image credit: Brittany Farinas, House of One Interiors / Lifestyle Production Group)

Invite relaxation by adding a cabana poolside. It’s a stylish take on pool shade ideas and, as well as blocking the sun overhead, with curtains, it can be adjusted as the sun moves round during the day to keep the temperature just right.

For extra protection from the rays, look for designs made with fabrics that offer UV protection, and choose those that are fade-resistant for lasting style, too.

9. Go natural

Natural swimming pool

(Image credit: Future / © Roy Westwood)

Choose a swimming pond rather than a classic swimming pool and banks with planting will provide welcome shade as well as integrating the feature into the backyard landscape. 

As it’s set into the surroundings, a natural pond is a cooler option all round than a hard landscaped space, and also reduces the glare that can occur when the sun hits paving.

10. Select planting carefully

Modernist house, terrace and swimming pool

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

Shrubs and tall trees can shade the pool and double as garden screening creating privacy if the area is overlooked.

‘Do bear in mind leaf or flower debris though,’ says Rachel Crow. ‘You want to avoid trees that blossom or deciduous varieties that produce a lot of leaf drop. Tall palms, bamboos, or evergreen trees, such as cypress, can be good choices.’

What is the best way to shade a pool?

To shade a pool, you can choose many of the same options you might pick to create shade immediately alongside it. Think shade sails, canopies, pergolas and even poolside umbrellas. What you pick will depend on the aesthetic you want to create as well as how much of the water you want to shade. A pergola, for example can shade one end whereas a canopy could shade the entire pool if it’s sufficiently sizeable.

‘For a contemporary look, choose shade sails,’ says Lucy Searle, global editor in chief of Homes & Gardens. ‘They can be arranged at angles to one another to create interesting and sleek lines, and they complement architectural planting perfectly.’

What is the best pool shade?

The best pool shade will work for your climate, and the location of the pool, and it should also be selected dependent on whether you want a permanent solution, or a more flexible choice.

Choose pool umbrellas if you want to be able to move the shade to different areas, or retractable awnings for shade when it’s needed. Motorized versions make it particularly quick and easy to alter arrangements.

Permanent solutions include pergolas with planting, trees and shrubs, and pool houses. Bear in mind that a combination of options is likely to be best rather than a single choice.

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.