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Having your own backyard pool can be possible even if you don't have tons of outdoor space to play with. From cocktail pools to lap pools, plunge pools to swim spas – there are all kinds of styles that cleverly make the most of tight and challenging areas.
And even if you do have space for a larger pool, there are multiple reasons to choose a smaller one, so it's no surprise that they have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Tom Casey of Anthony & Sylvan Pools reveals they have seen 'a marked uptick' in consumers interested in compact pools. They are perfect for homeowners who prefer less maintenance, or would like to use less water, but still want all the benefits and fun a swimming pool brings, he says. 'These smaller pools don’t necessarily skimp on features and can be designed to fit any aesthetic.'
11 compact pools that have serious style factor
Elevate your yard with these small-yet-perfectly-formed pools.
1. Integrate a small pool into your outdoor living zone
With small pools, you don’t need to sacrifice your whole yard, as Cameron Levick, the CEO of Plungie points out. This means you can still have a stunning outdoor living zone alongside, as demonstrated in this chic setup.
A glass pool fence ups the pool safety without interrupting a sense of flow between outdoor areas. Plus, it keeps the space feeling sociable – perfect if you like to entertain. A taller fence to one side adds privacy from neighbors and shelter from the wind.
Seamless white paving underfoot ties the areas together further in this space, and we love the addition of easy-care potted plants for a splash of greenery against the surrounding neutral hues.
2. Enjoy the views from a raised pool deck
One of the benefits of small pools is they're often quicker and easier to install (not to mention, cheaper). Pre-cast designs can often be positioned in-ground or above-ground to suit your space – and this example slots beautifully into a raised pool deck.
It's an effective way of zoning a backyard. And, by placing one side of the pool right up to the edge, a luxurious 'infinity effect' is created, while the use of space is maximized.
Complete the scene with comfy loungers and perhaps a parasol for a spot of shade – match your interior's color scheme and style for a cohesive feel between living areas.
3. Choose a shape that suits your space
Narrow backyard? Consider a long and thin lap pool to take your weekly exercise regime up a notch. Or, keep things more relaxed with a shallower design that's perfect for wading or sitting alongside – it'll be just as effective for cooling off from the summer heat.
And at the end of your pool, why not consider a raised hot tub? That way, you can enjoy a private spa experience in your outdoor space throughout the seasons. You could even join the two together with a waterfall feature to up the sensory appeal.
A row of neatly-clipped hedges adds a pleasing design element here, as well as privacy. Opt for evergreen shrubs for year-round foliage (and less mess to clear up).
4. Install a tropical-inspired swim spa
Alternatively, opt for one pool that offers both a space to exercise and relax by opting for a swim spa. They have a function that turns on a current, meaning you can swim in one spot. And when it's time to take a breather, they can be turned into a bubbling hot tub.
To ensure this pool didn't dominate the space, designer Kate Gould surrounded it with an abundance of plants. Her selection of palms, ferns, and evergreens gives the space a tropical garden vibe – ideal for a private sanctuary.
5. Combine your small pool with a shower area
An outdoor shower is a fabulous addition to any backyard in a warm climate – but it's particularly useful alongside a pool. By showering before a dip, you'll help keep the water clean, and afterward, you can rinse off any chlorine residue. Add hooks alongside to hang up towels.
Every inch of this compact space has been utilized, with the small pool pushed right up to the folding doors. A line of plants at the far end softens all the hardscaping beautifully.
6. Opt for a circular plunge pool
'A more recent addition that we’re receiving inquiries about is cold chillers,' reveals Tom Casey. He explains how these are especially of interest to athletes, and for homeowners who want to explore the potential health advantages of a cold plunge pool.
Plunge pools can also be hooked up to a heater, making them a super versatile addition to any small yard. Sure, they may not be the right option for you if you want to swim, but for a refreshing dip, a chic design like the one above is worth considering.
7. Add a covered seating area near your compact pool
Half of this pool is surrounded by decking, which integrates it into the various seating and entertaining areas of the plot. These include a covered area, which is a must-have for making the most of a yard, whatever the weather. Choose between a pavilion, a pergola, or even a simple shade sail – all will keep the rain and the sun's harmful rays off of you and your outdoor furniture.
At the other end of this small design, a graveled border helps to protect the lawn by catching water splashes – a clever pool landscaping idea that looks good, too.
8. Keep your small pool area light and bright
When designing your small pool zone, take inspiration from the surrounding elements of your backyard, suggests Kerry Sherin of Ownerly, a leading home valuation company.
'Consider the color palette, textures, and materials already present,' she says. 'Choose pool materials and finishes that complement the overall aesthetic. For example, if your backyard features warm earth tones, opt for natural stone or rustic tiles to blend your pool seamlessly into the landscape.'
This space uses plenty of bright white hues – from sleek pavers to a white fence and furniture – which tie into the exterior and interior of the home. And with the addition of the glass fence, the overall look feels open, airy, and streamlined.
Kerry Sherin is a seasoned consumer advocate at Ownerly, a top-tier home valuation company and consumer resource that strives to put professional home value data and insight at your disposal. Kerry’s expertise extends beyond traditional home valuations to include valuable knowledge in landscaping and pool installation, enhancing her understanding of comprehensive home value.
9. Add a seating section for socializing
You may have heard the term 'cocktail pool' – a small, shallow pool that often combines jets, a heater, and a seating area. In other words, they're a pool that's all about socializing. And they are ideal for hosting pool parties in limited spaces.
This unique design sections off a rounded zone with benches for chatting with friends. Meanwhile, the wider section is ideal for lounging about on an inflatable. Don't forget to add plenty of pool lighting so that your get-together can continue once night falls.
10. Install pretty pathways around your small pool
'Connect your pool area to the rest of your backyard with inviting pathways,' suggests Kerry. 'Use materials that complement the pool design and maintain a cohesive flow.
'Whether it's stone pavers, stepping stones, or a wooden deck, ensure the pathway enhances the overall aesthetic and guides guests through your outdoor oasis with ease.' Make sure to use non-slip materials, too.
This paving layout above adds a playful and practical design element to the space. And, we also love the fire pit, for an added touch of luxury.
11. Surround a backyard hot tub with natural elements
A hot tub provides a space to totally relax, right on your backdoor step. And as with any type of small pool, there are plenty of ways to integrate it into the rest of your landscaping plans.
'Consider incorporating natural and sustainable features that enhance the connection between your pool and the surrounding environment,' suggests Kerry. 'Integrate rock formations or waterfalls that mimic the natural topography of your region,' she continues – this setup above is a gorgeous example.
Incorporating biophilic design concepts with small pools can help create a very soothing look and feel, adds landscaping expert Joe Raboine of Belgard.
Think about the shape of your small pool, too. A freeform design offers a more organic aesthetic, while straight, sleek lines generally feel more contemporary.
How much room do I need for a small pool?
'The definition of a small pool can vary, but typically, small pools are around 12 to 16 feet in length and 6 to 8 feet in width,' says Scott Keller of LoveGunitePool.com. 'As for depth, it largely depends on the intended use of the pool,' he continues. Plunge pools, for example, are often quite deep (about 5 to 7 feet), he says, while cocktail pools might only be 3 to 5 feet deep.
'However, these dimensions can be adjusted according to individual needs and preferences,' he adds. Just remember to ensure there's enough space to walk alongside, and to safely get in and out of it.
Scott Keller is an experienced pool industry professional with over 20 years of expertise in gunite pool design, construction, and maintenance. He is a graduate of civil engineering and holds several industry certifications that validate his knowledge in the field.
Does a small pool increase property value?
'We know a pool can increase the value of a home by 7%,' says Cameron Levick, the CEO of Plungie. 'With more homeowners choosing to install one, it’s becoming somewhat of an expectation amongst buyers, especially in the premium market.'
Installing a small pool is a great way to elevate a backyard and turn it into a private oasis. But before you get started, it's important to plan properly.
Although they are cheaper than larger designs, they are still an investment. This means that it's essential to set a clear budget – and it's a good idea to compare quotes from reputable builders before you proceed.
And once it's installed, remember to stay on top of pool maintenance to keep the water sparkling. 'In many respects, cleaning small pools involves the same processes as cleaning larger ones, including regular skimming, vacuuming, and maintaining proper chemical balance,' says Scott Keller of LoveGunitePool.com.
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The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then; over the years, she's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator. Having worked for Gardeningetc.com for two years, Holly now writes about plants and outdoor living for Homes & Gardens.
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