The purpose of this article is to introduce you to some fundamentals that will help you make good decisions when planning an inground swimming pool project. Although it may be the focal point of a landscape, a swimming pool is frequently just one of several related activity areas that contribute to the overall outdoor environment. Inground pools must be designed so they fit the characteristics of the site and the broader landscape.
That’s why it’s best to work with a landscape architect before contacting a pool builder. The architect will determine the best location for the pool and develop a landscaping concept that will position it in a fully integrated design plan. Also, a landscape architect should be able to recommend and collaborate with a top pool construction company once the design is approved.
We are going to do two things in this article to help you prepare for your swimming pool project. First, we’re going to list some points to consider in regards to construction, materials/finishes, and accessories. These will help you decide on the direction you take with your pool project. Second, we are going to present three different inground pool designs and show you how, in each case, the architect maximized the use of yard space and developed a coherent, holistic plan for the landscape.
Construction Methods for Inground Swimming Pools
There are three basic methods for constructing the pool shell:
Vinyl is the least expensive option. Once the pool shape has been excavated, the floor and walls are covered with a custom cut sheet of vinyl that is secured by the pool coping.
Fiberglass is the quickest to install. A fiberglass pool shell is fabricated in a shop, delivered to the site, and installed as one piece–usually in just a few days.
Our preferred method is gunite construction. That is how all of the featured pool projects were built. Gunite is a concrete material that is sprayed into a framework of rebar. It’s super strong and will last as long as your landscaping. Gunite can be designed in any shape or size and permits a high degree of customization for swimming pool design and installation projects.
Choosing Materials & Finishes for Your Pool
Another reason to consult a landscape architect before contacting a pool builder: The architect will help you make decisions about materials, finishes, and optional features to complete the surrounding landscape for your swimming pool. Your designer will walk you through:
- Built-in features (sun ledge, steps, or a slide)
- Type and style of pool coping
- Waterline border tile
- Pool interior finish (colors and textures)
- Pool lighting
- Water type (salt, chlorine, or “fresh”)
Customizing Your Pool Environment
Aside from the pool design, your architect will talk to you about creating space for shade, lounging, play, and refreshments. And that would include optional features such as:
- Wall Spouts
- Deck Jets
- Fireplace, Firepit or Fire Table
- Poolhouse or other shade structure
Your landscape architect will help you choose from many options available to create a complete pool environment that incorporates multiple activity or use areas. And that leads us to our three inground pool projects that demonstrate the benefit of working with a landscape architect from the very beginning of the process.
Here are three stunning pool environments that blend beautifully with the overall landscape design.
Concept #1: Inground Pool Designed for a Steeply Sloped
The design for this inground swimming pool environment required the Potomac Maryland homeowners to confront a challenging site. The yard dropped down from the house on a long steep slope. What to do?
Initially, the homeowners weren’t sure whether to start by calling a landscape architect or a pool builder. The few pool contractors they interviewed weren’t able to offer a solution to that technical challenge. They realized they needed a design professional who could coordinate the entire project with a landscape design plan that smoothly integrated the pool design.
The landscape architect positioned the pool a good distance from the house. He used terracing, retaining walls, and raised beds to frame a breathtaking view of the pool from the upper patio and a pleasant stroll down to the pool area.
Two retaining walls carve out the area for this pool. A high wall on the upper slope holds back the hill and creates the perfect backdrop to support two natural looking waterfalls—one of them with a spa above. A low retaining wall on the downslope side supports the pool and makes an impressive visual statement when viewed from downhill.
This inground pool installation involved a lot of thought and planning. But the process of solving the site challenge sparked creativity. The swimming pool is the anchor for a multi-purpose outdoor environment that includes a spa, lounging patio, waterfalls and raised planting beds. Altogether they create a one-of-kind ambience for this backyard pool environment.
Concept #2: Lagoon Style Pool to Fit a Tight Space
These Herndon Virginia homeowners had already made a significant investment in landscape design. Their backyard landscaping included a spa and flagstone patio anchored by a 22-foot long curved retaining wall with built-in stone bench seating and a magnificent stone fireplace. Now they wanted to add a swimming pool to the mix without disturbing the existing landscape.
Their landscape architect had to work within strict space limitations, maintain compositional balance, and avoid crowding other features in the yard. He devised a lagoon style pool whose fluid perimeter lines easily fit within the confines of the existing space. He also added a nice touch by placing an infinity edge spill wall at the end of the pool nearest the fireplace seating area. From inside the pool, it creates an optical illusion that makes the fireplace area appear to be below water level. On the fireplace side, a waterfall effect is created as water sheets over a sparkling glass tiled spillway. You can see the same effect mirrored at the upper end of the pool (photo above) where the spa spills into the pool.
Concept #3: Ultra-Modern Pool Design for a Traditional Style Home
Modernism and Traditionalism are just steps away from each other at this Vienna, Virginia residence. The main house, built by a national homebuilder, is a traditional style crowd pleaser. But the homeowners’ design inclination goes in the opposite direction. They wanted to see a clean, crisp contemporary style applied to their pool environment. The architect had to find a way to let those two opposing design styles coexist in the same yard.
The architect’s carefully calibrated movement from the main house to the pool house constructs a relationship between the two structures rather than forcing an abrupt change of architectural styles. Artfully designed terraces initiate a transition from the back door of the house, descend through patios flanked by orderly gardens to the pool deck–arriving finally at the entrance to the pool house.
The spare lines of the swimming pool, pool deck, fire table, and pool house all speak to minimalism. And the pool landscaping follows thematically with cleanly defined, geometric and sculpted lines.
If you’ve been thinking about investing in a landscape design project or adding an inground swimming pool to your backyard, our eBook: Expert Guide to Planning the Landscape Design of Your Dreams, is full of valuable information to help you get started.