How much space do you need? Natural swimming pools can be small enough for an urban yard or extra large for a rural property. The relationship between the regeneration and swimming zones can also vary depending on the space available. For instance, a rectilinear pool can be designed as the swimming area, with the water circulation apparatus running underground to the regeneration zone. In the most common setup, the regeneration zone is directly adjacent to the swimming zone, as shown here, with edges that allow for a specific volume of water to flow over the edge. Generally, the size of the zones should be equal for adequate water cleansing.
How the zones interact. The regeneration zone’s size and depth are related to the volume of water to be cleaned. The planted zone is shallower than the swimming area. Clean water slowly flows from the planted zone into the swimming zone. A specialized water skimmer removes large debris that falls on the water’s surface in the swim zone. The skimmer is fitted with a fine sieve that removes small debris before the water is circulated into a biological filter. Additional equipment, like UV light filters and filters that use sand to remove phosphorous, is helpful in maintaining the balance in a natural pool system.
How they work. Natural swimming pools rely on a constructed wetland of plants and gravel to filter the water in an area called the regeneration zone. This zone is like a water garden; a variety of plants selected by a natural pool specialist or a landscape architect create an ecosystem that cleans the pool water.
In cases where a transparent screening effect is desired, consider using airy plants, such as tall ornamental grasses. For this pool near Toronto, designed by Betz Pools Limited, a row of ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, zones 4 to 9) visually separates the pool from the greater landscape while allowing breezes to move freely between both spaces.
Prideaux covered much of the remaining area with large etched concrete pavers, leaving gaps between them for small plantings to add interest. She also installed a fire pit with space for seating at one end of the pool. She used stabilized decomposed granite (DG) as the ground cover, which is more solid than regular DG but still permeable. Final touches include rusted steel screens behind the fire pit to maximize the views, and low-maintenance plantings that add touches of green while taking the heat.
Designer Kathryn Prideaux took the yard from barren to inviting. The new pool is the centerpiece of the yard, which measures 29 feet by 9 feet. The owners use it for exercise as well as relaxing, thanks to the shallow shelf at one end that can hold lounge chairs and has a built-in hole to hold an an umbrella. A matching table and chair set reinforces the look. The pool wall sits 18 inches above the ground. It’s high enough to provide seating for guests, helps keep out leaves and draws attention to the pool itself, both inside and outside of the house. “Because the yard is so flat, it gives dimension and architecture to the space,” Prideaux says. The blue glass tile is almost a perfect match to the color of the water. Prideaux says the tile makes the pool look like “a cube of water.” Prideaux also replaced the aging wood with weathered steel panels. They blend in well with the adobe wall and are a better fit than wood for a desert climate and aesthetic.
Glenn’s favorite thing to do at home is “chill out by the pool.” After a trip to Cancun, the couple were inspired to find a wooden four-poster bed suited for outdoor use. This replica was created for them in Mexico. “Jeff drove all the way to Mexico to pick it up and bring it home. That’s love,” Glenn says.
Type: A traditional lap pool can be installed in or above the ground, and stretches across a long and narrow space. Size: A traditional lap pool is a minimum of 8 feet wide, 30 to 40 feet long and 4 to 6 feet deep. Permit: Check your local building codes for pool permit specifics in your area. Typical project length: This depends on the type of pool you’re installing. It could be anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or months. Cost: A traditional inground lap pool can run from $60,000 to $100,000 and up, depending on additional customizations. Check with local pool installers and designers for cost estimates in your area.
Layer the view. This photo demonstrates three design successes. First, the waterfall that cascades out from the home bridges the home and site divide. Second, situating the small plunge pool as close to the house as possible gives those inside a pleasing view when they look out the window and see water that appears integral with the home. Third, it mirrors a common practice of architect Charles Moore, who spoke of “the heightened perception given to viewing the distant ocean by inserting a bowl of water or a small pool between the viewer and the view, as compared to just staring into the distance over dry terrain toward the ocean.”
Keep it natural. Natural pools are self-sustaining and require minimal upkeep. They can be made either to closely resemble the rectangular backyard pools of sky-blue water we’re used to seeing or a more free-form pond. Natural pools use plants to filter and purify the water, negating the need for toxic chemicals.
This lush Mediterranean-inspired backyard in Los Angeles was a collaboration between Garness Studio, which designed the pool and landscape, and Koffka Phakos Design, which selected the outdoor furniture and decor. One side of the pool features a tiled wall and box hedge that provide both privacy and style.
Can you simply carry your regular dishes outdoors for a party? Certainly! But for times when you’d like something less fragile, it can be helpful to have a set of durable outdoor-worthy tableware on hand — the same set of unbreakable dishes and cups can also get called into service on picnics and car-camping trips. Consider enamelware or wood as a sturdy and kid-friendly alternative to plastic.