Outdoor Oasis: How to Choose the Perfect Pool for Your Home

You've already created a stylish interior to your home, but now you're yearning for a taste of luxury in your own backyard. Adding an in-ground pool can help transform your outdoor space into a paradise of sorts, where you can cool off on a hot day, entertain guests or simply relax and rejuvenate.

In addition to the pleasure a pool can bring you and your family, it can also help attract potential buyers if you ever decide to sell.

"Buyers with higher price points who are looking for homes with increased amenities have the ability to be more selective in the home they choose, so it's natural for them to be looking at what the outdoor property of a home can offer," says Andrew Rogovic, associate broker at Better Homes and Gardens - Rand Realty in White Plains, N.Y. "Pools and other outdoor amenities can make homes more desirable and add value."

Of course, with so many design options available, choosing the perfect pool for your home can be daunting. To help you get on the right track, we've come up with four important questions to ask yourself before diving into a design scheme. Read on for the details.

What Type of Yard Do You Have?
What Type of Yard Do You Have?

The size and natural features of your backyard can play a major role in what type of pool best suits your home, says Sheri Soares of HydroScapes LLC, a luxury pool design and construction firm in Scottsdale, Ariz., which Soares co-owns with her husband Roger, a pool builder and designer.

If you have a smaller plot of land, choose a compact swimming pool that doesn't overwhelm the space and leaves room for lounge chairs and plantings. A more expansive outdoor space, on the other hand, offers you the opportunity to install a larger pool in a variety of possible shapes.

While classic rectangular pools can give your backyard a formal look, if your home is located in a natural setting with lots of trees and foliage, a free-form pool (which features curves and flowing lines and doesn't conform to a standard shape or size) can create a more relaxed, organic feel.

Whether your backyard is flat or sloped can also affect which type of pool is best for your home. For instance, infinity pools--a popular design in which the water appears to vanish into the distance with no edge--are typically a better fit for homes situated on a hillside with beautiful vistas.

If you have a level lot and are looking for that vanishing edge effect, Soares suggests considering a perimeter overflow pool, which looks like a flat sheet of glass contained with no walls on its sides. The optical illusion is achieved by water flowing over the sides down into a hidden catch basin and then recirculated back into the pool.

How Will You Use the Pool?
How Will You Use the Pool?

The way you and your family plan to utilize the pool can help dictate which type of design makes the most sense.

"If people like to swim laps, you want to make sure you get that length in there," says Soares. "If you'd rather float in the pool, you'll want a little more width."

If you'd like a pool that functions for different types of use, an L-shaped design can be a good choice, says Soares. For instance, one side can be deeper for diving, while the other side can be shallower (say, four to five feet) for floating or even playing volleyball.

Another pool design trend right now is the sun shelf, which is a very shallow section of the pool where you can relax on chaise lounge chairs or allow little ones to safely wade.

"This can provide a great space to splash and play with children or lounge while reading a good book," says Greg Darvin, owner and founder of Pristine Pools in East Hampton, N.Y.

What Is Your Home's Design?
What Is Your Home's Design?

Experts say your pool should keep in line with the design of your home.

"I enjoy when a pool fits naturally into a space and appears to have been designed at the same time as the house," says Brad Renken, owner/CEO of Hearthstone Environments, LLC in Roswell, Ga., an outdoor living design/build firm.

Be sure to choose materials for your pool carefully, taking into account your home's style.

"A contemporary home warrants a clean edge on the pool coping, perhaps concrete or tile, whereas a more Tuscan home would warrant some sort of stone or travertine but with a more rustic edge, perhaps chiseled or tumbled," Soares says.

What Extra Features Do You Desire?
What Extra Features Do You Desire?

To make your swimming pool even more luxurious, consider adding extra features, depending on what type of feeling you wish to evoke.

For instance, fountains and waterfalls can "provide a formality or soft, soothing energy," says Darvin.

Boulder waterfalls (where water cascades down a rocky formation) can help give pools a natural and even tropical feel, though they often come with a high price tag. "An average boulder waterfall can cost many thousands of dollars and requires extensive concrete and stone work," says Renken. "The most successful of these are built into an existing hill and incorporate careful landscaping."

And don't forget to consider how you'd like your outdoor space to look when the sun goes down. For instance, fire pits and outdoor fireplaces can create a cozy, romantic ambiance.

"We've seen an increase in the use of fire and water," says Tom Casey, vice president of sales for Anthony & Sylvan Pools, a pool building company with locations across the U.S. "Oftentimes, a fire pit will be placed next to a pool, but we can now put a fire pit in the middle of a pool or integrate it directly into the design, creating a fire-water combination that wows visitors."

The use of LED lights in swimming pools is another trend that can give your pool a beautiful glow at night. "We now use LED lights exclusively because they use less electricity, are smaller and easier to install and even allow color-changing options," says Renken.

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