Pool design ideas: expert advice on how to design a pool in your backyard

Looking for pool design ideas to help you plan your own personal swimming pool? These useful tips will help

pool design ideas with decking by SPATA Member XL Pools
(Image credit: SPATA Member – XL Pools)

So, you're looking for pool design ideas or wondering how to design a pool. Sounds like exciting times are ahead! Private swimming pools are super fun and offer all kinds of benefits – from helping you to change up your exercise routine to providing entertainment for the kids all summer long. Nowadays, swimming pools can be a real feature for your plot in terms of aesthetics, too. There are all kinds of styles and finishes to choose from to fit your personal tastes.

But, with so many things to consider when designing a pool, you may feel slightly unsure of where to start. The size, the shape, indoors or outdoors – it's only natural to be a little overwhelmed. After all, backyard pool ideas certainly aren't the cheapest of investments, and you'll want to get it right first time.

There's no need to worry. We've rounded up tons of top tips, including advice from the pool experts at SPATA (the Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association), to give you a helping hand when designing the pool of your dreams.

NIVEKO modern pool

This modern pool by NIVEKO matches the home's exterior beautifully

(Image credit: SPATA member – NIVEKO)

Pool design ideas: 8 top tips on how to design a pool

From important things to bear in mind to advice on picking a contractor – if you're looking for pool design ideas, we've got you covered.

1. Embrace the fresh air with an outdoor design

First things first when considering how to design a pool – where is it going to be? You may automatically think to put it outdoors, and there are plenty of advantages to this, as SPATA explains.

They mention the plus point of being able to soak up the sun whilst swimming – and this is a big factor in our books. It's undeniable that splashing around in cool water under a clear blue sky is one of life's great pleasures. A relaxing dip beneath the stars can be rather magical, too.

However, there are also more practical benefits with outdoor pool design ideas. 'For the most part, an outdoor pool is often treated as a permitted development in the UK,' explain the SPATA team. 'So, it may not require planning permission unless you are building in a conservation area or area of outstanding natural beauty.' However, it's always wise to take advice from your local planning department to make sure, they add.

'There are also fewer restrictions to the size, shape and overall design of your pool, so you can be as outlandish as you like.'

If you love to host or have a big family, then there's another plus point to think about too. 'Outdoor pools lend themselves to being social as they integrate into the wider garden space,' continues SPATA. You can fulfill your dreams of summer pool parties, with one of your best BBQs on the go nearby and drinks in hand.

outdoor pool with view

You can enjoy views of nature with an outdoor pool

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

2. But, consider the benefits of indoor pools, too

An outdoor pool sounds great, right? But wait, before you make the final decision, it's worth considering the benefits of indoor pool design ideas, too.

'An indoor pool can provide much more usability, and if you also like to exercise on land, it makes a fantastic addition to your exercise suite,' says SPATA. 'They are great fun on a rainy day, and you can enjoy it all year round whether you want to swim a few lengths or enjoy a quick dip after a day at the office.'

'In fact, you can enjoy your pool whenever it suits you, day or night, summer or winter,' the team adds.

'Its heating system will most likely warm the water and the air within the pool room whilst eliminating the smell of chlorine so that you can swim in a lovely cozy environment all year round,' they continue. 'What's more, it doesn't require quite as much maintenance as it is far less likely to become home to algae, leaves and other debris, and the environmental control unit will do a lot of the cleaning for you.' If you're after low maintenance garden ideas, they may well be the winning solution.

However, the increase in costs may put you off. 'The main consideration when deciding between the two is space and budget – unless you're lucky enough to have an existing building, you'll need to build a structure to house the pool,' says SPATA. 'This will most often require planning permission and will typically make the initial cost outlay higher due to the extra building work required.'

indoor pool by Mermaid Pools

A sleek indoor pool designed by Mermaid Pools

(Image credit: SPATA member – Mermaid Pools)

3. Or, go for the best of both worlds

Both indoor and outdoor pool design ideas have their advantages and disadvantages, but as SPATA says, it is possible to enjoy the best of both worlds. 

'If you'd like an outdoor pool but can't cope with the chilly air in the winter, then a quick and easy way to protect your pool is to incorporate a swimming pool enclosure,' they say.

'Pool enclosures are usually made from glass or polycarbonate material with an aluminium frame, so whilst they are permanent structures, they aren't quite as substantial as a pool house which helps with cost and flexibility. Assuming your pool is heated, once it is securely enclosed, it will be warm enough to swim in even on the coldest of days. You will need to keep a cover on the pool when it is not in use, though, or condensation will become a problem.

'If the thought of an indoor pool appeals, then you can create that outdoor feeling for the warmer months with large bi-fold or sliding doors on one or two sides,' they continue. These can then open up onto your patio ideas, so you can easily slip onto a lounger and soak up the sun between dips, or sit and enjoy a drink by the pool whilst the kids have a splash about.

Origin Leisure indoor blue pool

We love the indoor-outdoor vibe of this pool by Origin Leisure

(Image credit: SPATA member – Origin Leisure)

4. Think about how you want to use your pool

When thinking about pool design ideas, it's important to carefully consider how you want to use it. This can have huge implications for many factors – from where you position it to its size and shape.

For example, if you're looking to add a swimming pool to your family garden ideas, then you'll want to ensure it has factors that everyone will enjoy. These may include a shallow space so that people can sit down and relax in the water, steps for easy access, and perhaps a waterfall or two to boost the fun factor. If you have teenagers, you'll also want to ensure that there's a deep enough area so that they can actually swim. In terms of pool landscaping ideas, a paved or decked space around the pool for sun loungers is a good idea. And, it might also be worth positioning the pool within sight of the house, so that you can easily keep an eye on whoever's using it.

luxury pool with sun loungers by New Dawn Pools

A lap pool is ideal if you want to change up your exercise routine – this one is by New Dawn Pools

(Image credit: New Dawn Pools)

If you can't wait to host pool parties, then pool house ideas can also make a great addition to provide a place to change, store towels, and prepare drinks and snacks. On the other hand, you might want to use your pool solely for exercise. In this case, perhaps a chic lap pool surrounded by sleek paving is all you need.

If you're more interested in relaxation, then perhaps you'll want to integrate hot tub ideas. Don't forget about natural pools, too. An ideal choice for wildlife garden ideas, these types of pool (or pond) are perfect if you want an outdoor feature that will look gorgeous all year round. Plus, there's no harsh chemicals involved.

Outdoor pool with pool house by Mermaid Pools

A pool house is a practical addition to this set-up designed by Mermaid Pools

(Image credit: SPATA Member – Mermaid Pools)

5. Consider the size and style of your pool

Okay, so you've thought about where your pool is going to be and how you plan to use it. Next thing to think about in terms of pool design ideas is the style.

Size is obviously an important factor when working out how to design a pool. The optimum measurements depend on how you wish to use it (and how many people will want to use it at a time). For instance, if you want to swim laps by yourself, then you won't need much width, but will most likely want a length of between 30–40ft (approximately 10–12m) for a good workout. On the other hand, you'll want to go for something bigger if you're planning on spending time in the pool as a family – 18ft by 36ft is a good ballpark figure for a large rectangular structure.

You'll also need to factor in your budget and how much space you have to play with in the first place. It's worth remembering that a larger, deeper pool will be more difficult and expensive to heat. 

In terms of depth, the team at Momentum Pools advise to build a shallow end with a water depth of around 3.2–4ft (1–1.2m) and a deep end with a water depth of around 5.25–6ft (1.6–1.8m). This should allow for a smooth, elongated gradient between the two ends. They also recommend to discourage diving in your pool – this is almost always a safety hazard and simply not worth the risk.

When planning the actual look of your pool, think about creating a sense of cohesion with your surroundings. A good way to do this is by looking at the exterior of your home. Is it contemporary and monochrome, with lots of sleek, clean lines? Have you gone for plenty of modern garden ideas? Then mirroring your pool to suit will create a harmonious scene. If you want to go for a more rustic vibe, an organic shape with warm-hued stone or decking and plenty of plants around the area might be the way forward.

pool with loungers

A more rustic design works well with this property

(Image credit: moodboard/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images)

6. Factor in safety

'Swimming pools are great for exercising, training, relaxing and socializing, but they can also present a risk if the proper precautions are not put in place at the design stage,' says SPATA. 'By taking safety into account from the offset, you will enjoy your pool, knowing that the risks of using the pool have been reduced.'

'At the design stage, your chosen pool company will be able to advise you on the safety protection devices available to safeguard your pool, such as a pool cover, enclosure or fencing, to name but a few products,' they add.

However, there are a few additional design things to consider before you start your installation. For example, you don't necessarily have to access your pool from all sides – one side could be up against a perimeter wall, for instance. This is a good approach for small garden ideas, and you won't need to install as much pool fencing. What's more, think about how far away you want your fence from the actual water. If your pool area isn't going to be used all throughout winter, you probably won't want to section off a huge amount of your plot behind its fence.

You can find all kinds of stylish pool fence ideas in our dedicated guide.

pool fence ideas: loungers next to a pool

A pool fence can keep little ones and pets safely out when it's not in use

(Image credit: Bitterfly/Getty Images)

7. Pick a few contractors and compare quotes

'You will want to find the right people for the job, but if you hear too many opinions, you'll end up losing track of your dream,' advises SPATA. Avoid inviting too many contractors to quote for your pool design ideas, they suggest, as you'll get bogged down with the estimates. 

'There's a fine line between making an educated decision and being overwhelmed by too many opinions. Practice due diligence and ask three or four reputable swimming pool companies to provide detailed quotes, then you will be better placed to make a confident decision.'

The team also suggest to meet your contractor in person. This is so that you can ask them questions about their work, and they can see the proposed site for themselves. 'This visit should take place before the contractor submits a quote for the works,' continues SPATA. 'By doing this, the contractor can understand your detailed requirements, and you can gain confidence in their abilities to undertake the work that you require.'

If possible, it's worth seeing some of the projects that the company have undertaken, to make sure that they have actually carried out the work they show you.

Before you seal the deal, 'Ensure that everything is in writing by you and the pool contractor, covering all specified requirements,' adds SPATA. 'There will usually be an obligatory cancellation period, and this is your opportunity to check through the contract, making sure everything is included, as agreed. Remember the contract is put in place to protect you and the contractor.'

Looking for more advice on calling in the professionals for your backyard makeover? Our guide on how much does landscaping cost has lots of useful tips.

outdoor pool with surrounding lawn by SPATA Member – Centurion Leisure

A stunning pool designed by Centurion Leisure

(Image credit: SPATA Member – Centurion Leisure)

8. Discuss all aspects of the design with your contractor before installation begins

'It is imperative that before any work takes place, detailed drawings are provided by the pool contractor so that you can see what the final pool will look like and that nothing has been missed from your requirements,' advises SPATA. 'This will ensure that the finished pool is aesthetically pleasing and fits in with your home.' 

Consider all the practicalities above when discussing your plans with your contractor, as well as things like the pool's ongoing running costs, chemical dosing and cleaning, so you know exactly what to expect.

'Additional money spent on the design and construction at the start may well save you money over the pool's lifetime,' adds SPATA.

XL Pools outdoor pool with decking and parasol

We adore this smart set-up by XL Pools

(Image credit: SPATA Member – XL Pools)

What is the least expensive type of pool?

Love the idea of a pool but don't want to splurge all your savings? Some designs tend to be cheaper than others.

As you might expect, a smaller pool is more affordable. Homeadvisor.com estimates a 10x20ft inground design to cost around $10,000–$25,000 (around £7,000–£18,000), whilst for comparison, a 20x40ft design can cost more like $40,000–$100,000 (£28,000–£70,000). Vinyl-lined designs also tend to be quite a lot cheaper than fiberglass and concrete (but you will need to replace the liner more frequently – generally every 10 years or so). A simple, pre-designed shape will be most budget-friendly – think rectangles or simple kidney-bean styles.

Custom designs are generally much more – anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000 (£70,000–£140,000) and over, depending on all the accessories and landscaping features you want to add.

pool surrounding by concrete paving with modern furniture from Go Modern

The clean lines of this pool complement the sleek paving and a contemporary sofa from Go Modern Furniture

(Image credit: Go Modern Furniture)

When is the best time to build a pool?

'Most people want to maximize the use of their pool during the summer months, so you will want to ensure that your pool is under construction out of season,' says SPATA.

'Consider that everyone else will also have this idea, so planning well in advance will help you get the pool when you want it. A reputable swimming pool company will be able to provide you with a timeline of work and give you an idea of when your pool will be finished.

'Please be aware that there are likely to be various reinstatement works in the garden once a project is completed,' the team adds. If you've got any additional budget, it could be an ideal time to try some new landscaping ideas.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

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. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.