By Holly Crossley published
Choosing between all the different swimming pool shapes is a crucial step when planning one of these outdoor features. And there's more to the decision than simply aesthetic appeal.
Of course, looks are important – you want your pool ideas to complement the rest of your plot and match your stylistic vision – but there are practical things to take on board, too. There might be a specific shape that would work best with a tiered plot, or one that will maximize a smaller space. Maybe you would like something that encapsulates the feeling of a tropical lagoon, or perhaps you prefer a contemporary design that makes the most of the view.
Whatever your needs, you can guarantee that there's a pool shape to suit. We've brought together some of our favorite looks to get you inspired for your own backyard design.
11 swimming pool shapes for plots great and small
Round or rectangular, angled or curved – our round-up of swimming pool shapes will help you decide on the best style for your garden.
One of the best ways to make the most of a sloping plot is to divide it into sturdy terraces connected by steps or slopes. This can present an exciting opportunity for pool landscaping ideas, as demonstrated in this scene.
A two-tier pool has all kinds of benefits besides feeling incredibly luxurious. For one, the different levels can be used as individual zones. This is ideal for large families where some people may want to splash around whereas others prefer to relax.
There's also the chance to have a beautiful waterfall feature cascading from the higher level. And, you could even integrate a hot tub and nearby fire features too, to elevate the scheme even further.
Keep the edges curved for a relaxed, organic look, or opt for clean, straight edges for a more modern tone.
If you've only got a small plot to play with but want to include a pool, it's important to pick the shape carefully. Naturally, you'll want to ensure it's big enough to enjoy, but you'll also need to leave enough room for other activities, such as lounging or entertaining (or even growing some container displays).
This chic roof terrace is a perfect example. Sure, the pool might not be large enough to swim laps, but it's ideal for a refreshing dip. And, as it's built right up against the plot's boundary, it leaves plenty of floor space for socializing – there's even room for a BBQ and sun loungers.
You can find more small garden ideas in our feature.
Elevating your pool so that it's flush with a raised deck or patio offers a smart and cohesive look. Plus, it will allow you to take in the best views of your plot. The surrounding 'sunken' areas can be used for extra seating spaces, sheltered pathways, or flowerbeds.
The straight edges on this pool harmonize with the sleek paving nearby beautifully. Think about creating a platform within your pool design, too. It's ideal for placing loungers or even a sheltered structure to relax on while surrounded by a soothing stretch of water.
Turn your backyard into a tropical-inspired haven with a freeform pool. Reminiscent of an exotic lagoon, this one comes complete with a duo of waterfalls and a shallow area with a parasol. The surrounding palms, architectural foliage, and stepping stone details nearby add perfect finishing touches.
If you really want to create a back-to-nature feel, then you might even decide that a natural pool is for you. Chemical-free and often including plenty of aquatic plants, they're a beautiful alternative that looks great all year long.
Speaking of stepping stone ideas – we are head-over-heels with this modern design.
It's not just those three raised platforms leading to the integrated whirlpool that have caught our attention, though. The shallow seating zone, integrated lighting, and nearby fire pits make this a space that really stands out – even if the shape itself is more on the simple side.
Sometimes, you may want to give your pool a slight bend or angle, whether that's to fit around existing trees or structures, or simply for a bit more visual interest. Here, the shape of this pool is offset by the contrasting, circular hot tub, which helps draw the eye to the patio and view beyond.
Positioning a tub to the side of your pool like this makes it easy to get from one to the other. You can choose to have it at a slightly higher level to give more definition to the zones.
Fancy adding some hot tub ideas to your own outdoor pool? If you like the thought of your own garden spa, they're a fabulous feature to install – our guide has lots of inspiration.
7. Small and straight
A small, rectangular pool might feel like an uninspiring choice, but sometimes it really is the best option. After all, as all lovers of minimalist style will agree, simple can definitely be chic.
Take this plot, for instance. The streamlined pool fits beautifully with the surroundings while creating a gentle divide between the lounging area and covered seating space. Pair with some of the best garden furniture for a scene that's ready for outdoor entertaining in style.
8. Long lap pool
If you're looking to incorporate more exercise into your lifestyle or you want to shake up your existing routine, then a lap pool is a brilliant option.
Long and narrow, they can be tucked along boundaries of plots (or, in this case, edges of leveled spaces) and provide just enough room for as many lengths as you can muster. Pop a deck at the end for keeping your towel and perhaps a drink nearby, and you're good to go.
An L-shaped pool can work well to define the edge of a pool patio, or even frame a statement flowerbed, as seen here. Plus, one end can be made shallower for smaller children or for relaxing, while the other stretch can be used for more serious swimming or even a spot of pool volleyball.
Swimming pool shapes like these can also come in handy for surrounding a deck or outdoor living zone, or even for wrapping around a pool house.
A circular pool always makes a statement. Add one to your plot, surrounded by a stylish pool deck and plenty of plants, and you'll have a beautiful focal point.
This type of swimming pool shape is perfect if you're looking to enhance the sense of calm in your backyard. And why not go a step further by adding a ledge for sitting on, and incorporating jets to add relaxing bubbles to the experience. Or, if you're feeling brave, opt for a cold plunge pool instead.
Speaking of swimming pool shapes that evoke a sense of tranquility, this one definitely ticks the box.
The gentle, freeform curves are enhanced by the tiled wall along one side. And there's a hot tub too, for soaking away all your cares. The paving keeps the scene feeling contemporary, and we think a potted plant or two would make a lovely addition, too.
Don't forget to keep on top of pool maintenance to ensure yours looks its best all year long.
What pool shape is best?
You may be wondering, out of all these swimming pool shapes, which one is the best for you to incorporate into your landscaping ideas? Well, there is no simple answer, as it depends on a multitude of factors.
If you want something reliable and cost-effective, a rectangular pool might be your best option. 'For many, the normal shape for a swimming pool is rectangular, usually with proportions of 2:1 (length to width),' says SPATA (The Swimming Pool & Allied Trade Association). 'This is ideal for exercise and provides a good visual balance and appearance.' These dimensions aren't set in stone and depend on the space available – the length can be extended or the width reduced to suit your needs.
'Furthermore, as a rectangular pool is relatively simple to construct, it's inevitably more cost-effective compared with curved structures, so it's no surprise that it's the most popular shape,' continues SPATA.
However, if you'd prefer something a little more creative, then there are tons of choices. 'People have been known to choose something completely unique or personal to them, such as a pool in the shape of a guitar, grand piano, 'figure of eight', L-shaped, kidney-shaped, Y-shaped, kite-shaped, pools incorporating spas, fountains, and waterfalls – the list is endless!
'When considering the shape of your pool, give some thought as to how you want it to make you feel – as if you are in a glamorous Tuscan retreat, an infinity pool overlooking the New York skyline, or a farmhouse spa in the Cotswolds? Do you want to include a Baja Shelf (think of it as a mezzanine floor so you can lounge in the shallow end) or a swim-up bar where you can enjoy a cocktail?
'Your beautiful new swimming pool will need to fit within your property's overall style, so broaden your creative thinking and consider the bigger picture,' SPATA adds.
Crucially, it will also need to suit how you wish to use it. If you want a pool suitable for a family garden, whether rectangular or freeform in shape, dimensions of around 29.5ft by 14.8ft (9m by 4.5m) and a water depth of 4.4ft (1.35m) or less will usually cater for swimmers and non-swimmers, as SPATA advises. You may like to add a step bay to the shape, too, so that you can walk straight into the pool rather than using a ladder.
If you want it for exercising, it may be worth considering not only a longer-than-normal pool but also a narrower one, say 39.4ft x 9.8ft (12m by 3m), as SPATA says. 'If space for the length is limited, then a counter-current unit may be worth discussing,' they add.
Can you reshape an existing pool?
In many cases, you can reshape a swimming pool. But be warned – it doesn't tend to be cheap. According to HomeAdvisor.com, costs start at $30,000 for changing the shape of a vinyl pool and $60,000 for a concrete (gunite) pool.
The entire pool lining will normally need to be replaced, making it a big job. The total price will also include materials and labor costs for both moving earth and installation.
To avoid these costly outputs, it's important to consider the best swimming pool shapes for your backyard carefully before you settle on a design. That way, you will be less likely to want to change it after it's been installed.
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. But, she loves all things digital too. She joined the team at Gardeningetc after working as a freelance content creator for a web agency, whilst studying for her M.Sc. in Marketing. Now she feels lucky enough to combine both digital and botanical worlds, every day!
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