Pool ideas: 14 refreshing swimming pool designs for your garden

Smart shapes, waterfalls, natural designs and more – these pool ideas are the perfect way to elevate your plot so you always feel like you're on holiday

pool ideas with pergola and paving
(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

Pool ideas are a gorgeous addition to a garden – whether you're a keen swimmer or just want to lounge around a cool stretch of blue. Whatever its size, a pool will never go amiss for a refreshing dip in hot weather. And, they make a great feature for parties – fire up the BBQ nearby and you'll have the best summer bash in town.

When designed right, they can also quickly elevate a space, complementing the surrounding landscaping features and overall theme. Plus, there are lots of extras you can add to make them perfectly tailored to your style.

From soothing waterfalls and jazzy tiles to illuminated beauties that make a show-stopping statement come nightfall, we've rounded up some of our very favourite pool ideas below for you to look through. After perusing these styles, you may well be tempted to put in plans for your own this season.

1. Add a relaxing waterfall to your pool ideas

pool house on paving with pool with waterfall

Add the gentle splash of a waterfall

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

Making a waterfall part of your pool ideas is beneficial for more reasons than one. First, the sound and sight of a constant cascade of water makes a soothing, sensory addition. The gentle splashing can also be used to mask less desirable background noises, such as busy roads nearby.  Plus, it makes a fun feature to interact with once you get in.

The other benefit to waterfalls is their ability to keep the pool clean. As they constantly circulate the water, they decrease the likelihood of algae build-up – leaving you with a fresher pool for very little effort.

This streamlined version above is a great choice for a luxurious look. Its elegance is only enhanced by the ornate pool house ideas nearby with its complementary curved roof and eye-catching finials.

2. Go for organic shapes with an eco-friendly natural pool


Get back to basics with a natural pool – this one is from Gartenart

(Image credit: MPSPhotography/Alamy Stock Photo – Design: Gartenart)

Natural pools are increasing in their popularity and it's easy to see why. There are no harsh chemicals involved (and no smell of chlorine) – instead, the pool maintains its cleanliness due to micro-organisms, the purifying properties of plants, and generally, through the use of small pumps. It's a great option if you're looking for a more organic approach to pool ideas, or as part of your wildlife garden ideas.

This beautiful pool by Gartenart is a simply stunning example, with its borders of reeds, gently curved shape, and vast view of the landscape beyond. And what's more, in winter when it's too cold to swim, it will still be an attractive feature for the garden.

3. Or, try a more contemporary look

formal natural pool by Gartenart

A stunning, formal design from Gartenart

(Image credit: Gartenart)

Of course, going for natural pool ideas doesn't mean you can't go for a contemporary look, if that's more your style. 

This square-shaped design, surrounded in a sleek stretch of paving, is both smart and serene. Masses of lush planting nearby soften the scene, whilst the Corten steel screen adds a striking focal point. We love the stepping stone ideas used across the stretch of water, too – a playful addition that looks simply fabulous.

4. Place a pergola nearby

pool near corner seating and pergola

A pergola will provide the perfect post-swim spot when positioned next to your pool ideas

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

Pergola ideas are a wonderful addition to your pool landscaping ideas. These sturdy structures provide a shaded oasis and are ideal when used to cover seating spots.

Positioned next to a pool, they'll offer a space to retreat from the sun's glare after taking a dip. Add a comfy sofa and tons of cushions beneath for the perfect place to take an afternoon nap or to lounge with a chilled drink. With the sound of lapping water nearby, it will be nothing short of bliss. 

5. Surround your pool ideas in smart paving

pool ideas by Falcon Pools with paving and hot tub

Pockets of greenery soften this chic paved space – pool by Falcon Pools

(Image credit: Falcon Pools)

Make your pool ideas a real destination point in the garden by surrounding them in smart paving and functional furniture. A daybed, sun loungers, and dining table and chairs form their own dedicated zones in this set-up, meaning the space can be used all throughout the day. Don't forget the lighting, too – here, wall-mounted designs will encourage use of the area even when night falls.

Pockets of planting add a welcome splash of green to the mix and tie the space together with the nearby lawn. And did you spot the hot tub, too? It's the perfect addition for an extra touch of luxury – our hot tub ideas feature has lots more styles to get you inspired.

6. Try a luxurious lap pool

luxury pool with sun loungers by New Dawn Pools

A smart design by New Dawn Pools

(Image credit: New Dawn Pools)

If fitness is on your agenda, then a lap pool is a fantastic addition to your garden. And, due to its sleek and streamlined shape, it'll be a sophisticated feature as well as a means to keep healthy.

This design above is beautifully accented by surrounding borders filled with structural flowers, whilst a simple-yet-chic paving stone keeps the look feeling modern. Of course, you'll want to add a few of the best sun loungers nearby too, as a place to take a well-deserved rest after all that swimming.

7. Enclose your pool ideas in a sturdy structure

inclosed swimming pool

Enclose your pool and make the most of it all year-round

(Image credit: Polly Eltes/Future)

In regions where the weather is cold and temperamental, going for an outdoor dip calls for a dose of determination and let's face it, a bit of bravery. However, if you opt for an enclosed design, then it can be a relaxing experience all year-round.

Sure, you'll need a higher budget for a structure like this, but the amount of use you'll get out of it will make it totally worth it. What's more, 'it doesn't require quite as much maintenance as an outdoor pool, as it is far less likely to become home to algae, leaves and other debris,' adds the experts at SPATA.

'If the thought of an indoor pool appeals, but you would also like the outdoor feeling for the warmer months of the year, your pool building could include large bi-fold or sliding doors on one or two sides,' the team adds. That way, when the weather does perk up, you can bring plenty of fresh air in. Exposed brickwork and beams will add to the laid-back yet stylish charm.

8. Go classic and elegant for your pool ideas

pool house near pool on paving

Elegant pool ideas like these will never go out of fashion

(Image credit: Annaick Guitteny/Future)

A curve of steps accented by a semi-circle shape; neutral, mosaic tiling; and a pool house nearby complete with french doors and a sloped roof – this look is nothing short of elegant. 

Classic-style furniture and giant urns atop creamy-coloured paving add to the sophisticated scene. Meanwhile, plenty of foliage around the borders of the zone give the space a sense of privacy and shelter. There's everything you need for a relaxing afternoon spend poolside.

9. Use stylish fences for extra privacy

Home Counties Pools & Hot Tubs pool with fence and decking

Surround your pool in an eye-catching fence, as seen in this design by New Dawn Pools, which won a Gold Award in the Liner Pools under £45,000 category in the SPATA (Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association) 2021 British Pool & Hot Tub Awards

(Image credit: New Dawn Pools)

If you have neighbours either side of your garden, then you'll undoubtedly want to up the privacy levels of your pool ideas.

This is where pool fence ideas come into play, and (as you'll see in our dedicated feature) there are lots of brilliant designs to choose from. For a natural and relaxed vibe though, we're loving these woven wicker panels. 

A handful of the best outdoor bean bags are a great addition too, for ultimate chill-out vibes.

10. Go small and chic for modern plots

modern small pool by house

Smaller pool ideas can still be super stylish

(Image credit: Matthew Williams/Future)

Pool ideas don't have to be huge great things to be effective. For smaller plots, a neat, rectangular style like this can be all you need for a cooling dip.

Surrounded in stone, this pool embraces a pared-down, industrial look that would work well with any modern garden ideas. By bringing it closer to the house, it enhances the architecture well, whilst the glistening shimmers from the water will be enjoyed from inside, too.

For a pop of colour and extra visual interest, don't forget to embellish the look with some garden planter ideas – these elegant swan designs add a sense of fun.

11. Get creative with curved forms

Centurion Leisure rounded pool

A curved design from Centurion Leisure, which won Silver in the Refurbishment Pool of the Year category in the SPATA (Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association) 2021 British Pool & Hot Tub Awards

(Image credit: Centurion Leisure)

Traditionally, pool ideas are rectangular. And, if you want to make swimming lengths part of your routine, then this approach is probably your best best. However, if you're looking to use your pool for a more relaxed dip, then there's nothing stopping you from playing with more unusual shapes.

The curved lines of this design evoke a tropical lagoon, helped by the nearby plants and small waterfall. The steps at the shallow end add an inviting touch and are perfect for sitting on and taking in the view.

12. Illuminate your pool for after-dark drama

illuminated pool ideas by Mermaid Pools

A light-up pool makes a striking feature at night – this one is from Mermaid Pools and won Silver in the One-Piece Pools category in the SPATA (Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association) 2021 British Pool & Hot Tub Awards

(Image credit: Mermaid Pools)

Good outdoor lighting ideas are a surefire way to add ambience to a plot when dusk falls. So, why not bring them to your pool?

This illuminated, turquoise beauty is bound to turn heads and is perfect if you fancy a soothing night-time swim. Bright pink furniture makes for a bold match, whilst sleek wooden decking and gently up-lit borders are the perfect accompaniment to the stylish scene.

13. Line with trees for a Tuscan-inspired look

Falcon Pools swimming pool

This chic design by Falcon Pools won Gold in the Concrete Pools under £90,000 category in the SPATA (Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association) 2021 British Pool & Hot Tub Awards

(Image credit: Falcon Pools)

To bring a touch of Tuscan beauty to your pool, take a cue from above and line the structure with a row of columnar conifers. Try the classic cypress variety to recreate a sense of a Mediterranean landscape, and pair with paving for a formal yet timeless look.

Alternatively, the upright 'Sky Pencil' holly makes a good choice for smaller spaces, or, for a splash of vivid colour, try a columnar acer.

Our guide on landscaping around trees has lots more tips for bringing leafy features into your garden.

14. Opt for colourful tiles

bridgman chairs and tables near pool in summer garden

The Henley glass and aluminium dining table with Remy stacking chairs from Bridgman are the perfect accompaniments to a colourful pool

(Image credit: Bridgman)

Sure, you can use unique paving ideas to bring an extra dose of interest to your garden – from patterned designs to on-trend colours. But if you've got a pool, don't forget that the tiles can offer the opportunity to get creative, too.

These deep blue designs in a mosaic look are ideal for a modern plot, and offer the perfect pairing with the porcelain, pale-toned patio. Sleek furniture up top finishes the scene well.

How much does it cost to build an outdoor pool?

OKA sun lounger by pool

A luxurious poolside set-up, featuring furniture from OKA UK

(Image credit: OKA)

As Householdquotes.co.uk says, in-ground pool costs can start at £15,000 for a simple liner, whilst a mosaic-tiled design can start at £25,000. For DIY enthusiasts, you can cut down on costs by installing your pool ideas yourself. According to Poolstore.co.uk, a standard pool kit including polymer panels, pipework, pump and more for a 10ft by 20ft pool is around £8,168. However, there's a lot of digging involved, which you may wish to hire machinery for (and you'll probably need to pay to get the dug-up soil taken away, too).

Natural pools tend to be more expensive to install, however the costs of maintenance are lower. For a design with stone step entry, timber jetty, and jumping rock with a set of stepping stones, look for around £115,000 for up to 100sqm, as estimates the team at Gartenart. However, more formal designs can cost higher, due to the blockwork wall, coping work, and more intensive liner-installation process.

If you prefer the idea of building an indoor pool inside a separate garden building, the experts at SPATA say you should budget from £200,000 for a brick or timber pool building to house a small pool. 

If you're wondering whether you can introduce a pool to your cheap garden ideas, above-ground designs are definitely the more-affordable option. According to Householdquotes.co.uk, they can start at around £2,500 for a 12ft by 24ft product. Plus, they're fairly simple to assemble. However, rather than a landscaped pool, they have the look of a large paddling pool. They're great for a quick dip, but if you're after a high-end look, they might not live up to your expectations.

Do you need planning permission for pool ideas?

narrow pool at side of large house with lawn

A slimline pool like this makes great use of the space

(Image credit: Davide Lovatti/Future – Architecture: Ray Thompson)

According to Falcon Pools, you generally don't need planning permission to install an outdoor pool. However, there are a few exceptions – including if your property is listed, if it's overlooked by a public highway or path, if it's in front of the building line, or if it's in a conservation area.

And, if you choose to put your pool indoors as part of a new extension, you will most likely need to get planning permission first. Either way, it's always best to double check with your local authority.

Holly Crossley
Holly Crossley

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!