Backyard pool ideas: 26 refreshing swimming pool designs for your garden

Smart shapes, waterfalls, natural designs and more – these backyard pool ideas will make your outdoor space the envy of the neighborhood

backyard pool ideas with a large swimming pool in an American backyard
(Image credit: Blu Sol Pools)

Looking for a way to cool down in the heat? Our backyard pool ideas will provide all the inspo you need if you're contemplating one of these gorgeous features for your plot. After all, whatever its size, a pool will never go amiss for a refreshing dip in hot weather. 

While a pool is certainly an investment, it's a family-friendly backyard feature that’s sure to help you create memories for years to come. And, as a bonus, it'll certainly up your home's resale value. What's more, they're a surefire way to elevate your alfresco entertaining – just fire up the BBQ and you'll be all set for the best backyard parties on the block.

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 favorite pool ideas below for you to peruse.

26 inspiring backyard pool ideas to take your plot to the next level

Upgrade your backyard's landscaping ideas with the addition of a pool – these looks demonstrate how there's one to suit any sort of plot.

1. Be dynamic with a freeform shape

large curved swimming pool in an American backyard

This pool design is by Blu Sol Pools (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Blu Sol Pools)

For a more casual, natural look that recalls a pond or a lake, choose a freeform shape for your backyard pool instead of a rectangular one. Surround with lush pool landscaping ideas and a flagstone patio to complete the au naturel vibe. 

As a bonus, you can even install a waterfall or fountains for some lovely babbling background noise – or both, as in the case of this pool. This is also a great way to help mask the noise from neighboring properties or from a nearby road to enhance your relaxing outdoor pool experience. 

2. Opt for an eco-friendly natural pool

Gartenart natural pool

Get back to basics with a natural pool – this one is from Gartenart (opens in new tab)

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

If you really love the laid-back, organic look, then installing a natural pool might be the way forward for your plot.

This type of pool is increasing in 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 (opens in new tab) 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. Go sharp and modern in style 

rectangular pool at night lit up with outdoor lighting

A fiberglass prefab pool by Latham Pool (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Latham Pool)

Rectangular swimming pool shapes are a great choice for a more contemporary, urban aesthetic, as exemplified by this fiberglass prefab pool, which perfectly maximizes its courtyard-like space. 

To keep your backyard pool ideas from feeling too cold and sparse, make sure you plant some greenery and incorporate a seating area or two. The addition of outdoor lighting to highlight your swimming space after dark is never a bad idea, either.

4. Add stepping stones across your swimming pool

formal natural pool by Gartenart

A stunning, formal design from Gartenart (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Gartenart)

Even if you opt for a natural pool, you can still achieve a contemporary look, if that's more your style. 

This square-shaped design, surrounded by 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 stones used across the stretch of water, too – a playful addition that looks simply fabulous.

5. Buy a prefab pool for small backyards

Swimming pool in an American backyard with loungers and outdoor dining areas

A fiberglass pool by Latham Pool (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Latham Pool)

Limited on space? You can still incorporate a pool into your small backyard ideas. One easy method is to go for a petite prefab pool. 

This fiberglass model (pictured above) is just 26 feet long and 12 feet wide, though thanks to its freeform shape, it feels rather spacious. Smaller backyard pools – and prefab ones – are cheaper than their larger brethren, of course, which is great news for aspiring pool owners looking for budget backyard ideas too. 

6. Install a water feature 

Swimming pool with three water features to create a waterfall effect at one end of pool

(Image credit: Kevin Rondeau/Rondo Pools and Spas)

If you want to go above and beyond with your backyard pool, add some stylish water feature ideas as a focal point. 

In a more natural-style pool area, you could add a waterfall that cascades over stones. As well as providing a soothing background noise, it'll make a fun feature to interact with once you get in.

In a more formal pool area, you could add fountains. In this pool, the three sculptural fountains provide a visual and auditory focal point.

The other benefit to pool water features 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.

7. Lounge in your pool

backyard pool with sun loungers

(Image credit: Lindye Galloway)

Everyone knows that sun loungers are the perfect type of furniture to position alongside a pool for post-swim relaxation. But if you opt for a pool design that includes a baja shelf – a shallow ledge – then you could consider actually putting loungers in the pool itself. It's the perfect setup for a blazing hot day – all you need is an iced cold drink in hand.

A shallower area is also great as a space for little ones to splash about (accompanied by an adult, of course).

8. Match your pool's style to the exterior of your home

US pool in modern backyard at sunset

(Image credit: Joshua Smith/Photography: Lance Gerber)

Want to create a cohesive pool design that oozes elegance? Match your inground pool ideas to the exterior of your home – whether that's by opting for the same hue of materials or by following similar shapes and forms.

Plenty of bright white, sleek finishes and straight lines tie this scene together, for instance. The result is a smart and contemporary backyard that's perfect for entertaining in style, especially with the addition of a fire pit.

9. Create an entertainment area

large outdoor entertaining space with swimming pool, covered living area, outdoor kitchen

(Image credit: Blu Sol Pools)

Your backyard pool ideas don't necessarily need to be the star of the show in your space – your pool can simply be one element in an entire group of spaces primed for entertaining. 

Take this pool, for instance, which shares a backyard with a covered lounge area, outdoor dining zone, and grilling area. If you love playing the role of host, this kind of pool patio is for you.

10. Build a pool house nearby

pool house on paving with pool with waterfall

This garden building is practical as well as pretty

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

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

Having a garden building like this doesn't just up the aesthetics of the scene, it's also super practical, providing a place to change, store towels, and take a post-swim nap in the shade.

11. Keep fit with a lap pool

lap pool in an American backyard with loungers alongside it

(Image credit: Emerald Pools and Spas)

Pools aren't just for leisure; they're great for working out, too. So forget about installing a home gym and build a lap pool instead! After all, what could be better than starting (or ending) the working day with a few laps in the comfort of your own backyard? 

While lap pools are long by nature, they are also quite narrow, making this style of pool ideal for rectangular plots. And in some cases, like with this pool, you can also include an infinity edge to maximize a stellar view. 

Add a few key pieces of the best outdoor furniture and you've got the perfect spot to relax after your morning workout. 

12. Create a waterpark-like vibe

swimming pool in American backyard with waterfalls

We love this spectacular pool by Simmonds & Associates, Inc (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Simmonds & Associates)

While most backyard pool ideas can be relatively simple, you certainly can go over the top if your space and budget allow. 

Here, the pool is anchored by a waterfall complex that includes a slide, a grotto, a hot tub, and even a steam room. It feels as if it should be in a luxury hotel rather than a private property. 

If there's one way to make your pool party one to remember, this is it – a setup like this is sure to keep adults and kids entertained for hours.

13. Put in a hot tub for a luxurious touch

Large swimming pool in a backyard with a built in hot tub

(Image credit: Jackson Design & Remodeling)

Like peanut butter and jelly, pools and the best hot tubs go hand in hand. There are numerous ways to combine the two water features in your space, whether that's by placing the hot tub directly in the pool (as shown here in this backyard), keeping them adjacent to one another, or separating them as two standalone elements. 

The latter is ideal for colder-climate locales, so you can keep the hot tub open during the winter after you close the pool for the season.

14. Incorporate a swim-up bar 

swim-up pool bar in pool by Blu Sol Pools

This pool by Blu Sol Pools (opens in new tab) is ideal for garden parties

(Image credit: Blu Sol Pools)

If you're looking to recreate a vacation experience in your own backyard, consider putting in a swim-up bar in your pool. 

We love this pool, where the outdoor bar is a hybrid – there's a swim-up side for the more adventurous and a dry-ground side for those who forgot their bathing suits. On top of that, this bar has an outdoor TV, so you can watch the game right from the pool if you so desire. Sounds like our kind of setup right there. 

15. Go with an irregular shape

Modern pool area with seating area and fire pit in an American backyard

This pool by Rondo Pools and Spas (opens in new tab) complements the modern surroundings beautifully

(Image credit: Kevin Rondeau/Rondo Pools and Spas)

Not all pools are freeform or rectangular in nature. You can work with a contractor to develop a pool shape that best fits your garden layout ideas

In the case of this backyard pool, a roughly triangular shape with a dramatic diagonal was the best option for the entire landscape plan, which includes a seating area with a fire feature and two different lounging spaces. 

16. Stretch your pool out to infinity

infinity pool in US backyard by Simmonds & Associates, Inc

(Image credit: Simmonds & Associates, Inc)

If you happen to have a cliff-front or hilltop property, you should certainly consider going with an infinity-edge pool, which – you guessed it – looks as if it has no boundary, opening up into the sky (or the ocean if you live on the coast). 

It's simply a trick of the eye: whereas most pools keep their water levels beneath their edges, infinity-edge pools are filled to the brim, with the water flowing over the edge to create the illusion. 

Surround your backyard pool with tropical garden ideas to enhance the feeling of being on vacation without even having to leave your property. 

17. Use a hill to your advantage

swimming pool on a sloping plot in an American backyard

A great pool for a family backyard by Blu Sol Pools (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Blu Sol Pools)

For most pool ideas, you're going to need to level off your backyard to make things perfectly flat before installing your chosen design. But if you have a sloped yard, you actually can use the grade to your advantage. 

For this pool, tiered garden ideas make the most of the existing terrain. The hot tub is situated above the pool, allowing for the creation of a lovely overflow waterfall. 

Consider using a textured pool deck or paving if you have any steps around your pool in order to provide a little grip underfoot.

18. 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

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

Pergolas are a wonderful addition to your pool landscaping. 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. 

19. Tweak your pool's shape for a refined look

swimming pool in an American backyard

(Image credit: Latham Pool)

While a straightforward rectangular pool might seem a little too boring for some homeowners, you can always modify the shape of your pool ever so slightly to add some interest. 

In this prefab pool, two semicircular additions – one is a staircase, one is swim-up seating – provide just enough visual interest to elevate the rectangular form without being too over-the-top.

20. Enclose your pool in a sturdy structure

enclosed 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 pool enclosure ideas, 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 (opens in new tab).

'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.

21. 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-colored paving add to the sophisticated scene. Meanwhile, plenty of foliage around the borders of the zone gives the space a sense of privacy and shelter. There's everything you need for a relaxing afternoon spent poolside.

22. Mix elements for added impact

swimming pool in an American backyard with fire pit water features

This pool by Rondo Pools and Spas (opens in new tab) is elevated by surrounding fire pits

(Image credit: Kevin Rondeau/Rondo Pools and Spas)

Go for some elemental balance – and a fair bit of drama – by accenting your pool with a fire feature. In this pool, there are actually three: a backdrop against the hot tub and two fountains illuminated by flames. 

You can, however, keep things a little simpler (and perhaps more practical) by just including some more straightforward fire pit ideas, tiki torches, or citronella candles to help keep the mosquitos away.

23. 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 (opens in new tab), which won a Gold Award in the Liner Pools under £45,000 category in the SPATA (opens in new tab) (Swimming Pool and Allied Trades Association) 2021 British Pool & Hot Tub Awards

(Image credit: New Dawn Pools)

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

This is where pool fence ideas come into play, and 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.

24. Opt for colorful tiles

bridgman chairs and tables near pool in summer garden

(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 colors. 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.

25. Line with trees for a Tuscan-inspired look

Falcon Pools swimming pool

This chic design by Falcon Pools (opens in new tab) won Gold in the Concrete Pools under £90,000 category in the SPATA (opens in new tab) (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 color, try a columnar acer.

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

26. Create an industrial-chic aesthetic with a small pool

modern small pool by house

Smaller pool ideas can still be super stylish

(Image credit: Matthew Williams/Future)

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

For a pop of color 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.

How much does it cost to build an outdoor pool?

In the UK, Householdquotes.co.uk (opens in new tab) says inground pool costs can start at £15,000 for a simple liner, whilst a mosaic-tiled design can start at £25,000. For the US, Homeadvisor.com (opens in new tab) says inground designs can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $100,000 or more, with evacuation taking up 50% of the overall price.

Natural pools can 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. For the US, Homeadvisor estimates a typical cost of $70,000, assuming an average size of 600 square feet.

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. In the US, Homeadvisor estimates a cost of $700 to $5,000 for this sort of design. 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.

OKA sun lounger by pool

A luxurious poolside setup, featuring furniture from OKA UK (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: OKA)

Do you need planning permission for a pool?

According to Falcon Pools (opens in new tab), you generally don't need planning permission to install an outdoor pool – at least in the UK. 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, wherever you live, it's always best to double-check with your local authority.

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)
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.

With contributions from