05 May 2015
Landscape considerations for a new outdoor pool by Katja Griffiths
We are delighted to welcome talented garden designer, Katja Griffiths as a guest blogger. Here Katja shares her insights on landscape considerations when planning an outdoor swimming pool.
With summer rapidly approaching, it’s easy for homeowners to envision just how wonderful it would be to take a break from the hectic pace of modern living and cool off outside in their very own private pool.
Having an outdoor pool built is a significant decision which people plan in great detail. Likewise you need to take into account landscaping considerations at the outset of planning the pool, both in terms of aesthetics and functionality, to gain the maximum benefit from the design and layout of the whole area. After all, a pool is not only about the swimming, it’s also an important visual element of the exterior of the property, so it’s essential that it integrates perfectly with the landscape for your own contentment and to enhance the value of your property.
While some homeowners choose to make their pools a prominent focal point, others want the pool to blend in more subtly with the property and landscaping. Whichever the preference, here are my thoughts on what you need to bear in mind and discuss with your landscape gardener and pool company.
Location, location, location
Just as the location of a property is of paramount importance when buying your home, so is the position of the pool within the property’s landscape. Obviously you will want to ensure the pool is built in an area which receives as much unobstructed natural sunlight as possible, so you benefit from lovely sunshine when you’re bathing or relaxing by the pool. Conversely, you want to ensure that the pool has maximum wind protection and the professionals will help you work out the best spot to make the most of the sun and avoid wind.
Designers often talk about extending the home into the garden and this is a great philosophy for designing your outdoor pool area. If your property permits, aim to have the pool built within clear view of the kitchen and living areas as this will create a natural flow from the house and blend into the landscape, creating greater connection with the outside space. Importantly, having the pool in your line of vision means you can keep a watchful eye on children outside. If your property does not lend itself to being closely interconnected in this way, the pool can, of course, be built away from the view of the house. In such cases, you can consider having a safety barrier around the pool as it will act as a security measure, especially for young children and pets. A barrier can be discretely and cleverly disguised within hedging or a lovely walled garden.
Having decided to go ahead with a pool, the next step is to check with your local council what planning regulations are in place, and ensure you gain planning permission before any pool construction and landscaping takes place at your home.
The plantroom and pool house
Plan carefully for the vital facilities needed to run the pool – the all important plantroom, the heart of the pool’s operation. Free, easy and safe access is needed from the plantroom to the pool. Remember, all pipework will be directed from the pool to the plantroom, therefore, detailed planning on the route for the pipework is essential to protect existing trees. Ask yourself key questions – is there already an existing facility on-site, such as an outbuilding that can be used to install a plantroom? Or do you need to erect a new facility? Would you like the plantroom to be hidden away from sight or will it be made a feature in the garden? What type of building would you like, and does it tie in with the rest of the garden and architecture? Think about how the water, gas and electricity will be supplied to the plant room. Your pool designer will help with all of this.
But there’s not just the plant equipment to think about. What about changing facilities, toilets, garden furniture, pool cleaning equipment, pool toys and other paraphernalia? You could extend the plantroom into an attractive pool house that blends with the garden, and have everything conveniently located in one place. If you have outbuildings, you could convert one into a sumptuous summer house – or build a brand new structure to create the dream outdoor retreat. What you build will depend on the space available and your personal needs/wants and of course your allocated budget.
Your pool company will give you expert advice on pool finishes (eg mosaics, porcelain, stainless steel), but from my experience working closely with pool designers, my tip is to ensure that both the internal finish of the pool and materials for the surrounding area are aesthetically consistent, with each other and with the architecture of your property and the design of the garden, so that you create a cohesive look and feel. Choose high quality, timeless pool detailing so that your pool design doesn’t go out of style.
Choose non-slip pool surfaces to prevent trip risks and allow sufficient space to walk around the pool deck unobstructed. Finally, ensure that all areas where family members and guests walk are well lit after day light to avoid accidents. An ideal safety measure is to install a safety cover on the pool, or the ultimate choice is to install a moving floor which transforms the pool into a solid surface and doubles as a terrace area, and the pool is completely closed off, giving you back the space for other uses when the pool is closed.
Now for my greatest passion, the stars of the show, plants! Planting will soften the hard lines of the pool and its surrounds. You can create a sensory experience around the pool with fragrant shrubs and perennials that release heavenly aromas as you brush past them. Installing rills or waterfalls can give an extra dimension and gentle rippling sound.
While the types of plants you choose should be consistent with the location of your garden, the type of soil, exposure and the amount of sun and shade, it’s important not to use plants which are potentially harmful, for example, roses and some succulents. Plants which shed leaves, fruit or needles are also a no-no, as these could create slippery surfaces around the pool (a trip hazard) or fall into the water, spoiling the look of your pristine water.
For a perfect finish to your pool project, consider lighting – it’s the icing on the cake! Underwater pool lighting really brings the water to life and layering different types of lighting onto the landscape creates a dream lingering atmosphere, a sense of depth and dimension which will make it hard for you to leave the pool side.
An eating and relaxation area complements an outdoor pool excellently. You may wish to have an outdoor kitchen for the serious chef in the family or a firepit where you could add bespoke seating that matches the pool. You can screen off such an area with plants to create a feeling of seclusion and privacy. With some gentle lighting, the area becomes the perfect place for drinks with family and friends once the sun fades to dusk.
I hope these tips help you with the start of your pool and landscape planning. If you need inspiration for your pool design, contact London Swimming Pool Company and me for landscaping! We will be happy to impart our knowledge and expertise.
To learn more about Katja’s work click here.