Pools for your garden: 15 ideas for small yards & gardens

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Vivienda Na Xemena, Ramón Esteve Estudio Ramón Esteve Estudio Modern Pool
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Water is the essence of life, the mother medium. In the home, we use water in the kitchen to cook, in the bathroom to clean, but when it comes to a pool, spa or hot tub, water is the ultimate solution for dissolving stress and refreshing the soul. Whether you're looking to escape the summer heat, or indeed the chill of winter, having a pool on the property is highly desirable, yet many view a pool as a luxury item that's naturally attached to an expansive, expensive house. 

Not true. 

If you think your home is too small to have a pool, then this collection will prove otherwise. The smallest of gardens, courtyards, and rooftops can be retrofitted or designed from scratch to accommodate a pool, an oasis for immersion, relaxation and pure play. 

1. Pools to put your home in a whirl.

For starters, a small pool can be more than sensational. This pool is set on a sun-drenched terrace, and its novel design includes a pair of submerged, contoured loungers with built-in Whir-pool jets for targeted, muscle-relaxing hot tub action. A fountain at one end is a nice touch, either as a simple water feature or for those times when you want to sit under a Japanese-style waterfall massage. Surfaced in brushed steel, this pool catches the light for a dynamic design.

2. Think outside the pool.

When your house's footprint is small, it makes sense to think in three-dimensions. This simple, step-down pool is set in a small wood-decked courtyard bordered by towering walls. The design of the space acknowledges the strong synergy between water and greenery, building in a vertical garden at once end for a fantastically refreshing, organic bathing experience. Below the garden, a patterned wall acts as a mounting for a tall water feature that plays a stream down into the body of the pool. 

3. Water delights in patterns.

The stunning rooftop setting of this pool is almost upstaged by the design of the pool and its surrounds. A tiled mosaic pattern lining the pool adds a great deal of texture, ever-changing in tandem with the movement of the water. The colors chosen evoke a riverbed of sand and polished stones, working together with the contrasting redwood decking and rustic weatherboarding of the apartment's exterior. 

4. Design for depth.

This courtyard, planted with plenty of greenery and set below a roughshod stone wall, is home to a pool that draws the eye – and the body – into its depths. The design has identified the longest axis of the yard, giving as much of the space as possible over to the pool. The final flourish is the decision to line the pool with materials colored in darker aquatic tones, amplifying the perception that this body of water is a deep, mysterious, rejuvenating wellspring. 

5. Immerse yourself in minimalism.

The purity of water is perfectly reflected in the simplicity of modern minimalist design. This right-angled pool is undisturbed by either a patterned lining or a fussy setting. A dark-colored segment at the rear breaks up the surface of the tall wall that grants the pool privacy and, lit up by blue-violet lights, pulls the color of the twilight down into the water. Simple, molded plastic sun-loungers are the perfect poolside complement. 

6. Bathe in a sunken grotto.

This fabulous courtyard has been transformed by the addition of a pool at the foot of an iron spiral staircase and a rough stone wall, surrounded by irregular stones and boulders and ample tropical plants. It gives the impression that you're descending into a sinkhole to the source of a calming spring, with natural light filtering down from above. 

7. Take a dip in a natural pool far above the city.

This incredible high-rise pool boasts a stunning view out over the city skyline, but uses color and organic materials to evince a deeply natural setting. Lined with small, mossy green tiles, fed by a central water inlet and featuring an over-spill lip, this pool once again appears as if it's a rock-pool in the forest rather than a patch of water pumped far above the rooftops. 

8. Pool resources for bathing & pond life.

This novel pool design satisfies the desire for an living, breathing pond complete with lilies and a miniature ocean for human frogmen and women to float in. A slim steel divider separates the two eco-spheres – it's vital for such a combination design that the chlorinated water is strictly demarcated from the pond if it is to support the right kind of life. In the foreground, a second raised pool feeds the lower, lily-pad pond. 

9. Be like water.

Adapt your pool to the space available – don't, for instance, force an elaborate, curve-linear pool into a narrow, rectilinear space. As long as you can get your head and shoulders under water, you've got yourself a pool. Here, an irregularly shaped terrace neatly accommodates a long and narrow lap pool without disturbing the harmony of the space. A set of steps lead down below the depth of the pool, holding up a dry mirror to the depth of water in the pool for an eye-pleasing visual rhyme. 

10. Water and light are elemental friends.

Well-designed lighting is crucial to any architectural concept. When it comes to pool design, it's good to remember that water and light are tightly connected. Water's refractive qualities produce fantastic effects in interaction with light, and a pool design should take this into account. This compact. emerald-green pool uses a variety of light installations to sculpt the space inside and outside the pool, making it a dramatic centerpiece that can be viewed from the living room through the floor-to-ceiling picture windows. 

11. Basic pools on the borders of your living spaces.

This pool is simple and functional, a classic rectangular shape with a sloping floor forming deep and shallow ends. What's unique about the design of this pool is its proximity to the home's interior. You can literally step from the house directly into the pool. Worried about dripping bodies and wet towels? The design includes a glass section of flooring just inside the sliding doors to provide protection from the water. 

12. Build a well to keep your home hydrated.

This small garden has been given almost entirely over to an enticing green and circular pool. A mature tree has been kept in place, offering an organic contrast to the unfinished concrete of the house, which appears to wrap around the circumference of the pool. The skirting of the pool is fashioned from the same material – a good non-slip safety measure. 

13. You can plant a pool almost anywhere.

Another striking example of a rooftop pool, one that eschews the conventional rectangular form. This kidney-shaped pool slots neatly into the footprint of the rooftop, and is sunken into the roof for maximum privacy. An enviable setting for a desirable dip!

14. A classical bath.

This opulent garden pool speaks to classic tradition, modelling a rock garden with pygmy poplars (crucially evergreen – no leaves in this pool!) and a waterfall around one side while maintaining a relatively straightforward design for the pool itself so that bathers can get down to some serious laps, float their worries away, or chuck a beach volleyball around as they please. 

15. Jazz up the smallest space.

In the end, a pool is essentially a container that holds at least enough water to get your feet wet. Even the smallest space can go one step further than this with the installation of a hot tub or spa. This Romanesque example can fit an intimate handful of people inside for a simple sit-and-soak experience. There are many affordable spas of this type available today, many of which can be easily assembled on site. 

Not quite ready to take the plunge but want an oasis anyway?

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If you had to choose, would you install a pool for laps or a pool for play?

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