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The New Little Luxury: 5 small backyard pool ideas with a big impact

Water is the elixir of life, as the saying goes. Besides vital sustenance, it has also offered delightful experiences for every age since time immemorial. So, what could be better than offering some of those experiences for friends and family in your own backyard oasis? Because homes have gotten larger and yard space can be at a premium, weve put together five small pool ideas that will enhance your enjoyment and upgrade your outdoor living area  if not the value of your home.

1. The spool

Known colloquially as spools, swim spas have emerged as a popular solution to bridge the gap between the best of two worlds: a spa and a pool. You can work out or relax: Its your choice. But, at only about 12 feet long and 6 feet wide, spools take up considerably less space than even the smallest pool. They can accommodate one or two people, making them perfect for intimate get-togethers. Features include multiple jets and varying depths  and perhaps massage seats and audio speakers to listen to your favorite playlist.

plunge pool

2. The plunge pool

Plunge pools, sometimes referred to as dipping pools, are typically just a little larger than a spa and considerably smaller than a conventional pool. Theyre made for fun and recreation, providing a refreshing place to take a dip on a hot day or relax after a vigorous workout. Water depth usually maxes out at seven feet, well below the safety standard for diving. A shallow depth makes them ideal for aquafit workouts or injury recovery. Popular options include massaging jets, integrated seating, colored interior lighting, steps and water features.

3. The reflecting pool

Designed to reflect the surroundings and create a sense of tranquility and visual interest, reflecting pools are shallow and narrow. They can be as simple as a long rectangle or kidney-shaped with a smooth bottom and vertical sides, or they can be more elaborate, with multiple levels, fountains, water features and lighting. Reflecting your surrounding landscape or architecture can add interest or drama to your outdoor space. Beyond their visual impact, they offer a touch of Zen, for private, contemplative moments.

4. The splash pool

A splash pool is just what it sounds like: a small pool where little ones can splash and play. Its usually about three feet deep, with a gradual slope on one or more sides, making it easy to get in and out of. Theyre a great way to introduce kids to the fun of swimming and can help keep them entertained on hot days. Splash pools come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from simple circles and squares to more elaborate designs with slides and waterfalls.

5. The lap pool

A serious-minded swimmer should consider a lap pool. Lap pools are narrow and rectangular, and designed for aqua fitness. While there are no prescribed dimensions, fluid dynamics come into play. Width and water depth will affect the amount of turbulence created (Water will remain reasonably calm with an eight-foot to 10-foot width at a minimum four-foot depth). A swimmers stroke should determine the pools length to prevent the monotony of reaching the opposite end and having to reverse course too quickly. While lap pools are visually appealing, functionality dominates over whimsical features and shapes.

small pool floaty

Bonus FYI: Small pool design tips

Regardless of what type of small pool you choose, it should add to the sense of harmony in your backyard. Unity is a fundamental principle of landscape architecture, and a pool offers the potential to elevate your outdoor setting to an entirely new level. Consider these design suggestions to maximize the impact of your investment:

  • Choose a shape that is contoured to your home or the border of your property.
  • Go vertical. Adding a wall on one or two sides of the pool will add privacy and may also act as a property boundary and retaining wall. (Check all building codes, always.)
  • Keep it shallow. A depth more than 5 feet means that the slope angle of a short floor will be extreme rather than gradual.
  • Add minimal decking. If your pool is nestled against a wall or near the house, consider a deck that borders just one or two sides.
  • Select materials that highlight the color and texture of your home.

Bonus FYI: Best practices

Like all projects, careful planning is paramount to a successful small pool istallation. Its easy to get carried away by stunning photos, sketches and renderings, but its vital to take a measured approach. Get started by creating a scope of work, such as with the following tips:

  • As always, ask your Briggs Freeman Sothebys International Realty agent for advice and resources. 
  • Choose which small pool idea aligns best with your lifestyle.
  • Ask yourself if the pool will be used all year or seasonally.
  • Decide what size is suitable for your space.
  • Determine your budget and plan for overages.
  • Check with your local authorities to ascertain bylaws that may require safety fencing, special permits, property-line setbacks or other considerations.
  • Research reputable pool installation companies and ask for customer references.
  • Contact your insurance company before any work begins.

Jump in!

Adding a pool is the dream of many homeowners. A smaller space can realize that dream without limiting the possibilities for luxury, splendor and fun. Consult an agent at Briggs Freeman Sothebys International Realty for a seasoned opinion about creating your own backyard retreat. Were always here to help.

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