Remember when backyard pools all looked alike — rectangular concrete ponds with, perhaps, a diving board? Not anymore. Today they have bold, beautiful personalities as distinctive as their owners’.
Pool owners want more features packed into a smaller space and they want them to be safer, automated and more elaborate.
Salt systems and automation, for instance, are becoming mainstream, and customers can control all aspects of their backyard pool remotely from their smartphones or iPads.
Thanks to such technology, pool maintenance is easier. Which is a good thing, because residential pools are a significant investment, ranging from $25,000 to more than $100,000.
Owners also want shapes that are free form with gentle curves to blend into the landscape.
“While there will always be a market for more geometric designs, the majority seem to be shifting toward a more natural look,” said Jake Grant at Banks Blue Valley Pool and Spa in Overland Park. Free-form pools are ideal for smaller backyards where more traditional shapes might not fit.
Some feature an infinity or vanishing edge with one side of the pool wall removed to give the illusion of water flowing into the landscape beyond, when actually the water is running into a recirculating basin.
The trend is toward shallower water so adults and children can stand up in more of the floor area. Sun shelves or tanning ledges often are incorporated for lounging. Some larger pools have beach-entry access, a gradual slope for wading in so there’s no need for steps or ladders.
Living room in summer
“The possibilities are endless even for small spaces and a low budget,” said Heather Hamel of Leawood.
After debating the pros and cons of a pool for years, she and her husband, Zach Hamel, chose a 400-square-foot organically shaped design.
“We wanted something that would go naturally with the home’s Colorado-style architecture,” she said. The Hamels, who have six children ages 3 to 16, two of whom swim competitively, also didn’t want a lap pool that might overwhelm the yard. “I wanted it to be just a place to splash around, hang out and have fun.”
The pool area, a collaboration of Banks Pool & Spa and Land Art of Leawood, has a moss rock ledge with a cascading waterfall, four fountain arcs and multicolored LED lighting. Flagstone covers the deck and a 9-inch deep sun shelf encircles the shallow end of the pool.
“If you just want to stay cool when the weather gets really hot, without being submerged, you can relax on the ledge,” Heather said. Plus the bilevel veranda, overlooking the pool, offers flat screens, fireplaces, a grill and refrigerator.
“We open the pool April 1 and don’t close it until October 1,” Heather said. “It brings spring to us. It’s our living room for the summer.”
Mixing fire and water
C.J. and Talenna Bradley of Blue Springs wanted a space for entertaining that’s also cool enough for their three kids to want to have friends over.
They also wanted fire and waterfalls. Working with Backyard by Design of Overland Park, C.J. provided pictures of what he envisioned, including the volcano at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
However, before work on the pool could begin, one side of their backyard that serves as a dam for an adjoining pond had to be elevated more than 10 feet. That required hauling in over 800 tons of dirt and 1,200 tons of gravel. But it was worth the effort, he said. “We manufactured a new living space.”
The 30-by-45-foot free-form pool includes a sun ledge, 9-foot deep end and a vanishing edge. One towering waterfall cascades over the top of a tiny cove with seating. Another waterfall runs parallel to the waterslide. At night the area is illuminated by five giant fire bowls. The flagstone-paved deck features a fire pit, cabana, fireplace and a pizza oven.
The Bradleys’ pool contractor was Vince Davenport with Swim Things in Blue Springs. Davenport said even though the majority of pools are still built for families, his company is seeing more baby boomers gaining interest. “They build it for entertainment, grandkids and visual appeal in the backyard.”
Loving the lagoon
The poolside paradise of Linda and DeWayne Bridges of Overland Park has become a summer retreat for grown children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends.
“Our goal was to create an outdoor oasis with waterfalls, fire bowls and a pool that looks like a lagoon,” Linda said.
A 10-foot stream flows from the hot tub into a 650-square-foot pool, plastered a blue-gray similar to lagoons. The pool, constructed by Banks, also has a 12-by-15 foot tanning ledge.
Linda says the landscaping by Land Art ties everything together. Trees and bushes were chosen that provide year-round beauty without the nuisance of falling leaves and pine needles. Low-maintenance perennials and flowering shrubs accent the yard with splashes of color. The outdoor kitchen, bar, conversation nook with fireplace and a sound system make the backyard a spot for entertaining.
If they did it over again, the Bridges say, they wouldn’t change a thing. “We knew we had one shot to get it right, and boy, did we get it right!”
Breath of new life
When Travis and Bree Gensler bought their home in Blue Springs, it came with a pool badly in need of repair. It looked like a nightmare, Travis said. “We were thinking of just filling it in and planting grass over the top.”
But Terry Wood, at Luxury Custom Pools and Renovations in Blue Springs, was able to bring it back to life in a big way. Everything was rebuilt except the original walls.
In addition to a large fire pit, eight fountains were added that cast arcs of light over the pool at night. The concrete deck was dyed a warm, sandy tan to match the house.
“It has a rock texture that has been antique stamped to add depth,” Travis said. “It looks like real rock.”
Once an albatross, the pool is now the home’s centerpiece. Even when it’s too cool to swim, Travis says, the whole family enjoys sitting by the fire, listening to the fountains and making s’mores.
Deb Svoboda is a freelance writer.
How to choose a pool contractor
Obtain referrals from happy pool owners.
Visit the company’s website. Does it provide useful information?
Do they specialize in the type of pool you want?
Are they licensed in the state and insured?
How long has the company been in operation?
Do they have a business location and service department?
What challenges do they foresee?
Confirm that one supervisor will oversee the entire installation including pool, equipment, concrete, masonry and landscaping.
Can you communicate easily with the contractor?