Owners of backyard pools sometimes refer to them as that hole in the ground into which I pour money. But save some of your investment for landscaping and decor to integrate the pool with your site and architecture. Decorating the pool not only increases your enjoyment of it, but thoughtful enhancements to the pool area also increase the value of your home. The pool isn't an add-on, an unlovely concrete pit full of water; instead, it's an opportunity to extend your considerable decorating chops to the great outdoors.
Pool and Patio Tile
A manicured carpet of green lawn can run right up to the pool apron in a garden setting with a folly, pergola and distant flowerbeds. Flat stone pavers with moss instead of grouting look almost unplanned; red brick treated the same way is a bit more formal, but using old brick in age-softened colors appears as attractively worn as an heirloom carpet. A terra-cotta patio around the pool works for Southwestern, Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial-style architecture. For a new pool or one that needs work, consider glazed pool tile. Moorish and Mediterranean patterns, tile mosaics, travertine coping and Moroccan border tiles are a few of the choices that color your pool with distinctive personality.
Design by Nature
A natural pool is constructed to look like a pond and has a regeneration zone that filters the water through plants and gravel. If you have the build-it-from-the-ground-up choice, that's an enchanting and chemical-free way to go. But you can lend your conventional pool the aura of a forest glen with landscaping and your choice of materials for the apron and deck. Skip the concrete and install stone pavers, interspersed with swales of decorative grasses and other hardy local plants. Add height with potted trees or stands of bamboo; the containers keep tree roots from invading your pool or patio surface and prevent bamboo from taking over the entire yard. Avoid overhanging trees that shed leaves in the pool and clog filters. Incorporate boulders in poolside plantings or as part of a waterfall. Add a koi pond adjacent to the pool; link both bodies of water together with lush landscaping.
Chair or Chaise
Guests will appreciate comfortable seating -- and adjustable shade in the noonday sun. A mix of poolside furniture gives you options for morning coffee, evening chats around the fireside and afternoon naps. One or more bistro tables, flanked by water-resistant chairs, turn the pool patio into a private cafe. Add a tilting market umbrella per table to keep the sun out of your eyes. Set a few padded chaises in an area shaded by foliage or protected by a sun sail. If you have a natural pool or dense landscaping, a hammock by the pool is the ultimate relaxing way to fall asleep while pretending to read your summer thriller or the latest sales report. Weather-resistant materials include synthetic wicker, aluminum, painted wrought iron, sturdy plastic and vinyl, and woods that weather beautifully, such as teak, cedar and redwood.
Light and Fire
The pool is theater, so don't forget the lighting. Every design feature of your pool and the surrounding patio should have artificial illumination highlighting it at night. LED fiber optics and colored lenses take care of underwater lighting and glow through waterfalls after dark. Gas or electric tiki lamps show the way to the pool and flicker like island beacons around it. Floating colored spheres with tinted LED lights bob on the surface of the pool like luminous pastel moons. Hidden spotlights pick out a spectacular plant or a vine-covered pool house. Stone, brick, metal or concrete fire pits invite guests to linger after sunset and give parties by the pool year-round appeal. If you don't have room for a gas-fed concrete bowl with flames rising from a bed of river rocks, place a small clay chiminea in the middle of the seating.
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