33 Small Swimming Pools with Big Style

Get Ideas: Plunge, Cocktail, and Wading Pools

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    Pools are Getting Smaller

    man in small pool
    Linda Raymond/Getty Images

    On a small or narrow lot, where do you put the pool? With the challenge of density and less room to build, homes and properties are being reconfigured or just shrinking. Architects and builders can use vertical real estate--climbing up or digging down--to pack more living space onto a narrow lot. And everyone is rethinking the ever-popular swimming pool. For many, the answer is to go smaller. That way, you get the pleasures of a pool--exercise, refreshment, relaxation, an attractive water feature--without building a standard 20- x 40-foot in-ground model.

    Smaller pools are popping up in unexpected places. Some are located in the front yard, as part of an enclosed entry courtyard, while others are off a wing of a house or wedged in a central courtyard patio area, surrounded by the rest of the house. In colder climates, small pools fit better than large ones when they're built indoors. Most stay in the backyard, which may be smaller than the one in which you grew up. And some are more petite to allow other elements, like patios, decks, and outdoor kitchens be part of the landscape. 

    They go by different names: spools, plunge pools, cocktail pools, and wading pools.

    While it will take fewer materials and less time to complete a more diminutive pool, don't think it will cut the cost of your project in half. Many small pools have water features and are a focal point, which require attractive materials like stone and tile, designed and applied by an expert. If you're determined to install a pool, consider the popular round stock tanks or above-grounds, which are sunken into or surrounded by decking.

    Let's take a look at 30 different small pool designs that feature homes and properties of varying sizes and styles.

     

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    Midcentury Renovation

    small pool in courtyard
    Jake Holt for Clayton & Little

    Designed by architect Roland G. Roessner in the 1950s, this Midcentury modern home on Austin's Balcones Drive is notable for its cantilevered concrete balcony perched above a long, sloping hillside. Although the new homeowners were unfamiliar with the Midcentury style, they quickly did their homework and hired Clayton & Little to guide a careful renovation of an Austin architectural gem.

    The enlarged 2,680-square-foot house features a new office, two-bedroom guest house, and a courtyard nestled between the master bedroom and casita that features a small pool. Additions were set at the back of the house, making alterations only slightly evident from the street. The home one a Preservation Merit Award in 2017 from Preservation Austin.

     

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    Letter-Shaped Pool

    small pool design
    Alka Pool Construction Ltd.

    Equipped with an ultraviolet sanitation system, this shallow pool in Vancouver, British Columbia, also serves as a bathing water feature. A water wall with glass tile complements the white plaster pool, and built-in seating with a bluestone cap stone ledge provide a place to soak or dry off in the sun. Designed and built by Alka Pool, this in-ground concrete pool is raised 18 inches from the deck level. 

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    Reflecting Pool

    small pool design
    Photography by Timothy Bell

    Originally built as part of a Life Magazine promotion from plans by notable architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen, this custom-designed home in Chevy Chase, Maryland was customized and adapted by Anthony Wilder Design/Build to cater to the current homeowner’s desires.

    From an aerial view, the house forms an ‘H’.  A dramatic entry features a steel and concrete bridge with embedded LED lighting and glass railings, while a Japanese-style Zen garden allows natural light to enter the basement. Inspired by the Washington Monument reflecting pool, Wilder designed an elongated pool with a marble surround.

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    Private Plunge

    small pool ideas
    Aqua Blue

    While this Charleston, South Carolina, home has plenty of outdoor space, the owners wanted a small plunge pool and spa with a patio that was separate from the rest of the yard. Designed by Aqua Blue, the 12-by-14.6-foot pool is built with concrete and an interior finish of Monsterrat pebbles with Tahoe Blue pebblestone at the waterline. The pool's steps are located on the side and also lead from the 6-by-6-foot spa. The pool coping and decking near the fence are walnut travertine, while the pool surround and patio are composite decking.

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    Miami Cool

    small pool ideas
    Tamara Alvarez

    Step into the entry courtyard of this contemporary Key West home and you'll be greeted by a patio and an 18-by-18-foot square pool. Designed by Craig Reynolds Landscape Architecture, the pool is accented by square-cut Florida coral stone. At night, dramatic blue pool lights entice the owners and guests to stay outside.

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    Rustic Retreat

    small pool design
    Arrow Timber

    For a large estate in Caldera Springs, Oregon, Arrow Timber Framing constructed a post-and-beam compound with an outdoor room featuring local stone. Near the small pool is a large stone fireplace to warm up after a quick dip and for gathering to enjoy the wooded property. Caldera Springs is a residential community near Bend, Oregon, and is near lakes, streams, and natural and paved trails.

     

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    Sarasota Modern

    small pool designs
    Carol Miline

    Sarasota, Florida, is a haven for Midcentury modern architecture and its notable architects are often associated with the Sarasota School of Architecture, or Sarasota Modern. The school to which the term refers is not an actual college, but rather a name for the area's regional Modernism style that proliferated after World War II. 

    This Wisconsin Lane house was built in 1951 and was updated in 2009. Greg Hall Architects teamed with Dane Spencer Landscape Architecture to renovate the home and make smarter use of existing spaces while retaining the same footprint. One solution: to open the corner to the garden, which creates a seamlessness from the inside to the outdside and provides a sheltered patio directly off the main living space. This was achieved by removing exterior walls and adding garden structures to emphasize the outdoors.

    A chain-link fence was replaced with a small pool that features a waterfall wall and planter, which can, of course, be enjoyed or admired from indoors. Features include:

    The pool was installed by Water Designs of Sarasota.

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    Colors of the Desert

    mosaic tile pool
    Matt Vacca

    Landscape designer Kathryn Prideaux of Prideaux Design likes to work with and incorporate the colors and textures of the desert into her projects. Her style is distinct, using touches of vintage or Midcentury modern outdoor furnishings with Southwestern materials. For a project like this townhouse in Tucson's Skyline Bel Air Estates, Prideaux incorporates low-to-the-ground hardscape and furnishings so that the view is uninterrupted. The beautiful blue mosaic-tile plunge pool and spa include in-water lounge chairs (foreground). The blue is repeated in a retro patio dining set.

     

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    Beachfront

    small pools
    MHK Architecture

    Despite the challenge of a limited lot size, property setbacks, and strict lot coverage requirements, MHK Architecture designed a space for a Florida beachfront home that complied with the codes and satisfied the homeowners' desires. The spool does what it's supposed to do, doubling as a pool in which to cool off and exercise and a spa for evenings and during the winter. There's still enough room for entertaining on the patio and even has a lawn for the dogs.

     

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    Atlantic Beach Yard

    small pool design
    Cascade

    Cascade Outdoor Design created a back accent wall behind this small pool that looks good and provides extra seating.  There is also a sunny space for loungers, an outdoor living room, and a poolside dining set. 

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    Terraced Tudor Garden

    A formal backyard emphasizes symmetry and order, perfect for a Tudor-style home and yard in Philadelphia. Designed by Eberlein. A rectangular pool includes an old world fountain and is flanked on either side by elegant lounge chairs, all of which are visible from upper terraces.

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    Round and Round

    small round pool
    Daniel Kelly Photography

    A twist on traditional rectangular and geometric pools, this round spool from Mirror Lake Designs includes a connected spa that's a smaller circle. Located in Houston, this landscape features scupper water features and warm sandstone paving.

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    Sophisticated Round Design

    small round pool
    Brisbane Prestige

    Small or plunge swimming pools are big business in Australia, with several companies and designers either manufacturing or creating solutions for homeowners with small or hard-to-fit lots. This one, designed by Brisbane Prestige Plunge Pools and Allcast Precast of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, looks like a more permanent, high quality round tank pool. Positioned either in- or above-ground, these plunge pools work well for yards with rocky soil or for slopes.

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    Southeast Charmer

    small pool designs
    Troy Rhone

    It could have been left alone, but designer Troy Rhone of Birmingham, Alabama, added a 5-by-16-foot lap pool to this long, narrow yard in Alys Beach, Florida. Privacy is achieved with colorful trees in large pots.

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    Bluestone Freeform

    small pool ideas
    Carville

    When it gets warm in Richmond, Virginia, the owners of this pool designed by Carville Landscape take a refreshing dip. The pool deck and stone walls are built with bluestone for a traditional appeal, but the pool takes on a twist with a curving, freeform design.

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    Deck Plunge Pool

    small round plunge pool
    Villa

    A warm, rich wood deck includes a round plunge pool with mosaic tile, designed by Villa Plunge Pools of Perth, Australia. Because they are compact, Villa's plunge pools warm up quickly and provide swim and soak opportunities throughout the year. 

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    Cocktail Pool

    small pool designs
    Adam Pass

    In the evening, this amoeba-shaped cocktail pool by Thomas Flint Landscape Design is an enticing, blue glowing focal point for a landscape in Montville, New Jersey. Cocktail pools are another term for small or plunge pools. Although, hopefully, you wouldn't plunge into a pool while drinking that cocktail.

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    Jewel Tones

    small pool design
    James Dawson

    A narrow space that connects the front of this property to the main living space required a solution that would allow the landscape to be functional while looking good. James Dawson Design, a boutique pool and landscape design studio in Melbourne, Australia, used bold, colorful tiles and native and tropical plants as a striking contrast to hardscape, like this raised stone pool. A wood fence finished with a clear penetrating oil adds a touch of nature to the setting, making it a small but exotic tropical-looking escape.

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    Sonoma Pool

    small pools
    Matthew Millman

    Located in Northern California wine country's Sonoma County, a "mini house" designed by  Schwartz and Architecture features a small, rectangular pool that echoes the same clean lines, basic materials, and lack of ornamentation.

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    Bridge to Fireplace Island

    small pools
    xxxx

    Like many places, it gets downright hot in Northeast Oklahoma during the summer. The solution, naturally, is a cocktail pool with an adjoining spa (for cooler months) that features a bridge to the nearby patio and stone fireplace. Designed by On the Edge, the pool, patio, and fire feature (which is also an outdoor oven/grill) are built with local sandstone.

     

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    Prefab Plunge

    small round pool
    Australian Plunge Pools

    Who says small pools aren't fun? This prefabricated model by Australian Plunge Pools is made of concrete and features a built-in standing ledge. It can also be used for hydrotherapy and has options like spa jets, mosaic tile, and various exterior finishes.

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    Vanishing Edge

    small pool designs
    Brandon Barre

    An infinity style, on a smaller scale, still offers a stunning view whether you're inside or simple near the pool. Designed by Raven Inside of West Vancouver for a luxurious hilltop home, the pool proves that, if you have a view--even a pocket-size peek--you can built a pool to maximize the experience.

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    Natural Pool and Spa

    small round pool and spa
    Mike Farley

    A freeform natural pool with a connected round raised spa was designed by Mike Farley and includes an Oklahoma flagstone stair-stepped spillway. Boulder-style coping was made with moss rock, and a heavy stone-texture paving in Latte gives the yard an organic feel.

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    Reflections

    small pool
    Beyond the Borders

    Sometimes, simple is the best answer when it comes to outdoor design. For a yard in Surrey, England, Beyond the Borders Garden Design created a basic square pool that looks like it's been there for years. Garden designer Aylwin Nissen built the waterbasin himself.

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    Slim and Rich

    small pool designs
    Mitchel Naquin

    A contemporary townhouse in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, features a long, narrow pool that measures about 8-by-20 feet. Designed by The Front Door Architecture, the patio is surrounded by stamped concrete and the floor-to-ceiling windows and doors make the pool a water feature to be gazed upon during the day or evening.

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    Texas Swimming Hole

    small pool in yard
    Shade House

    Chip and Joanna Gaines aren't the only build-and-design husband/wife team in Texas. In the 1990s, Matt and Tina Ford bought an old bungalow in Houston's Montrose section, where they honed their skills and built a business in the process. Initially called Shade House, they are now known, appropriately, as Ford Design.  

    This house, which has been featured on local home tours, includes a small backyard with a rectangular concrete "swimming hole" surrounded by lawn. It's a basic plunge pool, which offers enough room in which to exercise and cool off on a blistering Texas afternoon.

     

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    Pasadena Paradise

    Perched on a Pasadena, California, hillside with a view of the Southland, a slightly curving Midcentury modern house features an oval pool/spa combo that repeats the shape of the house.

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    Spanish in Scottsdale

    A gorgeous, Spanish Colonial-influenced house at Silverleaf in Scottsdale, Arizona, designed by Oz Architects features a focal-point swimming pool that is accessible from the living room or via an outdoor staircase. Illuminated in the evening, it reflects the desert sky. Oz teamed with Siteworks, LLC for the project.

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    All-Inclusive Patio

    small pool designs
    Platinum Poolcare

    Designed by Platinum Poolcare of Park Ridge, Illinois, a small patio area artfully manages to include lots of features, like a square pool, patio, fireplace, and outdoor television, which can be viewed from the pool.

     

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    Urban Toronto

    small pool with waterfall
    Betz Pools

    A custom-built gunite plunge pool designed by Betz Pools of Toronto, Canada, is tucked in the backyard of a downtown Toronto home. The 9-by-18-foot gunite pool is equipped with underwater benches, steps, a sheer-descent water feature, and a raised ledge-rock wall. 

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    Center City Indoor Pool

    small pool enclosure
    Halkin Mason Photography

    In the Northeast, a pool can be used more if it is indoors. Rasmussen / Su Architects of Philadelphia cleverly designed a pool for the inside of a home. It sits on a reinforced slab, which is set on reinforced piers drilled down to the level of a nearby basement. Structurally, the floor and walls of the space are independent of the pool and lap over its edges. A retractable cover is located at the pool's far end.

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    Blue Accents

    small pool with spa
    Andrew Jakovac

    Safely enclosed within glass walls, a plunge pool, spa, and water feature designed by Majestic Pools of Brisbane, Australia, is perfect for families with small yards and young children.

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    Geometric Pool

    small pool designs
    Space

    Designed like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle, a pool designed by Space Landscape Designs of Sydney, Australia, is an irregular shape but manages to leave room for seating and curbed timber decking.