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 complete with pool house.
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 requires 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 33 different small pool designs that feature homes and properties of varying sizes and styles.
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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, a two-bedroom guest house, and a courtyard nestled between the primary 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 won a Preservation Merit Award in 2017 from Preservation Austin.Continue to 2 of 33 below.
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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 capstone ledge provides 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.Continue to 3 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 4 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 5 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 6 of 33 below.
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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 outside 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.
The pool was installed by Water Designs of Sarasota.Continue to 8 of 33 below.
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Colors of the Desert
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.Continue to 9 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 10 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 12 of 33 below.
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Sophisticated Round Design
Small or plunge swimming pools are big businesses 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.Continue to 14 of 33 below.
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Deck Plunge Pool
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.Continue to 17 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 18 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 19 of 33 below.
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Bridge to Fireplace Island
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.Continue to 21 of 33 below.
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Who says small pools aren't fun? This prefabricated model by Australian Plunge Pool 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.Continue to 22 of 33 below.
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An infinity style, on a smaller scale, still offers a stunning view whether you're inside or simply 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 build a pool to maximize the experience.Continue to 23 of 33 below.
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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 water basin himself.Continue to 25 of 33 below.
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Slim and Rich
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.Continue to 26 of 33 below.
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Texas Swimming Hole
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 a lawn. It's a basic plunge pool, which offers enough room in which to exercise and cool off on a blistering Texas afternoon.Continue to 27 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 28 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 29 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 31 of 33 below.
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Center City Indoor Pool
In the Northeast, an indoor swimming pool can be used more due to the harsh winters. 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.Continue to 32 of 33 below.
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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.Continue to 33 of 33 below.