Cover story: Backyard pool forever changed

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“Shapes are always kind of crazy,” Mr. Crowder said.

Even traditionally shaped rectangular pools don’t always look the same. Infinity, or zero-edge pools are designed to provide an optical illusion of water that seems to flow into the distant horizon, rather than the cleverly concealed catch trough below. Sometimes called vanishing-edge pools, these types are especially effective for showing off the scenery as they guide they eye toward a particular point.

And forget those waterline tiles you remember from your days at the Y. Other than a diving board, there is nothing that makes a pool look more dated. Today’s pools often feature dark finishes that magnify the reflective properties of the water, or beadcrete, shimmering glass beads that add a touch of elegance.

“They are absolutely gorgeous,” Mr. Crowder said. “It’s almost like having a glass mosaic underneath your feet.”

Still want to dive? Diving rocks, which blend into the natural environment, can fill that need.

Older pool lovers, as well as those with young children, often favor beach-entry pools, which offer a gently sloping surface rather than steps. These are especially beloved by sunbathers, who get to set up lounge chairs on the shallow end, which warms up quickly, or by older folk who just want to get a “little bit” wet.

Then there are “wet decks,” oversized steps of a sort that enable people who don’t want to go all the way into the water to sit.

And while you are unlikely to see a diving board on today’s pool, because of safety issues and design changes, you are likely to find all sorts of other features. Waterfalls, bubblers, sconces, scuppers and other features all add interest and provide a focal point, even when no one is in the water.

“People want more water features,” Mr. Covert said. “They love the sound of running water, and they have the added affect of drowning out the street noise.”

Meanwhile, new ways of lighting abound, including using laminars that shoot water along with streams of color into the pool or deck area. Energy-efficient LED lights, which can offer an abundance of color and other effects, have replaced the floodlights from your grandparents’ day. (They also last longer.) Fireplaces, fire pits, and fire bowls can provide lighting along with a bit of warmth for swimmers who have left the water.

“At night you can sit out and watch the lights play along the water features while you listen to music,” Mr. Covert said.

Mr. Covert noted that most people spend more time around the pool than actually in it, so the area surrounding the water has changed, too. New materials and more luxurious outdoor furniture means decks often are designed as more than just places to hang your towel - they are spaces to hang out.

“You’ve really added another living area,” Mr. Covert said. “People love being out there.”

Often, these spaces are designed to mimic the natural environment, and include boulders and rock formations, or echo a design element from the home itself. Designers often speak of a “poolscape” that includes a variety of elements, both natural and created.

“You want to consider the wants and desires of the homeowner,” Mr. Crowder said. “You also take into account things like cultural influences and the architectural style of the home. You want to take what’s inside and bring it outdoors.”

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