The Southern California swimming pool has been a classic study in design evolution. It is relatively easy to look at pictures of swimming pools and accurately guess the decade in which they were built. Tile and coping materials as well as pool shapes come and go with trends and fads. If you are designing or building a pool for longevity of appeal and resale value, it makes sense to incorporate more classic lines and timeless materials that won’t follow a trend but rather transcend them. A pool is a large architectural feature in the landscape. It is the center of outdoor activity for 6 months of the year. Visually, when it is not in use, it becomes a piece of art and or a fountain. The importance of designing to fit both budget and scale of the site is the greatest challenge. Consider the following when designing a pool.

Why do you want a pool or spa?
o Play
o Exercise
o Visual Impact
o Cool off in

  • Who will use it and how often will it actually be used?
  • What does it cost to maintain a pool? Heat and fill, etc?
  • Will a spa accompany the pool?
  • Objectionable background noise?
  • Do you want the sound of falling water?
    o If so, from which direction is the sound coming from?
    o Place the fountain between yourself and consider the view of it from all angles.
  • Is child safety a factor? If so, either a motorized pool cover or a child safety fence should be utilized.



What features or activities within the pool are you considering. Some common and not uncommon elements are as follows:

  • Baja Shelf
    o Enlarge entry steps large enough for shallow water (12”-18”) sitting.
  • Umbrella sleeves: for shade and flexibility try several locations around the pool.
  • Beach Entries: slowly descending entry on an angle as opposed to classical steps.
  • Extra Steps: Most people only have 3 rather tall 8” –9” risers. Try adding 1 or 2 more for those with bad knees.
  • Grab Rails: For those who are disabled. Use at entry steps or spa. Try ornamental iron instead of the municipal stainless steel look.
  • Elevated Spas that spill into pools: Try seat height (18”) elevated for ease of access sitting and spinning legs across to enter and exit. Size it for anticipated quantity of persons in everyday use. It may require considerable more time to heat an overly large spa. Spa water when re-circulating with pool water may sheet or cascade over a variety of materials.
  • Raised Bond Beam: In a number of ways elevating a pool wall and veneering with a timeless stone or tile. This type of feature is often used when the pool is located at the foot of a slope. Planting the backside of this raised wall and paving 3 others will add a dramatic touch and soften the edges of all the masonry.
  • Waterfalls: Natural rock waterfalls are a timeless feature and it’s an excellent way to anchor your design to a site with natural surroundings. If access for a crane or large equipment is not possible, consider synthetic or manmade rock.
  • Grottos: A portion of the pool which is accessed by swimming underneath the waterfall to a cave with a curtain of water separating you from the pool.
  • Vanishing Edge: Effect achieved by a portion of the pool spilling into a reservoir built below the main pool. This effect is most dramatic where the grade falls severely away from the pool which is places at the edge of slope. Consider the view over a vanishing edge. Is it really something you want to pay 5 figures for to highlight.
  • Rock Pockets: Shelves within the swimming pool for purposes of placing boulders in the water either fully or partially submerged.
  • Swim-Up Bar: Cut away the grade at one shallow end of the pool. Add a counter and a few stools within the water. Don’t forget the umbrella sleeve.
  • Rim Flow: Effect achieved by placing the overflow reservoir around the pool. Thereby simulating an overflowing champagne glass.


Fountain Features

Innumerable effects can be achieved by water being re-circulated back through a raised bond beam wall of the pool. Consider the sound of falling water. Are you trying to block out a background noise? Water can fall in any number of ways such as:

  • A sheet of water.
  • Water cascading down steps of stone or tile.
  • Water spilling from decorative bowls, sconces or fountain heads.


Fountain design 

A fountain should reflect the desired architectural theme or style. Let the shape of the pool be dictated by whether you desire a formal or informal style. Allow ample room for all the fun at once. Slides, jump rocks, and cave grottos. Form follows function whether you are designing for family fun or classical garden design. Consider utility usage and maintenance long term and it will restrain you from over designing.

Our landscape design team considers all of the previous aspects of pool design as it relates to overall magnitude in scope and scale in the garden. A subtle blend and integration of shape and material as it relates to balance of the garden insures constant design harmony.