Garden Design Journal

Having an outdoor pool in the UK is a significant decision. A pool is not only about swimming. It is also an important visual element of the exterior of a property, so it is essential that it integrates perfectly with the landscape and enhances the value of a property. In our climate, the pool is going to be out of use for perhaps eight months of the year. Do clients want to have a view of the pool all year round? While some homeowners choose to make their pools a prominent focal point, others want it to blend in more subtly with the property and landscaping. A good example of this is a garden I designed in Bedfordshire with a budget of around £250,000. Following a modern extension to their country home, my clients wanted to change their traditionally planted garden into a contemporary outdoor living area, with the addition of an outdoor luxury swimming pool as a focal point. The client, being an artist, was keen to have a complete picture of the garden, with the pool surrounds and landscape all tied together as one, ensuring the pool was in harmony with the house. The design was going to be challenging due to the awkward angles of the new extension, and limited space to integrate the pool within their boundary line (this was particularly tight, as the adjacent land did not belong to the clients).

The only option was situating the pool close to the house. As there were direct views from the living room, the brief was to make it look elegant, with the inside of the house blending with the outside space. The colour of the pool water was also crucial to the client’s artistic eye, so the choice of materials of the pool and surrounds was vital. The play of evening lighting was also essential.
When I first saw the site, the existing garden had a traditional shrub border, which was quite tired-looking with no real backbone or life, and there were existing mature trees to be removed, which required planning permission. I felt immediately that the outside space did not link with the new extension, so I decided to introduce bold architectural lines to create harmony.

When it came to designing the pool, I knew what materials I wanted to work with for its surrounds, but couldn’t tie it in with the existing riven sandstone paving, of which 150m2 had been the shape of the garden is tempered by Quercus, pleached hornbeams and a yew hedge laid only a year before. Fortunately, the clients gave me the green light to replace the entire surfacing. Porcelain is structurally strong and has a sophisticated look, so I chose Quartzite River porcelain tiles of 600 x 300mm, to create a dreamy blue-grey pool colour. It was important to conceal the drainage off the terraces towards the pool, so I also designed bespoke linear drainage grilles.

The fossil pearl limestone I used for paving in large 600 x 900mm formats is dense with a subtle grey-beige tone and gorgeous fossil markings throughout, which works well with the existing white stucco on the façade of the house and the black cladding of the atelier. The square-edged overlapped copings flow through to the courtyard area.

In the courtyard and around the garden, I planted strong topiary shapes with light perennial planting to soften the tones. One of my favourite features is the box balls which will create a cloud hedge, with Allium hollandicum ‘Purple Sensation’ popping up behind in early summer.

For trees, I chose clear-stemmed Quercus ilex. The crowns of these trees will mirror the beehive box shapes by the front door and the beehive yew framing the entrance of the atelier; and as screening from the neighbours was essential, I put in a yew hedge with six pleached hornbeams.

This job was a real joy for me as I was heavily involved with every aspect, at every stage of construction and on site. With clear communication between all parties, any build or design challenges were easily resolved. The clients were extremely happy with the garden. The design stood out for them, and they liked that my expertise in both pool and garden design meant I could give them a clear view of how the whole space could look.


Ask the following questions. What is the purpose of the pool? Is it for leisure, for fitness or for professional use? How often will it be used and by whom? Based on the above, you can determine the size, taking into consideration cost implications and accessories, such as a pool house and shower facilities. Ensure the pool will receive as much unobstructed natural sunlight as possible and maximum wind protection.

Take into account the soil conditions and location of the plant room. There will be considerable works and excavation of soil, so ideally create the garden and pool together. Ensure tree root protection and check the clients have gained planning permission.

Plan for the vital facilities needed to run the pool. The plant room will need easy, safe access. Detailed planning on pipework routes is essential to protect existing trees. Think about noise, and how utilities will be supplied. Consider changing facilities, toilets and storage for furniture and equipment.

Style should remain consist between the architecture, interior design and landscape. Ensure that both the finish of the pool and materials for the surrounding area are aesthetically consistent

Choose non-slip pool surfaces, and allow sufficient space to walk around the pool unobstructed. Ensure all areas where people walk are well-lit at night. An ideal safety measure is to install a safety cover or a moving floor which transforms the pool into a solid surface.

Plants should be consistent with the location of the garden, the type of soil, exposure and the amount of sun and shade. Plants which shed leaves,` fruit or needles are a no-no.

Lighting allows you to highlight focal points and ensure safety. Underwater lighting really brings the water to life.

GDJ.ISSUE 167 JUN 16 full issue