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New Zealand Home & Building, October-November 1998

in the swim — If you're planning to take the plunge, clever planning will deliver a pool to dive for

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in the swim
If you're planning to take the plunge, clever planning will deliver a pool to dive for.

Photography: Oceania News and Features/The Garden Picture Library.

Photography: Oceania News and Features/The Garden Picture Library.

No other garden feature is quite so conspicuous as a swimming pool, or quite such a challenge to design. By its size alone a pool will dominate most gardens, so it needs to be carefully positioned, and its shape, size and colour integrated with lines and forms that appear elsewhere in the garden and beyond.

One of the first decisions to be made is whether to position the pool adjacent to the house or in a separate area some distance away. This will vastly influence the way that it is used. Away from the house it will, by necessity, become a destination in itself and may need a pool house with a changing room, a toilet and some kitchen facilities. For a pool that is closer to the house, facilities that are easily accessed from outside will minimise a trail of wet feet, soggy towels and bathing suits.

Regardless of where it is positioned, generous links between a pool, the house and outdoor living areas are important. Visual links are another consideration. Keep views to the pool as open as possible or, alternatively, create tantalising glimpses. If the pool is not immediately visible, a focal point such as a water feature will help draw you towards the pool area. All too often pools are positioned so they cut off the rear section from the house, creating a garden area that is of little use.

In any situation, a pool and its surrounding garden should reflect the style and period of the house. Because a pool is such a contemporary element in the garden, it can be difficult to integrate with many older style homes. For a villa or bungalow, the pool design could suggest an ornamental garden pond, darkish blue in colour and surrounded by planting. Free form pools are difficult to integrate with most styles of homes and are more successful when linked to the garden and set amidst large rocks and close planting. In a modern home, a pool is often a natural extension to the form of the house and can be strongly linked to the architecture. Design constraints are few although, as always, bold simplicity rules the day.

Rectangular pools can be adapted to most settings. Take care with the proportion of a rectangular design, however, as a slightly elongated shape will give a more elegant look than a short, wide pool. A strongly symmetrical garden layout will lend a rectangular pool an air of formality. In a garden of abstract forms and carefully proportioned paving, decking and planting, a simple rectangular pool becomes part of an interesting composition of textures and colours. Creating cut-outs in a rectangular pool for stairs, seats or shallow areas for toddlers to play adds interest, but the balance of shapes needs careful consideration.

The same considerations apply with abstract pool shapes. Try to link one or two forms or angles within the pool to other shapes in the garden. Circular pools are generally difficult to work with and sit most comfortably with bold forms around them.

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Personal taste and the style of the surroundings come into play when choosing a colour for a pool. A pool set against a bush backdrop would be more easily integrated with its surroundings by using green or dark blue, or even black. However, these colours would be inappropriate in a seaside setting. Darker colours will make the surface of a pool more reflective, which can provide a dramatic design element.

Ideally, a pool should be in the sunniest possible location in the garden and protected from wind. It also needs to sit on stable ground with workable contours, and to fit in around existing sewer and stormwater drains and gas, electricity and water lines. Add aesthetic considerations into the picture and a designer is often hard pushed to come up with a workable design.

The requirement for fencing pools is an important issue, and the design of a fully-fenced pool needs to be considered from the outset. In some cases it's possible to partially enclose the pool area with a section of the house, thus avoiding a line of fencing between house and pool. However, this means that when doors are left open the pool won't be fully secure from children. Fences can be obscured by planting or made of glass where there is a view. Fences in darker colours will recede out of view, whereas brighter colours will stand out.

Views must also be considered when planning the design of a pool. If the pool forms the foreground of a grand view, its lines need to be bold and simple so it will not compete with the view but add depth to it. In this situation, the pool is best to echo its backdrop in some way. For example, if the garden overlooks a sweeping curve of a bay, the pool could reflect this in its own sweeping lines. Sharp horizontal lines in the landscape, perhaps an uninterrupted horizon, could be highlighted with a lineal pool design. Providing a foreground for an

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already magnificent view is a difficult task in any garden. Rather than place a dominant feature like a pool in the foreground of such a view, locate it away from the main views and let it become a focal point in its own right.

Planting around pools is vitally important if the area is to be seen as part of the garden. Plants should be chosen for their clean growing habits and, if the pool area is a haven for children's play, for their ability to withstand rough treatment. Non-invasive root systems are also a must. Plants such as palms, taro, vireya rhododendrons and cycads are about as clean growing as you can get. A leaf rarely drops. Other possibilities are schef-flera, Reinga lily, agaves and aloes, some grasses, liriope, New Zealand puka, pseudopanax, mondo grass and bromeliads, which will create little or no mess. If the tropical look does not suit, then such plants as camellia, raphiolespsis, agapanthus, dietes, juniper, Italian cypress, hemerocallis, buxus, lonicera and trachelosper-mum are beautiful low-maintenance poolside plants.

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