All designs shown are protected under copyright, 2022.
While the aesthetic goal of many Natural Pools is to look as natural as possible - like a crystal-clear pond or natural spring that you were lucky enough to build your home next to - others strive for a contemporary look that juxtaposes natural elements like plants, rocks and fish with formal edges and rectilinear shapes.
As you can see above from the initial concept design to the final product, this natural pool (which we built in 2019 in Kansas City) features a rectilinear deck that wraps around two sides, a step-in pebble beach, central swimming area accessible from the deck and beach, and a "wild" planted filter area around two edges. The design also incorporated a pool house with bathroom, shower and outdoor kitchen. This natural pool was featured in an article in DesignKC Magazine, which you can read here.
Built by Total Habitat in 2019, the concept behind this natural pool was to blend the modern with the "wild". This concept fits aesthetically with the design of the overall site which features an ultramodern home and patio that is surrounded by native plants and grasses. Built around a large central deck, the pond edge to its right is bordered by formal coping stones that create a modern rectilinear shape, while the area to the left of the deck features a natural pond edge finished with river rock and plants. A modern waterfall carved from a rectilinear stone block completes the look and provides gentle water movement in the shallows.
This natural pool was featured in the Wall Street Journal article, which you can read here.
At Total Habitat, we often create 3D concept renderings of our natural pool designs so homeowners can better envision how a space will look before it is completed. Because, let's face it - not everyone can look at a plan view drawing and truly see how it will look in real life like a designer can.
This design features a modern coping edge by the house and a "wild" planted edge opposite, with a natural stone waterfall positioned to be visible from both the upper deck and lower patio. The concept includes a step-in beach, rectilinear swimming area, and large formal stepping stones that lead the users from the house to the beach and wooden pier. Lush water plants explode along the far edge, creating a gorgeous natural display that contrasts with the hard, formal lines of the opposite edge.
One of the really fun aspects of this design is the "floating" stepping stones that reach out over the water and border the beach and swimming area. Users can walk on these stones, sit with their feet in the water of the beach or use them to jump into the deeper swimming area.
An interesting side effect of modern natural pool design is how it allows the entire site to be sculpted as well, often through dividing the space into different activity areas using hard lines and geometric shapes. This Japanese-inspired design features a modern natural pool bordered by an L-shaped deck that divides the yard between the water feature on the right and a spacious entertaining area on the left. The pergola, fence and bamboo planter boxes on either side of the yard are all designed with a modern, Japanese garden aesthetic that echoes the design of the natural pool itself.
This article was written by Total Habitat designer, Sophia Elniff.
All designs shown are protected under copyright, 2022.
An infinity edge or vanishing edge is a slightly lowered portion of the pool edge that allows water to spill out and down out-of-sight to a lower collection pool. If you are wondering, the answer is yes, you can have a natural pool with an infinity edge! Here a couple we've done in the past:
Atop a mountain in North Georgia, this natural pool features a small infinity edge that spills down into a lower dip pool - so it effectively doubles as a waterfall too! Infinity edges are ideal in situations like this, where the grade already naturally slopes down from the far pool edge. A nice view helps!
This natural pool features a 12 foot long infinity edge that takes advantage of the sloped grade of the site and highlights views down into the picturesque valley below.
A common question we get asked is how to incorporate fencing in a natural pool design. Here are a few strategies to consider:
If you have little kids at home, especially those not able to swim yet, you may want to not only provide safety fencing around the yard, but also between the pool and your home. This removable, black mesh fencing can be installed on a deck or patio and sections of it can easily be removed to access the water. As a bonus, it's easy to see through, so it won't spoil views of your natural pool!
If you want the fencing around your natural pool to disappear, consider this readily available black metal panel fencing. With landscaping in front of it, including the water plants in your natural pool, this fencing option blends in easily with the natural landscape.
Another strategy to consider is to incorporate the fence into the overall design aesthetic, making it a feature rather than something you just want to disguise. In this concept, the modern Japanese-inspired wood fence matches the look of the pergola, pier and natural pool. Wooden bamboo planter boxes along both sides of the yard provide further privacy from neighbors and work with the landscaping to emphasize the Japanese garden influence.
If you have a large natural pool and small kids who you may want to separate from the natural pool at times, consider fencing around the door to your home rather than around the pool itself. In this design, we divided the yard into zones and created a playground space by the door with the natural pool beyond, safely outside of the short wood and hogwire fence.
Another option is to put a barrier just around the house patio or deck. A glass fence with gate is a great way to create a safe barrier for kids while preserving views of the natural pool.
Listen to our Designer Sophia featured in the Paloola Podcast.
Our Designer Sophia was recently featured on the Paloola podcast episode exploring the benefits of swimming in nature. Sophia goes into the design and building process of our natural swimming pools as well as a basic review of how we maintain water clarity using built-in biological filters. She discusses the joy of making a swimming pool that looks as if it was always meant to be there, and that brings joy year-round to any nature lover.
We encourage you to listen to this podcast as the rest of the featured guests also share their stories of the joy and pleasure they experience from swimming in natural bodies of water.
Paloola is a monthly podcast written and hosted by Paula de la Cruz. It explores topics in art, design, health and technology inspired by botany and nature.
Find this episode of Paloola and more everywhere you listen to your podcasts
What is it and why use it?
Pond dye is a non-toxic water colorant, sold in a powdered or liquid form, used to darken the water. When added to a pond, the dye helps prevent algae blooms by blocking sunlight, which algae needs in order to grow. Pond dye is safe for fish, plants and swimmers. It is best to add dye when a pond or Natural Swimming Pool is new (when the ecosystem is first establishing itself) and early in the spring, just as water temps are starting to rise.
Mick's Mix Pond Dye
Our Mick's Mix pond dye is a special blend of blue and black dye that will effectively (and safely) darken the water without looking too black or too theme-parky blue. We developed this blend after having trouble finding the right shade of dye for our own Natural Swimming Pools and ponds that would help prevent algae blooms while still looking natural. You can buy a super concentrated powdered form of our Mick's Mix pond dye (sold in eco-friendly glass jars) through our online store everythingnaturalpools.com
Tip: When adding pond dye to your Natural Swimming Pool or pond, it is important to not add so much dye that you lose water clarity. Notice in the pic above how the water is darkened on the right, but you can still see the bottom of the pool. For a first use, start with a smaller dose and add more as needed once that first amount has dispersed so you don't make it too dark!
We are so excited to have one of our favorite projects featured in DesignKC Magazine, which showcases the best in Kansas City architecture and outdoor living! We designed and built this contemporary Natural Swimming Pool in 2019. Visit our Projects page for more info about this natural pool. For more articles and media mentions of Total Habitat, see our In the News page.
Though the writer didn't quite get everything right, including the price per square foot for natural pools (which in our experience is typically more like $20 - $80 per square foot, though it varies widely as explained in more depth on our Pricing page here), it is still nice to see Natural Swimming Pools getting some much deserved media attention! In fact, the natural pool shown at the top of the article was actually built by Total Habitat for Heather and Mike Dooley at their home in Napa, California. The Wall Street Journal article, Natural Pool Owners Are Kissing Chlorine And Other Chemicals Goodbye, also features a quote from Mick Hilleary, founder of Total Habitat, as well as from Meredith Stallcup (also of Total Habitat). Check out the full article here.
1. Better Views
A Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is a joy to see throughout the year... as long as it is visible! One of the best things about NSP's is that you don't need to cover or drain them over the winter. In fact, in all but the coldest places, you can run your pool/pond all year long, providing you with spectacular views of the waterfall(s), fish, plants, wildlife and crystal-clear water, even when you're not swimming! When designing a NSP onsite, we always consider the views from major gathering spaces, such as the kitchen or dining room window or a back deck or patio, often positioning waterfalls and other special elements so they are as visible as possible from these points.
2. Easier Access
Imagine it's a hot summer day and you are just dying to take a dip in your crystal-clear swimming pond! If your NSP is right next to your house, it is really easy to simply jump in and enjoy! Now, imagine you've built your pool/pond 50 feet or more away, in a back field or somewhere downhill from your house; enjoying your NSP becomes more of a day trip than a passing activity. Picture having to haul all your towels, water toys, refreshments, snacks, and sunscreen out to the pond every time you want to use it, corralling kids and pets along the way. Then, (inevitably) oops, you forgot something up at the house or you need to use the bathroom... time to hike again! Trust me, as someone who grew up at a lake and always had to endure at least 20 minutes of planning and organization before we could finally get to swimming, it is definitely worth it to put your NSP as close to your house as possible! Plus, if you have any family members or guests who are elderly or otherwise may have trouble getting around, it is much easier to include them in the fun if your NSP is near the house.
3. Better Site Drainage
Many people see a depression or a low spot in their yard and automatically think "that's the place for the swimming pond". This is a common misconception and couldn't be more wrong! A Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is not like any old murky, muddy farm pond; it is a closed system, meaning we filter the same water over and over again and we don't want any runoff from the yard to drain into the NSP. So, your pool/pond is actually best off if it is placed at the highest point in your yard, which is typically right next to your house. It is also best to place your NSP in a relatively flat spot, which is also usually next to your house, where the site has already been graded. Locating your NSP near your home can save you a lot of money raising/grading a new spot in your yard and/or having to create additional site drainage to keep dirty water from constantly running down into your nice, new swimming pond!
4. Creates a Central Gathering Space
A NSP is not just a swimming pool; it is also a focal point in your yard -- something you can design other elements around, like a patio, pergola, outdoor kitchen, fire pit, vegetable garden, treehouse, etc. Next to the pool/pond is where you will drink your morning coffee, host parties, read a good book, curl up with a glass of wine at sunset, where you will dangle your feet in the water after a long day and watch the kids discover frogs, turtles and dragonflies. Every well designed space needs a central focus, a main fixed element that everything else revolves around; that is what a Natural Swimming Pool/Pond can be in your yard!
5. Easier to Supervise Kids & Pets
With your Natural Swimming Pool/Pond right next to your house, you can better keep track of kids, pets and guests around your pool/pond. Instead of having to trek down to a pond every time your kiddos want to take a dip, you have the option of supervising from your back deck, patio or kitchen window.
6. Better Utility Access
The pump(s) for a Natural Swimming Pool/Pond will need to hook up to your existing electrical system (usually your house panel) and you will need access to water for the initial fill and for the occasional top-off. Typically, these utilities are easiest to access and cheapest to run when the NSP is closer to the house.
7. Less Maintenance Than A Lawn
If you dread the arrival of warmer weather because it means you have to start mowing your grass every single Saturday morning when all you want to do is relax after a long week at work, then ditch that boring expanse of lawn and install a NSP! A Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is much less maintenance than a manicured yard and is a whole lot more fun! Plus, a pool/pond placed close to your house allows you to create spaces around the NSP or between the pool/pond and the house for low maintenance landscaping, decorative rocks and/or mulched beds. You can also hardscape between the NSP and the house with a deck or patio, so that you don't end up with an annoying strip of grass that you have to constantly maintain between the house and the pond.
8. Provides Rainwater Harvesting Opportunities
When your Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is right next to a building with a large square footage of roof (aka your house), you can collect the rain water that drains off of your roof and use it to top off your pool/pond! This is called rainwater harvesting and can be done with relatively inexpensive collection barrels that are connected to your downspouts (some are even made to look like decorative pots) or with an underground rainwater harvesting tank. Adding a system like this is a really easy way to save some money and some water!
9. More Value For Your Money
Because placing your Natural Swimming Pool/Pond by your house provides you with easier, quicker access to it and better views of it, you will automatically get more use out of it. That means you get more value for your money and more return on your investment! Plus, it keeps you from needing to spend money building additional site features near a distant pool/pond that you probably already have at your house, like shade on a hot summer day or access to a bathroom. If you build a NSP far away from your house, you will inevitably find in time that you now need to build an additional pergola, patio or pool house near it in order to give you some place to store water toys or simply some place to sit and relax when you're not in the water. You will get much more value for your money if you instead build that pergola next to your home, where it can be used for any number of activities outside of just enjoying the pool/pond; visions of summer barbecues, starlit family dining and a gently swinging hammock spring to mind! Rather than spending twice the money to create two separate destination spaces in your yard, you can direct your hard-earned money towards one multi-use space that will also enhance your biggest investment, the space you spend the most of your time in already; your home!
10. Easier to Fence
Depending on where you live, you may be required to install a fence around any pool or pond you have built on your property. It is much easier and less expensive to fence a NSP if you can use your house as part of the barrier. Plus, it doesn't spoil any views of your beautiful new swimming pond!
Reminiscent of a nautilus shell, this pool design features an underwater pebble pathway which spirals down into the circular swimming area. This pebble beach path (shown on the left below) is bordered by a mossy sandstone rock bubbler and a trio of "floating" stepping boulders.
This circular, 25,000 gallon Natural Swimming Pool is approximately 30ft overall with a 25ft x 20ft swimming area. Constructed of dry-stacked sandstone, this pool features a built-in biological filtration system, which keeps the water clean and clear without chemicals. This nautilus inspired pool can be built in 3-4 weeks for $70-75,000!
Designed and built by Total Habitat, this 12 foot deep, spring-fed Natural Swimming Pool/Pond is nestled in the heart of the rolling Tennessee hills. Completed this summer (2017), this swimming hole offers unlimited fun with an 18 foot waterslide, gentle-entry pebble beach, and waterfall with hidden grotto!
Check back with us each month for tips, new project pics, news, and more, here on our Total Blog!